Sumanthiran was born on 9 February 1964 at the Church of South India’s McLeod Hospital in Inuvil in northern Ceylon.[1][2] His family are from the Vadamarachchi region of the Jaffna peninsula – his father is from Karaveddy and his mother is from Kudathanai.[2] Both of his grandfathers were teachers in Vadamarachchi.[2] Sumanthiran grew up in Colombo and was educated at Royal College, Colombo.[2][3] After school he joined the University of Madras, graduating with a B.Sc. degree in physics.[4] He then proceeded to Sri Lanka Law College, qualifying as an advocate.[4]

Sumanthiran is a Methodist Christian.[2][5] He is vice-president of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka.[6][7]


Sumanthiran was called to the bar in 1991.[4] He then started practising law in Colombo, appearing in civil litigation cases in the supreme court, court of appeal, commercial high court and district courts.[4] His successful cases include the privatisation of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, privatisation of Lanka Marine Services and the closure of Pramuka Bank.[4] He has appeared in a number of fundamental rights cases and judicial reviews of parliamentary legislation and executive action including the charging of levy for water and establishing a revenue authority.[4] He prevented the forced expulsion of Tamils from Colombo and successfully challenged an anti-conversion bill which the courts struck down as being unconstitutional.[4][8] He has also appeared for petitioners against the proposed 18th and 19th amendments to the constitution which were found to be unconstitutional and required two-thirds majority in Parliament and a referendum.[4][9] He has worked on a number of public interest cases including the ongoing attempt by residents of the Valikamam North High Security Zone to get their land back from the Sri Lankan military.[4] His human rights work has led to him being threatened, harassed and branded “traitors in black coats” by the Sri Lankan military under the then President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.[10][11][12]

Sumanthiran has become one of Sri Lanka’s top human rights and constitutional lawyers.[13] He received an LLM degree in internet and electronic law from Monash University in 2001.[4][14]

Sumanthiran was appointed as the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) National List MP in the Sri Lankan Parliament following the 2010 parliamentary election.[15][16] In May 2012 he was elected Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi’s (ITAK) Secretary for Foreign and Legal Affairs.[17][18] He became one of ITAK’s two Assistant Secretaries in September 2014.[19][20] Sumanthiran was one of the TNA’s candidates in Jaffna District at the 2015 parliamentary election. He was elected and re-entered Parliament.[21][22][23]

Sumanthiran is one of a trio of MPs (the other two being R. Sampanthan and Mavai Senathirajah) who lead the TNA.[24][25]

Sumanthiran plays a major role in bridging gulf between the ethnicities and the restoration of Tamil rights through democratic means. He contributes to the Constitution-making process as TNA member of the Constitutional Assembly steering committee and also as co-chair along with Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne of the Management Committee of the secretariat for the Constitutional Assembly. A new progressive constitution can improve justice, equality and ethnic reconciliation and as a result has gained extreme opposition of ethnic nationalists of both sides.[26]

Assassination attempt[edit] Four Ex-LTTE members were arrested in 2017 after a failed assassination attempt on Sumanthiran. Two attempts were made using claymore mines on the Soranpatru-Thaalayady road on December 12, 2016 and January 13, 2017. It is believed overseas LTTE faction headed by the Norway-based Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan. As a result the National Security Council led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed concern and increased security to Sumanthiran.[27] Before the assassination Sumanthiran was attacked and called a traitor both locally and internationally a practice termed “traitorisation” carried out by the LTTE in assassinations of Tamil politicians such as Neelan Tiruchelvam. However the attempt failed after an Ex-LTTE member that believed in Sumanthiran’s idea of Tamils living equally in Sri Lanka as well as his service to Ex-LTTE members and fearing upsetting the fragile peace refused an offer of money and safe passage to Europe by a group of Ex-LTTE members and notified the Terrorism Investigation Department(TID) of the Police. The TID despite initial doubts became convinced and notified Sumanthiran who was going for a cultural festival but he was too late to turn back and continued. Security for Sumanthiran was increased and Bomb squads were deployed to the cultural festival. Both the police and the army using their intelligence networks began tracking the Ex-LTTE members. Murugiah Thavavaenthan was arrested and interrogated leading to the arrest of Karalasingham Kulendran alias “Master”. After interrogation the police raided houses of Kulendran’s relatives which led to Calymore mines being found. After arrests of two more Ex-LTTE members Chandrasekaralingam Vasudevan alias Mathan an Ex-Tiger was arrested with a couple with Kerala ganja. Mariyanayagam Lewis Ajanthan was known by the nom de plume “Jana” was arrested and six exploders alongside several Kilos of Kerala Ganja was found.[28][26] After being inquired about the incident Sumanthiran said, “I will continue to go to the North as before and continue to directly engage with the people as I have been doing in the past”. He also expressed concern about Former LTTE members being manipulated by cash incentives[26]

The Global Tamil Forum expressed shock at the assassination attempt and praised Sumanthiran’s “courage, passion and commitment to peacefully resolve the grievances of the Tamil people by adopting consensual approach, particularly through the constitutional process”[29]


1.^ “Directory of Members: M.A. Sumanthiran”. Parliament of Sri Lanka.
2.a b c d e Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (28 February 2015). “Tamil “Extremists” target Sampanthan and Sumanthiran of the TNA as “Traitors””. The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
3.^ “Members of Parliament”. Tamil National Alliance.
4.^ a b c d e f g h i j “Sri Lanka public interest lawyer in parliament”. Lank Business Online. 21 April 2010.
5.^ “Church of South India Newsletter” (PDF). Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India. July 2009. p. 2.
6.^ “JDCSI Welcomes New Vice President of the Methodist Church”. Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India.
7.^ Dwight, Richard (10 July 2008). “164th Anniversary celebration: History of the Methodist Church, Wellawatte”. Daily News (Sri Lanka).
8.^ “SL Supreme Court issues stay order on expelling Tamils from Colombo lodges”. TamilNet. 8 June 2007.
9.^ “CPA challenges 18th and 19th amendments”. Daily News (Sri Lanka). 28 September 2002.
10.^ “Behind the Rajapaksa brothers’ smiles”. The Indian Express. 14 August 2009.
11.^ “Gotabaya labels popular Colombo attorneys as traitors”. TamilNet. 12 July 2009.
12.^ “Campaign against some lawyers:Rule of law, people’s right to justice threatened – Chief Opp. Whip”. The Island (Sri Lanka). 22 July 2009.
13.^ “Past Hauser Global Scholars”. New York University School of Law.
14.^ “Post-war Sri Lanka: The Role of International Justice in Ending Military Oppression and Protecting the Rights of Tamil People”. Australian National University.
15.^ “National list MPs nominated: UPFA-17, UNP-09, DNA-02, and ITAK-01”. TamilNet. 21 April 2010.
16.^ “The full National List” (PDF). The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 25 April 2010. p. 12.
17.^ Radhakrishnan, R. K. (27 May 2012). “Sampanthan re-elected leader of ITAK”. The Hindu.
18.^ “TNA on the verge of a split over ITAK”. Ceylon Today. 30 May 2012.
19.^ “Mavai replaces Sampanthan as ITAK leader”. Tamil Guardian. 6 September 2014.
20.^ “Changes In ITAK Top Posts”. Asian Mirror. 7 September 2014.
21.^ “PART I : SECTION (I) — GENERAL Government Notifications PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ACT, No. 1 OF 1981” (PDF). The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Extraordinary. 1928/03. 19 August 2015.
22.^ “Ranil tops with over 500,000 votes in Colombo”. The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 19 August 2015.
23.^ Santiago, Melanie (18 August 2015). “General Election 2015: Full list of preferential votes”. News First.
24.^ Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (27 July 2013). “Wigneswaran, Senathirajah and the Facade of TNA Unity”. The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
25.^ Gammanpila, Udaya (4 August 2013). “TNA’s majoritism in minority politics”. Ceylon Today.
26.^ a b c “Overseas LTTE-backed plot to assassinate TNA MP Sumanthiran in Jaffna revealed”.
27.^ “Plot to assassinate Sumanthiran: 4 ex-LTTE cadres remanded”. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
28.^ “The perils of ‘traitorisation'”.
29.^ “Global Tamil Forum Condemns Assassination Attempt On Sumanthiran”.
30.^ Jayakody, Pradeep (28 August 2015). “The Comparison of Preferential Votes in 2015 & 2010”. The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).