Colombo, Jul 1: R Sampanthan, a veteran Sri Lankan politician and a moderate Tamil leader, who relentlessly pursued a life of peace, justice and dignity for Tamil nationals in the island nation, passed away on Sunday night.

Sampanthan, 91, passed away while receiving treatment in a hospital, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) announced.

Sampanthan led the TNA from 2004 and became only the second Tamil to become the main opposition leader in the Sinhala-majority country.

He was ailing for a long time and had missed the current parliamentary sessions for a long time.

In a message, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Sampanthan worked "tirelessly" to bridge the divisions in the country and his loss would be mourned nationwide.

"I express my deepest condolences on the passing of Mr R. Sampanthan. As a national leader, he worked tirelessly to bridge the divisions in our country. His loss will be mourned across the nation," he said in a post on X.

"My deepest condolences to the family and friends of veteran TNA leader R. Sampanthan," Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X on Monday along with a picture of his meeting with the Sri Lankan Tamil leader.

"Will always cherish fond memories of meetings with him. He relentlessly pursued a life of peace, security, equality, justice and dignity for the Tamil nationals of Sri Lanka. He will be deeply missed by his friends and followers in Sri Lanka and India," Modi wrote.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar condoled Sampanthan's death on X, noting that he dedicated his entire life to fighting for equality, dignity and justice for Tamils in the island nation.

"Deeply saddened to hear about the passing away of Sri Lankan Tamil leader Shri R. Sampanthan," he said.

"Recall my many meetings and conversations with him over several decades. He dedicated his entire life fighting for the equality, dignity and justice for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Condolences to his family and followers," he said.

Indian High Commissioner Santosh Jha also took to X and said the veteran politician would be remembered for his "seminal contribution to the Sri Lankan Tamil cause" and "goodwill towards India".

"Deeply saddened at the demise of TNA leader Shri R Sampanthan. Met & interacted with him on many occasions," Jha said in a post.

"He will be remembered for his seminal contribution to the Sri Lankan Tamil cause & for his goodwill towards India. Heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones," he said.

Former Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also condoled the politician's passing.

"My deepest condolences on the passing of TNA Leader R. Sampanthan. He was an old friend and colleague and we shared many a day discussing various issues. His demise is a loss to Sri Lanka political fraternity and may his family & friends overcome this sad loss," he said in a post on X.

Sri Lankan Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa also mourned the loss.

"Today, we mourn the loss of Mr. Sampanthan, who served Sri Lanka for over half a century. His dedication to equal rights for all Sri Lankans is a beacon of hope. His fair and just leadership will continue to inspire me and many others. Truly, it is the end of an era," he said in a post on X.

"Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of MP R. Sampanthan, a veteran Tamil politician who worked to create a cohesive, peaceful society within Sri Lanka. His advocacy for equal rights for minorities helped advance broader human rights for all Sri Lankan citizens and encouraged unity. On behalf of the United States, I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones," said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung.

Sampanthan was a moderate Tamil who had been leading the political movement to achieve a negotiated political settlement to the Tamil demand for political autonomy.

The Tamils put forward their demand for autonomy since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, which, from the mid-70s, turned into a bloody armed conflict.

He took office as the leader of the opposition in 2015 and was actively involved in the process of drafting a new Constitution until 2019.

A brilliant lawyer, Sampanthan entered Parliament for the first time in 1977 from the eastern port district of Trincomalee. PTI