Sri Lankan Tamils prefer Premadasa to lead main Opposition

Colombo: The Tamil minority in Sri Lanka will prefer losing Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa to be the main Opposition leader in place of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the main Tamil party TNA said today.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is a political alliance in Sri Lanka that represents the country’s Tamil community. Formed in October 2001, the TNA, since the end of civil war, has dropped the demand for an independent state, saying that it is ready to accept regional self-rule.

The Tamil minority, who overwhelmingly voted for the losing candidate Premadasa, expects him to be the main Opposition leader, the TNA said.

A serious division within the United National Party (UNP) has resurfaced following Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s victory in the Presidential polls.

Gotabhaya defeated UNP’s deputy leader Premadasa in the Presidential election held on 16 November.

A majority of the UNP MPs have signed a letter requesting the Speaker of Parliament to appoint Premadasa as the Leader of the Opposition (LOP).

The Tamil newspapers quoted leaders as saying that Premadasa who had polled 5.5 million votes should be the one to lead the Opposition in place of former prime minister Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesignhe announced his resignation on Wednesday following the presidential election debacle of his United National Party.

Tamils in the North backed Premadasa with over 80 per cent voting for him. The 2.2-million Tamil minority accounts for a little more than 11 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population.

However, the Sinhala majority’s support of over 60 per cent in the South of the country meant that Gotabhaya defeated Premadasa in the Presidential election.

Since the defeat, Wickremesinghe and his deputy Premadasa are engaged in a battle to be the main opposition parliamentary leader.

Premadasa backers numbering 45 parliamentarians have written to assembly Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to recognise him as LOP.

The UNP general Secretary had also asked the Speaker to recognise Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe has been the Opposition leader since 1994 except for two separate stints as prime minister between 2001 to 2004 and again from 2015 to 2019.