The Tamil National Alliance (Tamil: தமிழ்த் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்புISO 15919: tamiḻt tēciyakkūṭṭamaippu; TNA) is a political alliance in Sri Lanka that represents the country’s Sri Lankan Tamilminority. It was formed in October 2001 by a group of moderate Tamil nationalistparties and former militant groups. The alliance originally supported self-determination in an autonomous state (Tamil Eelam) for the island’s Tamils. It supported negotiations with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to resolve the civil war in Sri Lanka. The TNA was considered a political proxy of the LTTE which selected some of its candidates even though its leadership maintains it never supported the LTTE and merely negotiated with the LTTE just as the Government did.
Since the end of the civil war and the defeat of the LTTE the TNA has dropped the demand for an independent state, saying that it is ready to accept regional self-rule. The TNA and its supporters have been subject to numerous attacks during its existence and three of its sitting Members of Parliament have been assassinated, allegedly by government backed rival groups.
The TNA currently consists of four parties: Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front, Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi, People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization.
The TNA currently has 10 members in the national parliament. It controls the provincial government in the Northern Province and is part of the provincial government in the Eastern Province. It also controls 33 local authorities in the north and east. The leader of the alliance R. Sampanthan was the leader of the opposition from September 2015 to December 2018.
The TNA was formed in October 2001 to contest the 2001 parliamentary election on a common platform. On 20 October 2001 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). At the 2001 parliamentary election the TNA, contesting under the name and symbol of the TULF, received 348,164 votes (3.89%) and won 15 out of 225 seats in the Sri Lankan parliament.
Soon after its formation the TNA began to make a more pro-LTTE stance, supporting their “freedom struggle” and recognising them as the sole representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils. This caused a split within the TULF. Some members of the TULF, led by its president V. Anandasangaree, were opposed to the LTTE. Anandasangaree refused to allow the TNA to use the TULF name during the 2004 parliamentary election. This caused the members of TULF who wished to remain with the TNA to resurrect the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) political party. At the 2004 parliamentary election the TNA, contesting under the name and symbol of the ITAK, received 633,654 votes (6.84%) and won 22 out of 225 seats in parliament.
The TNA boycotted the 2008 local authority election in Batticaloa District and the 2008 Eastern Provincial Council election due to threats posed by the government backed Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) paramilitary group and opposition to the de-merger of the North Eastern Province.
The civil war ended in May 2009 after the LTTE were defeated by the Sri Lankan military. A United Nations report found that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war, mostly as a result of indiscriminate shelling by the Sri Lankan military. There are widespread allegations that both sides committed atrocities and human rights violations including war crimes. The TNA has consistently campaigned for an independent international investigation into the alleged war crimes.
At the 2010 presidential election the TNA supported common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka who, as Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, had played a key role in the LTTE’s defeat. In March 2010 the TNA dropped its demand for a separate Tamil state, advocating instead a federal solution with significant devolution and merger of the Northern and Easternprovinces. In March 2010 ACTC and its leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, along with fellow TNA MPs S. Kajendran and Pathmini Sithamparanathan, left the TNA and formed the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF). At the 2010 parliamentary election the TNA received 233,190 votes (2.90%) and won 14 out of 225 seats in parliament.
At the 2013 provincial council election, the first elections for provincial councils in the Northern Province, the TNA secured nearly 80% of the votes, winning 30 of the 38 seats on the Northern Provincial Council. The TNA’s C. V. Vigneswaran was sworn in as the first democratically elected Chief Minister of the Northern Province on 7 October 2013.
At the 2015 presidential election the TNA supported common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena. Newly elected president Sirisena formed a national unity government after the election but the TNA chose not to join the new government, saying that, although the TNA supported Sirisena’s policies for political reform, a political solution must first be found to address Tamil grievances before the TNA would consider joining the government. The TNA was however represented by its leader Sampanthan on the National Executive Council.
In March 2015 the TNA joined an all party provincial government in the Eastern Province. Two TNA provincial councillors were appointed to the province’s Board of Ministers.
At the 2015 parliamentary election the TNA received 515,963 votes (4.62%) and won 16 out of 225 seats in parliament. After the election Sampanthan was recognised as Leader of the Opposition in parliament.