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Late Mr. R. Sampanthan and I were Dedicated to an Undivided Sri Lanka - President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe paid tribute to the late Mr. R. Sampanthan, acknowledging him as a leader who championed the rights not only of the Tamil people but also of all Sri Lankans.

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 He emphasized that both Mr. Sampanthan and himself were committed to the cause of an undivided Sri Lanka. The President urged everyone to unite in successfully concluding the discussions initiated with Mr. Sampanthan.

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President Wickremesinghe made these remarks while attending Mr. R. Sampanthan’s funeral at his residence in Trincomalee this afternoon (07). The funeral ceremony, honouring the former Leader of the Opposition and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as well as the late Trincomalee District Member of Parliament, was attended by numerous political leaders, both from the Government and the opposition.

Expressing his sorrow over the death of Mr. R. Sampanthan, President Ranil Wickremesinghe mentioned that his passing is the loss of a long-time friend. The President affirmed his commitment to addressing the issues faced by the Tamil people, which Mr. Sampanthan consistently advocated for. He announced that the draft of the National Land Commission Bill is ready to be submitted to Parliament. This commission will have the authority to resolve issues faced by the Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim communities in coordination with the Department of Forest.

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The President appreciated Mr. Sampanthan’s role as Leader of the Opposition, highlighting that an opposition leader is essentially an alternative prime minister. He praised Mr. Sampanthan for displaying the qualities of a true opposition leader by addressing the concerns of all Sri Lankans, not just the Tamil community.

Additionally, the President commented on the upcoming elections, stating that regardless of any court challenges, the presidential election will be held this year. He also indicated that arrangements will be made to hold parliamentary and provincial council elections following the presidential election.

Addressing the funeral gathering the President further mentioned:

“I have lost a long-time friend with the demise of Mr. R. Sampanthan. I met him 50 years ago when he was a lawyer and I was a new lawyer. In 1977, Mr. Sampanthan and I came to Parliament as new MPs. In that parliamentary election, I supported Mr. Navaratnam Raja, the working committee member of our party from Trincomalee. But Mr. Sampanthan won the seat.

The Parliament was divided into two parties, especially according to the proposal that a separate state should be formed. Mr. Sampanthan had a special relationship with the members of the Government. He always said that this country cannot be divided and we should advocate for a federal system or for granting more powers than the district council system that we created.

There was a problem between us. When I was taken over a piece of land in Trincomalee to the Youth Service Council, there were debates between us in Parliament. His efforts to control this and our efforts were not successful. He left Sri Lanka in 1983. After he returned to Parliament, we reconnected. After the end of terrorism in 2009, I had the opportunity to work with him again on the problems of the Tamil people.

He never demanded a separate state. He always said that everyone should be together. He emphasized that the Tamil people are suffering and their problems should be solved immediately.

We have worked together in elections and supported common candidates. We all worked together especially for President Maithripala Sirisena’s victory. Before that, he worked for Mr. Sarath Fonseka’s election. I always talked to him about past events and politics. He was the only living person as a MP who saw the opportunity of the country gaining independence in 1948. We often discussed politics and our shared experiences.

After that, he worked as the leader of the opposition. He showed his character well in his tenure. He not only talked about the problems of the Tamil people and worked on them, but he also presented the problems of all Sri Lankans as the leader of the opposition. At that time, he acted as a true opposition leader, who becomes an alternative prime minister.

He demonstrated great leadership as the leader of the opposition when I lost the prime ministership during the political crisis in 2018. For various reasons, our negotiations did not succeed, especially after the Easter Sunday bombings, when we lacked the background to present political solutions.

After I assumed the presidency, I discussed these issues with him and with Tamil parties and MPs. Some very important ideas were gathered during these discussions.

Both of us agreed to find solutions to these issues in an undivided Sri Lanka. While these negotiations were on-going, I had to prioritize leading the country out of bankruptcy. As a result, our negotiations had to be postponed for the last few months.

I looked into whether these discussions could be resumed this parliamentary week. But before that opportunity came, Mr. Sampanthan left us. Nevertheless, we must continue these discussions and conclude them. The draft of the National Land Commission Bill is now prepared to be submitted to Parliament. There are issues among Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities with the Forest Department regarding the acquisition of their villages. I hope to empower this commission to resolve those issues by law.

It is declared necessary to hold provincial council elections. However, we have discussed and decided to hold the presidential election first. Regardless of any legal challenges, the presidential election will be held this year. Following that, parliamentary elections will be conducted, and then provincial council elections will be held.

Due to the complexities in the new system, requests were made to hold the provincial council elections according to the old system. There was an agreement among us for that. It was decided to ensure women and youth representation and to allow parliamentarians to compete for these elections while retaining their membership.

By implementing the 13th amendment, we are negotiating with the Chief Ministers who are now represent the Parliament to transfer a number of other powers from the central government, excluding police powers. Other powers can be discussed later.

As a new proposal, the government has suggested decentralizing maximum power within the framework of the 13th amendment in the distribution of power. Additionally, the report of the Nawaz Commission needs to be discussed. The Foreign Minister has informed me that the drafted bill of the Truth, Unity and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is prepared to be submitted to Parliament. Moreover, we have discussed and reached an agreement on the Jana Sabha system. We intend to take these discussions forward and bring them to a conclusion.

Mr. Sampanthan was a leader who worked tirelessly for the rights of the Tamil people and advocated for the rights of all Sri Lankans. Both of us were dedicated to an undivided Sri Lanka. We initiated these discussions with mutual agreement and request everyone’s support to complete this important work.”

Governor of the Eastern Province Senthil Thondaman, Members of Parliament Lakshman Kiriella, Rauf Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen, M.A. Sumanthiran, Mano Ganesan, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, Mavai Senathirajah, former Member of Parliament Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, and other political party leaders and representatives, along with the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Santosh Jha, Tamil Nadu BJP leader K. Annamalai, several Indian leaders, and a large number of local people attended the funeral