COLOMBO: The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) has written to the Speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament to suggest that it should be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition in parliament in view of the fact that other parties have become part of the “national” government formed after the January 8 Presidential election.
Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi is the Lankan Election Commission’s nomenclature for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA is not yet a registered party. Its different constituent parties fight elections jointly under the ITAK’s “House” symbol. Therefore, the conglomerate going as “TNA” is officially designated as “ITAK”.
ITAK’s parliamentary group leader R.Sampanthan (who is also leader of the TNA) pointed out in his letter, that the four Election Commission-recognized political parties in the current parliament are the United National Party (UNP); the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA); Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK); and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
Of these, only the ITAK is outside the government now. The UNP heads the government while the UPFA and the DNA are part of it.
The UPFA includes a number of parties, but principally, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). After more than 26 SLFP MPs joined the government, the UPFA cannot not be considered for the position of Leader of Opposition. The DNA also cannot be considered because one of its seven MPs is in the government, Sampanthan said. And the ITAK, with 14 MPs, is the largest party outside the government, he pointed out.
If ITAK is recognized as the Leader of the Opposition, then it will be the second time a Tamil party will be the Leader of Opposition in the history of the Lankan parliament. Appapillai Amirthalingam of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) was the Leader of Opposition between 1977 and 1983.
However, the Speaker, Chamal Rajapaksa, seems inclined to recognize the UPFA as the official opposition. Since there is a tussle between UPFA MPs, Nimal Sripala de Silva and Dinesh Gunawardene, for the post of Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker has asked the UPFA General Secretary to settle the matter. A decision is expected after the Sinhalese New Year on April 14.