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Lankan Tamils raise release of political prisoners issue with PM Mahinda Rajapaksa

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured the country's Tamil leaders that he will discuss the release of political prisoners who are being held for up to 15 years with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

A delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka''s main Tamil party, met the prime minister on Monday for a separate discussion on the prisoners issue after attending an all-party meeting convened by Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The all-parliamentarians meeting was boycotted by the Opposition''s United National Party after the government rejected their seven suggestions, which included resuming Parliament to discuss issues related to the COVID-19.

The TNA was the only major Opposition party to attend the meeting.

TNA spokesman MA Sumanthiran on Tuesday said, "We took the opportunity to meet the prime minister. Our representatives from the north and east presented their problems region-wise."

"We (also) raised the issue of political prisoners who are held for over 10 years to 15 years," Sumanthiran said.

The TNA leader said Mahinda promised to raise the issue with his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country''s president.

Sumanthiran, who is a signatory to the seven Opposition parties letter, said the TNA was firm in their view that Parliament must be reconvened.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dismissed the demands of the Opposition on March 2.

Meanwhile, the country''s parliamentary election, originally scheduled on April 25, has been postponed by the Election Commission to June 20 in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new Parliament must convene at least once by June 2 or within 3 months of when the previous one was dissolved on March 2, to avoid constitutional irregularity.

The coronavirus, which first surfaced in China''s Wuhan city in November last, has claimed over 250,000 lives and infected 3.5 million people.

The virus has killed eight people with 755 positive cases in Sri Lanka.