Sri Lanka's Parliament has recognized an ethnic Tamil lawmaker as the opposition leader for the first time in decades in what is seen a positive step toward post civil-war reconciliation with the minority community.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced Thursday that Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance, was officially recognized for the position.

It is the second time an ethnic Tamil has been opposition leader. Appapillai Amirthalingam became opposition leader in 1977 but resigned five years later refusing to swear that he would not promote a separate state for Tamils.

A separatist civil war broke out soon after and continued until it was crushed by the island nation's military in 2009.

The TNA, earlier accused of being the mouthpiece of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, has renounced separatism.