Sri Lanka: Veteran opposition leader Sampanthan dies – BBC.com

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Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent politicians and a veteran campaigner for the country’s Tamil minority, has died at the age of 91.

Sampanthan, a lawyer and one of the country’s longest serving MPs, died in the capital Colombo late on Sunday.

For the past 23 years, he had led a diverse coalition called the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – the main political group representing Tamils of Sri Lanka’s north and east.

Since the defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009 he continued to demand equal rights for his often marginalised ethnic group.

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His death was confirmed by TNA leader MA Sumanthiran on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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

In 2022, Sampanthan sent a letter to the UN’s Human Rights Council alleging that the Sinhalese-led government was continuing to oppress Tamils, indefinitely detaining political prisoners, preventing displaced civilians from resettling on their land in the former war zone and continuing to militarise the area.

He called on the international body to denounce what he said was the government’s failure to investigate allegations of violations towards the minority group.

Sampanthan’s death has seen tributes pour in from across Sri Lanka’s political divide.

Among those to pay tribute to him was former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who oversaw the bloody end to Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.

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