Veteran Sri Lankan MP Who Fought For Tamil Rights, Rajavarothiam Sampanthan Dies At 91

Veteran Sri Lankan politician and campaigner for the country’s Tamil minority, Rajavarothiam Sampanthan has died at the age of 91. A lawyer and one of the longest-serving MPs passed away in the capital Colombo on Sunday. Sampanthan led a diverse coalition called the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) for the past 23 years. 

TNA is the main political group representing Tamils of Sri Lanka’s north and east. The news of Sampanthan’s demise was confirmed by TNA leader MA Sumanthiran on social media platform X. 

Sampanthan was appointed as the leader of the opposition in 2015, making him the first member of the ethnic minority group to hold the parliamentary post in 32 years. 

In his debut speech as opposition leader, Sampanthan said “We will oppose the government on all issues, where it is in the national interest to do so.” “We will support the government on all issues, where such support is justified,” he had said.

In 2022, he sent a letter to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, calling on the international body to denounce what he alleged was the Sri Lanka government’s “failure to investigate allegations of violations” towards the Tamil minority.

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Tributes poured in from across Sri Lanka’s political spectrum on Sampanthan’s demise. The former president Mahinda Rajapaksa — who oversaw a bloody offensive that ended the Tamil insurgency in 2009 —also paid tributes to the Tamil leader. 

“My deepest condolences on the passing of TNA Leader R. Sampanthan. He was an old friend and colleague and we shared many a days discussing various issues. His demise is a loss to Sri Lanka political fraternity and may his family & friends overcome this sad loss,” Rajapaksa said in a post on X.  

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