Major political parties in Sri Lanka and their leaders:
Sri Lanka People's Freedom Alliance (SLFPA), headed by Mahinda Rajapaksaj
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), headed by Sajith Premadasaj
United National Party (UNP), headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe
National Peoples Power (JVP, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna), headed by Anura Kumara Dissanayake
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), headed by Rajavarothiam Sampanthan (alliance includes Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi), headed by Mavai Senathirajah], People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam), headed by D. Siddarthan],
Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), headed by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

Parliamentary elections were held in Sri Lanka in August 2020 to elect 225 members (Party, percent of votes, district seats, national seats, total seats, +/– seats from 2015 election.
Sri Lanka People's Freedom Alliance (SLFPA): 59.09 percent; 128 seats, 17 seats, 145 seats, +50
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB): 23.90 percent; 47 seats, 7 seats, 54 seats, New
National People's Power (JVP): 3.84 percent; 2 seats, 1 seat, 3 seats, –3
Tamil National Alliance (TNA): 2.82 percent; 9 seats, 1 seat, 10 seats, –6
United National Party (UNP): 2.15 percent; 0 seats, 1 seat, 1 seat, –105
Tamil National People's Front (TNPF): 0.58 percent; 1 seat, 1 seat, 2 seats, +2
Our Power of People's Party: 0.58 percent; 0 seats, 1 seat, 1 seat, +1
Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal: 0.58 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1
Sri Lanka Freedom Party: 0.57 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1
Eelam People's Democratic Party: 0.53 percent; 2 seats, 0 seats, 2 seats, +1
Muslim National Alliance: 0.48 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1
Tamil People's National Alliance: 0.44 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1
All Ceylon Makkal Congress: 0.37 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1
National Congress: 0.34 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat, +1 [Source: Wikipedia]

Parliamentary elections were held in Sri Lanka in August 2015 to elect 225 members (Party, percent of votes, district seats, national seats, total seats
United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG, led by the UNP): 45.66 percent; seats, 93 seats, 13 seats, 106 seats
United People's Freedom Alliance (UFPA, led by the SLFP) : 42.38 percent; 83 seats, 12 seats, 95 seats
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP): 4.87 percent; 4 seats, 2 seats, 6 seats
Tamil National Alliance (TNA): 4.62 percent; 14 seats, 2 seats, 16 seats
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress: 0.40 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat
Eelam People's Democratic Party: 0.30 percent; 1 seat, 0 seats, 1 seat [Source: Wikipedia] In the parliamentary elections in December 2001, the UNP took 109 seats, and united with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), with five seats, to take control of parliament. Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA) coalition led by SLFP took 77 seats, and the People’s United Liberation Front, uniting with the PA, took 16 seats. The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) took 15 seats, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) took two seats, and the Democratic People’s Liberation Front secured one seat.

Results of April 2004 parliamentary elections were as follows: SLFP and JVP, 105 seats; UNP, 82 seats; Tamil National Alliance (TNA), 22 seats; National Heritage Party (JHU), 9 seats; SLMC, 5 seats; Up-country People’s Front (UPF), 1 seat; and EPDP, 1 seat. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]

Small political parties and their leaders:
Crusaders for Democracy, headed by Ganeshalingam Chandralingam
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), headed by Karunarathna Paranawithana, Ven. Hadigalle Wimalasara Thero
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), headed by Maithripala Sirisenaj
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), headed by Rauff Hakeem
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), headed by G. L. Peiris
United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG), headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe] (coalition includes JHU, UNP)
United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), headed by Maithripala Sirisenaj (coalition includes SLFP)

Tamil political parties and their leaders:
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), headed by Rajavarothiam Sampanthan (alliance includes Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi), headed by Mavai Senathirajah], People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam), headed by D. Siddarthan],
Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), headed by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam
Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), headed by Douglas Devanandaj
Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front headed by Suresh Premachandran
Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, headed by Selvam Adaikalanathan])

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress is the largest Muslim party in Sri Lanka. It held five seats in after the 2001 election and one seat after the 2020 election. Lead by Rauff Hakeem, it was founded by M. H. M. Ashraff in 1981. It is one of the parties that represents the Muslim community of Sri Lanka.

Political Party System in Sri Lanka

There are a lot of political parties in Sri Lanka and they can evolve and change from election to election. Some 39 political parties took part in the 1995 election. The complex system of proportional representations, the New York Times said at the time, "encourages the growth of splinter parties and groups representing ethnic, religious and labor interests.

But despite this throughout most of Sri Lanka’s history, the nations politics have been characterized by viable and generally stable political parties. In the general elections held between 1952 and 1977, a two-party system emerged in which the UNP and the SLFP alternately secured majorities and formed governments. Observers noted, however, that one major failure of the two-party system was the unwillingness or inability of the UNP and the SLFP to recruit substantial support among Tamils. As a result, this minority was largely excluded from party politics. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

On the basis of ethnicity, three types of parties could be defined in the late 1980s: Sinhalese-backed parties including the UNP, the SLFP, Marxist parties, such as the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, and the numerically insignificant splinter groups; a largely inoperative Tamil party system composed of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF); and other minority-oriented parties, such as the Ceylon Workers' Party, which enjoyed the support of the Indian Tamils, and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. The situation was complicated by the fact that extremist groups, such as the Sinhalese-based People's Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna — JVP) in southern Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers based in the Northern and Eastern provinces, challenged the legal parties for popular support. By the late 1980s, both the intransigence of the Jayewardene government and the use of intimidation tactics by extremists in Jaffna District and parts of Eastern Province dramatically reduced popular backing among Tamils for the relatively moderate TULF.*

The political party system was also weakened by the determination of the UNP leadership to retain a solid parliamentary majority through the use of constitutional amendments. During the 1980s, various UNP measures undermined the balance between the two major parties that had been an important factor behind the political stability of the years between 1952 and 1977. The extension of the life of Parliament until 1989 and the passage of the amendment prohibiting the advocacy of separatism, which resulted in the expulsion of TULF members from Parliament, created new political grievances. The Jayewardene government's decision to deprive SLFP leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civil rights for seven years for alleged abuses of power in October 1980 also weakened the two-party system because it deprived the SLFP of its popular leader.*

Despite drastic constitutional changes since 1972, the party system's British heritage is readily apparent in the clear distinction made between government and opposition legislators in Parliament (sitting, as in Westminster, on opposite benches) and provisions in the 1978 Constitution to prevent defections from one party to another, previously a common practice. Backbenchers are expected to follow the initiatives of party leaders and can be punished with expulsion from the party for failing to observe party discipline.*

Two Party System in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has traditionally operated under a two party system. Power has traditionally shifted between the two main political parties. the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP). Both the UNP and the SLFP are dominated by Sinhalese politicians and their policies are designed to appeal to Sinhalese. Both embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.

The centrist United National Party (UNP) was the governing party or in the governing coalition from 1947 to 1956, from 1965 to 1970, from 1977 to 1994, 2001 to 2004 and 2015 to 2019. The center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was the governing party or in the governing coalition from 1956 to 1965, from 1970 to 1977, from 1994 to 2001, from 2004 to 2015 and 2019 to present. Both are dominated by Sinhalese politicians and appeal to Sinhalese sentiment.

By the1950s SLFP and UNP dominated national and regional elections, effectively making Sri Lanka a two-party state. Because of the prevalence of minor parties, however, neither major party has ever secured a majority without forming a coalition. In the twenty-first century, two major coalitions — the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UFPA) and the United National Front (UNF) — became major contenders in national elections. [Source: “Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments”, Thomson Gale, 2008]

According to the Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments: “UFPA was founded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which has been one of Sri Lanka’s largest political parties since its establishment in 1951. SLFP is a moderate socialist party that also represents Sinhalese nationalism. It is considered the more leftist or liberal of the major parties. The UFPA also includes the People’s Liberation Front, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, and the Muslim National Unity Alliance. [Source: “Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments”, Thomson Gale, 2008]

“The UNF coalition was formed by the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka’s oldest political party. UNP was the first party to head the Sri Lankan government and has held majorities during thirty-three of the country’s fifty-seven years as an independent republic. Though UNP is a socialist democratic party, it is viewed as the more conservative party because of its focus on economic initiatives and military investment. The coalition also includes the Western People’s Front and the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, both of which represent the nation’s labor unions. [Source: “Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments”, Thomson Gale, 2008]

Sri Lanka People's Freedom Alliance (SLFPA) won 59.09 percent of the vote and 145 of 225 seats in the 2015 parliamentary election. By that time, the United National Party (UNP) had virtually collapsed. It won only 2.15 percent of the vote and one seat in the 2015 parliament election, down from 106 seats in the 2010 election.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has traditionally been a pro-Sinhalese, anti-Tamil left-of-center political organization. It is the party of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005, and has traditionally have controlled by the Sinhalese elite and it in turn has controlled the press Sri Lanka People's Freedom Alliance (SLFPA) won 59.09 percent of the vote and 145 of 225 seats in the 2015 parliamentary election.

The SLFP was the main party in Kumaratunga’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In the April 2004 elections UPFA took 105 seats. The UPFA was a union of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), People’s Liberation Front (JVP) and Sinhalese nationalist party. See 2004 elections. Kumaratunga initially took office as president in 1994 and has head of the People's Alliance, composed of the SLFP and several smaller parties.

In 1951 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike — Kumaratunga’s father — led his faction, the Sinhala Maha Sabha, out of the ruling UNP and established the SLFP. Bandaranaike had organized the Sinhala Maha Sabha in 1937 in order to promote Sinhalese culture and community interests. Since the 1950s, SLFP platforms have reflected the earlier organization's emphasis on appealing to the sentiments of the Sinhalese masses in rural areas. To this basis has been added the antiestablishment appeal of nonrevolutionary socialism. On the sensitive issue of language, the party originally espoused the use of both Sinhala and Tamil as national languages, but in the mid-1950s it adopted a "Sinhala only" policy. As the champion of the Buddhist religion, the SLFP has customarily relied upon the socially and politically influential Buddhist clergy, the sangha, to carry its message to the Sinhalese villages. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

Another important constituency has been the Sinhalese middle class, whose members have resented alleged Tamil domination of the professions, commerce, and the civil service since the British colonial era. In contrast to the free market orientation of the UNP, the SLFP's policies have included economic selfsufficiency , nationalization of major enterprises, creation of a comprehensive welfare state, redistribution of wealth, and a nonaligned foreign policy that favored close ties with socialist countries. It has, however, refused to embrace Marxism as its guiding ideology.*

Like the UNP, the SLFP has been a "family party." S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assassinated in 1959. After a brief and somewhat chaotic interregnum, his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was chosen as party leader. In the July 1960 general election, the party won 75 out of 151 parliamentary seats, and in a coalition with Marxist parties, Mrs. Banaranaike became the world's first democratically elected female head of government. Although she was obliged to step down from party leadership after her civil rights were taken away in October 1980 on charges of corruption and abuse of power, she resumed leadership of the SLFP following a government pardon granted on January 1, 1986.*

In 1977 six members of the SLFP left the party and formed a new group, the People's Democratic Party (PDP — Mahajana Prajathanthra). A second group, the Sri Lanka People's Party (SLMP — Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya), was formed in 1984 by a daughter of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunge, and her husband Vijay Kumaratunge. They claimed that the original SLFP, under the leadership of Sirimavo Bandaranaike's son, Anura, was excessively right wing and had become an instrument of the Jayewardene government. Although Sirimavo Bandaranaike reentered politics and assumed a leadership position within the SLFP after her 1986 pardon, Anura Bandaranaike remained leader of the parliamentary opposition. Neither the PDP nor the SLPP had representation in Parliament in 1988.*

During the late 1980s, the SLFP and the breakaway SLPP remained split on the sensitive issue of negotiations with Tamil separatists. The former opposed the granting of significant concessions to the militants while the latter joined the UNP in supporting them. In 1986 Sirimavo Bandaranaike and politically active members of the Buddhist leadership established the Movement for Defense of the Nation in order to campaign against proposed grants of regional autonomy to the Tamils.*

On the eve of the 2004 elections the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and People’s Liberation Front joined forced t create the United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and adopted a platform that appealed to Buddhist revivalists.

UNP (United National Party)

The United National Party (UNP) is Sri Lanka’s other Sinhalese-dominated party. It is a centrist party lead by Ranil Wickremesinghe. Kumaratunga's brother, Anura Bandaranaike. In the April 2004, election it took only 82 seats, down from the 109 it held before. United National Party ruled for 17 years from 1977 to 1994. By the late 2010s, the United National Party (UNP) had virtually collapsed. It won only 2.15 percent of the vote and one seat in the 2015 parliament election, down from 106 seats in the 2010 election. See Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Below.

The United National Party (UNP) was the main party of the independence movement. its widely respected leader, D. S. Senanayake, became Ceylon’s first prime minister after independence. in 1951, Solomon Bandaranaike left the UNP to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Over the years, the SLFP became the island’s other major political party. The UNP was friendlier to the West while the SFLP related more to the former Eastern bloc. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]

The UNP was established in 1946 by prominent nationalist leaders such as Don Stephen Senanayake, who became the country's first prime minister, and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who broke with Senanayake in 1951, establishing the SLFP. The UNP, originally a collection of disparate and jealous factions, was organized to compete in the first general elections in 1947 against leftist parties on the platform of communal harmony, parliamentary democracy, and anticommunism. Between 1946 and the early 1970s, the UNP was organized around power personalities and politically influential families rather than a consistent ideology or a strong party organization. In its early years it was known as the "uncle-nephew party" because of the blood ties between its major leaders. When the first prime minister, Don Stephen Senanayake, died in March 1952, he was succeeded by his son, Dudley. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

In September 1953, Sir John Kotelawala, Dudley Senanayake's uncle, assumed the leadership of the UNP government and remained in power until April 1956. In the March 1965 general election, Dudley Senanayake again became prime minister at the head of a UNP government. In 1970 leadership of the party passed to a distant relative, Junius Richard (J.R.) Jayewardene. A prominent activist in the preindependence Ceylon National Congress who was elected to the colonial era legislature in 1943, Jayewardene departed from the personality-dominated UNP status quo. Instead, he established a strong party organization and recruited members of the younger generation, traditionally attracted to the leftist parties, to fill UNF party ranks.*

In keeping both with the privileged background of its leadership and the need to provide the electorate with a clearcut alternative to the leftist orientation of the SLFP and other groups, the UNP has remained, since independence, a party of the moderate right. Despite the constitutional adoption of the term "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka" as the country's formal name, the ruling party's policies under Jayewardene have included comprehensive economic liberalization designed to stimulate growth of a market economy, encouragement of foreign investment, a partial dismantling of the country's elaborate welfare state institutions, and closer and friendlier relations with the United States and other Western countries. Because the UNP's popular support is firmly anchored in the Sinhalesemajority regions of central, southern, and western Sri Lanka, it has had to compromise with rising grass-roots sentiment against the Tamil minority as ethnic polarities intensified during the 1980s. Historically, however, it is less closely identified with Sinhalese chauvinism than its major rival, the SLFP.*

According to the “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”: “After President Premadasa was killed by a Tamil bomber on 1 May 1993, the parliament unanimously elected Prime Minister Wijetunga as his successor on 7 May 1993. A “snap” (unscheduled) election called six months early by President Wijetunga as part of his campaign for reelection backfired on 16 August 1994, when the voters rejected the UNP by a small margin. in its place, they elected to office a seven-party, leftist coalition-now dubbed the People’s Alliance — led by the SLFP’s mother-and-daughter team of Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. More vigorous but less experienced, the younger Kumaratunga promptly became prime minister, and shortly thereafter, president.President Kumaratunga called for presidential elections ahead of schedule in December 1999. She was returned to office (after an assassination attempt a few days before the election) with 51.1 percent of the votes. [Source:“Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB)

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB, "Peace People's Power") is a political alliance led by opposition leader of Sri Lanka Sajith Premadasa. The alliance was formed with the approval from the working committee of the United National Party (UNP) to contest the 2020 Sri Lankan parliamentary election. In February 2020 the election commission of Sri Lanka the recognised the party and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) joined it. [Source: Wikipedia]

The SJB won 54 seats and became the main opposition in just six months after it was created. While the alliance traces its 'roots' back (primarily) to the liberal-conservative principles of the UNP, some members of the Sri Lankan media would argue that the SJB has over time moved to the (progressive/democratic) political centre and even espouses several social democratic (centre-left) ideals.

52 out of 77 United National Party (UNP) members of parliament, led by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, joined the new alliance. The working committee approved the name of Premadasa as the leader of the alliance and gave him the power to chair the nomination board for the 2020 general elections. Both Premadasa and UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe agreed to contest the elections under the swan symbol and file nominations under Samagi Jana Balawegaya to avoid a division in the United National Party. At last moment Wickramasinghe withdrew from the alliance that was previously approved to contest under its own. Despite this the majority of the members of the UNP ran for office under the SJB. Almost 75 members of parliament joined the alliance. A minority ran under the United National Party.

Marxist Parties in Sri Lanka

In the late 1980s, Sri Lanka had two long-established Marxist parties. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) was founded in 1935 and remained in the late 1980s one of the very few MarxistLeninist parties in the world to associate itself with the revolutionary doctrines of Leon Trotsky. This connection made it attractive to independent-minded Marxists who resented ideological subservience to Moscow and who aspired to adapt Marxism to Sri Lankan conditions. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the LSSP functioned as the primary opposition party, but its fortunes declined after the emergence of the non-Marxist SLFP. Like the SLPP, the LSSP joined with the ruling UNP in the mid-1980s to support a negotiated settlement with Tamil militants but in 1988 did not have members in Parliament. The New Equal Society Party (Nava Sama Samaja Party — NSSP) was in 1987 a breakaway faction of the LSSP. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

The Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) was established in 1943 and continued in the late 1980s to follow the direction of the Soviet Union on matters of ideology. Banned briefly in July 1983 along with the JVP and the NSSP, in 1987 it had limited popular support.*

The People's United Front (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna — MEP) was a small party founded by veteran leftist Dinesh P. R. Gunawardene that since the early 1950s has attracted Sinhalese support with appeals to militant Buddhist and Sinhala chauvinist sentiments. In 1956 it formed a coalition on the left with the SLFP and Marxist parties, but in a shift to the right four years later joined forces with the UNP. During the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it maintained a formal association with the JVP, originally a Maoist group that was responsible for a bloody uprising in 1971 but operated as a legal political party between 1977 and 1983.*

Janatha Vimukthis Peramuna (JVP)

Janatha Vimukthis Peramuna (JVP), or National People's Power or People’s Liberation Front, is a Marxist party traditionally supported by educated Sinhalese youth. It was the object of brutal crackdown in the 1970s and 80s. See History. It has traditionally been anti-India but in the 1990s and 2000s it became pro-India and adopted a position more agreeable to the Buddhist clergy. It has also tried to shed its revolutionary past. Its leader in the 2000s appearred in white clothes, with no red and was clean cut and well groomed. It promoted Sinhalese nationalism as well as Marxist-Leninist ideology and its members were very active in providing tsunami relief.

JVP was originally a Maoist group that was responsible for a bloody uprising in 1971 but operated as a legal political party between 1977 and 1983. The JVP drew worldwide attention when it launched an insurrection against the Bandaranaike government in April 1971. Although the insurgents were young, poorly armed, and inadequately trained, they succeeded in seizing and holding major areas in Southern and Central provinces before they were defeated by the security forces. Their attempt to seize power created a major crisis for the government and forced a fundamental reassessment of the nation's security needs. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

In 1987 the JVP reemerged organized a series of strikes and was blamed for a number of political murders. By the end of 1988, Sri Lanka was in a severe crisis. The Marxists were terrorizing the south and the economy was in ruins. The tourism industry was wiped out after a group of tourists had to be airlifted to safety. The JVP rebellion was brutally put down by the government of Ranadinghe Premadasa. Paramilitary groups and death squads supported by the government killed and disappeared thousands of JVP supporters and sympathizers. Roadside bonfires with burning corpses, heads mounted on poles, and bodies floating down the rivers were a daily occurrence. The entire adult male population of some villages were disappeared.

The JVP held 39 seats after the 2004 election. It took 3.84 percent of won three seats in the 2020 election. It had six seats before that. Many JVP members come from coastal areas where the predominant caste groups are Karave, Durave and Salagma, who―although they Sinhalese today―are of southern Indian origin. They are considered lower castes by the so-called true Sinhalese, who control the government, military and economy.

Tamil Political Parties

Tamil political parties and their leaders in 2020:
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), headed by Rajavarothiam Sampanthan (alliance includes Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi), headed by Mavai Senathirajah], People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam), headed by D. Siddarthan],
Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), headed by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam
Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), headed by Douglas Devanandaj
Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front headed by Suresh Premachandran
Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, headed by Selvam Adaikalanathan [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) began as a coalition of four moderate Tamil parties. In the 2000s, when the civil war was still raging, some said was the proxy party of the Tamil Tigers. It took 22 seats in the 2004 election. It held 14 seats before that.

The first election since 1983 were held in Jaffna in January 1998 to elect members for the local council;, The former militant group the Eelam People’ Democratic Party (EPDP), is a Tamil party, won 17 seats. The EPDP opposed the Tamil Tigers.

The Tamil parties traditionally did not openly opposed the Tamil Tigers nor openly support them. Those that supported them risked being condemned by the government. Those that opposed the Tigers risked being killed by them. On the eve of peace talks in the 2000s the Tamil parties began openly supporting the Tigers in an effort to strengthen their bargaining position.

The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) was a small party that had a few seats in the parliament. It traditionally hd represented Tamils who worked on tea plantation in the south and been sympathetic to the Tamil Tiger cause.

Tamil United Liberation Front

With very few exceptions, Sri Lankan Tamils have tended to support their own parties and candidates rather than vote for the UNP, SLFP, or the Marxist parties. In the July 1977 general election, for example, only 9 percent of the voters in the Tamilmajority Northern Province supported the two major parties (the UNP, less closely associated with Sinhalese chauvinism from the Tamil viewpoint than the SLFP, won 8 of the 9 percent). In the years following independence, the most important Tamil party was the Tamil Congress, led by G.G. Ponnambalam, one of the major figures in the independence movement. A breakaway group led by another figure, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, founded a second party, the Federal Party, which began to make inroads into the Tamil Congress' constituency by advancing proposals for a federal state structure that would grant Tamils substantial autonomy. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

In the early 1970s, several Tamil political groups, including the Tamil Congress and the Federal Party, formed the Tamil United Front (TUF). With the group's adoption in 1976 of a demand for an independent state, a "secular, socialist state of Tamil Eelam," it changed its name to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). In the general election of July 1977, TULF won eighteen seats in the legislature, including all fourteen seats contested in the Jaffna Peninsula. In October 1983, all the TULF legislators, numbering sixteen at the time, forfeited their seats in Parliament for refusing to swear an oath unconditionally renouncing support for a separate state in accordance with the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. In an atmosphere of intensifying ethnic violence and polarization, their resignations deprived Sri Lankan Tamils of a role in the legal political process and increased tremendously the appeal of extremist groups such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. But in December 1985, the TULF leadership softened its position and proposed that an autonomous Tamil State could be established within the Sri Lankan constitutional framework in a manner similar to the federal states of India.

Buddhist Revivalists

In recent decades there has been a Buddhist revivalist movement in Sri Lanka that is not unlike the Hindu revivalist movement in India or even Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wahhabi .movement Sinhalese upset with performance of the traditional political parties are beginning to look to Sinhalese chauvinism and Buddhist values as a solution to Sri Lanka’s problems.

Buddhist nationalist movements have their it roots in 19th century movement in which Sri Lankans were encouraged to return to their Buddhist roots (See History) and Sri Lanka itself was viewed the home of Buddhism in its purest form and thus was it was the responsibility of Sri Lankans to preserve this purity. As the philosophy developed it took on an increasingly intolerant tone against European Christianity and Tamil Hinduism, which were regarded as corrupting influences.

As time has gone on Buddhism has become increasingly politicized in Sri Lanka. Some of the most ardent ones, who have taken the toughest and most intolerant stance against the Tamils, have been Buddhist monks. In some cases, the Buddhist clergy has pressured politicians into supporting their positions by threatening to accuse them of being anti-Buddhist.

Buddhist revivalists have not made their voices heard not through the creation of new political parties but by more by incorporating their views and agendas into existing political parties. The UPFA and JVP have both adopted Buddhist Revivalist positions. There are some Buddhist revivalist parties. In the election in 2004, the Sinhala Buddhist party fielded an all-monk group of candidates

Buddhist revivalist to some degree equate globalization and free market economics with greed, one of the evils traditionally despised by Buddhists.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (srilanka.travel), Government of Sri Lanka (www.gov.lk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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