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TNA leader faces internal revolt over Sri Lanka Independence Day attendance

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran called for disciplinary action to be taken against party leader R Sampanthan and MP M A Sumanthiran for attending Sri Lanka's Independence Day ceremony in Colombo, on Wednesday.

Mr Premachandran, who was speaking to Colombo Mirror, said,

"We already raised our objection against his decision to attend the Independence Day celebrations. It is unbecoming for the TNA leader to go against the traditional party position that reflects the common will of the affected Tamil people."

"It is their individual decision and the TNA has nothing to do with it."

The TNA is now considering taking disciplinary action against both Mr Sampanthan and Mr Sumanthiran, added Mr Premachandran, stating that they had violated the position of the party and that of the Tamil people.

“This is a very serious matter. It raises a moral question whether they can actually give leadership to the Tamil people any longer,” said Mr Premachandran. “The people are going to question about this and we will have nothing to hide.”

The ceremony was marked by prayers from the Buddhist clergy and a military parade, with Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena praising the government's “battle against terrorism”.

The event was boycotted by the chief minister of the Northern Province, C V Wigneswaran, who said he “will only take part in such events when the Tamil people get freedom”. Meanwhile multiple protests took place across the North-East, calling for justice, accountability, the release of political prisoners and repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Since the 1972 constitution was passed, reaffirming Sri Lanka as a unitary state and ensuring it was “the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism”, Mr Premachandran said not a single leader from a major Tamil party had attended the Independence Day ceremonies.

Mr Sampanthan himself had boycotted past events, he added.

“The Tamils have been systematically marginalised, suppressed and oppressed after the Independence in 1948 and ironically Mr Sampanthan was one of the key Tamil political leaders when it was decided to mark February 4 as a Black Day,” he said.

“Nothing has changed and in fact has gone worse for the Tamils since then. We don’t see any reason for Mr Sampanthan or anybody from the main Tamil parties to violate the common Tamil stand after 43 long painful years.”