The leader of the Tamil National Alliance heaped praised on Sri Lankan prime minister and alleged war criminal Mahinda Rajapaksa last month, in a lavish tribute to mark Rajapaksa’s 50 years in parliament.
"I am extremely glad to pay tribute and extend my warm greetings to Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa,” said R Sampanthan in a letter sent to Rajapaksa, stating he has “earned for himself the affection and confidence of the people of the country”.
“He was essentially a Leader of the ordinary people who trusted him and who were willing to be guided by him,” Sampanthan continued. “He was essentially a Man of the People in whatever position he held. The People respected him and he in turn respected the People. He was a great source of strength to the people and the people in turn were the source of his immense strength.”
“On behalf of the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the Tamil people, whom I represented in Parliament, I extend to him our warmest greetings and best wishes for an ever more successful political future."
Amongst the successes Sampanthan may be referring to is the large-scale 2009 military offensive that Rajapaksa oversaw as president. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan state, with hospitals bombed and surrendering Tamils executed. Rajapaksa’s previous tenure also saw journalists assassinated and widespread corruption.
Sampanthan, who was still the leader of the TNA at the time of the military offensive, protested outside the UN offices as the bombing was underway, accusing the Rajapaksa regime of genocide.
Sampanthan outside the United Nations office in Colombo, 2006.
In his latest letter however, Sampanthan called the alleged war criminal a “strong leader” who “should rise to greater heights” by enacting a new Sri Lankan constitution.
“He can be assured of our fullest support in this matter,” Sampanthan concluded.
"He would earn for himself a niche in Sri Lankan history as the Leader who brought about genuine and permanent peace in Sri Lanka on the basis of justice, equality and dignity. With my warmest best wishes to Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa and family."