Rajavarothiam Sampanthan becomes first Tamil politician to lead Sri Lanka's opposition in 32 years

Move a sign of growing reconciliation after prolonged civil war

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The Independent Online

Sri Lanka’s parliament named an ethnic minority Tamil politician as the main opposition leader for the first time in 32 years, a sign of growing reconciliation after a prolonged civil war.

Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, 83, the head of Tamil National Alliance, is the first ethnic minority opposition leader since 1983, when Tamil legislators resigned en masse to protest against a law that compelled them to denounce separatism. Most of the nation’s population belongs to the Sinhalese community. The minority Tamils have alleged persecution by the government since the uprising of Tamil Tiger separatists three decades ago.

Parliament’s Speaker accepted Mr Sampanthan as the main opposition leader after loyalists to the former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, were divided on whether to support the government or go into opposition.

“We will oppose the government on all issues, where it is in the national interest to do so,” Mr Sampanthan said. “We will support the government on all issues, where such support is justified.”

Reuters

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