Mahinda Rajapaksa is a Sri Lankan politician who served as the country’s 6th President. He was first sworn in as the president in November 2005 and re-elected for a second time in office in January 2010 and served in this post till January 2015. A lawyer by profession, he began his political career decades ago when he was first elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka. He had served as labour minister and minister of fisheries and aquatic resources during the initial years of his political career. A defender of human rights, he became a very popular politician who earned the love and respect of his countrymen. With his dedication towards the country and strong ethics, he became a much beloved politician who was eventually chosen as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 2004. The very next year he was sworn in as the fifth Executive President of the country. When he assumed the office, Sri Lankan politics was under severe turmoil with the extremist militant outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) threatening to shatter the peace in the country. With his able leadership and meticulous planning he launched a war on terrorism which ultimately led to the Sri Lankan army defeating the LTTE.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Percy Mahendra “Mahinda” Rajapaksa on 18 November 1945 in Weerakatiya, Southern Province, British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) into a family of prominent politicians. His father, D. A. Rajapaksa had served as a Member of Parliament and a Cabinet Minister while his uncle had been a State Councillor.
He attended the Richmond College in Galle before moving on to Nalanda College in Colombo. He also studied at Thurstan College later on.
Awards and Achievements
He was conferred with a Doctor of Law from the University of Colombo in September 2009.
In February 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia for his contribution for world peace and outstanding success in defeating terrorism.
He was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the Beijing University of Foreign Languages in China in 2011.
Recognition and public image
Rajapaksa is accused of creating a cult of personality around him using the war victory and Sinhala Chauvinism. He was referred as a “King” by some of his supporters and used the media to portray himself as a strong man During his time in power his pictures were shown in buses, billboards and all forms of media. Television ads where songs were sung by school children in his rallies would hail him as “our father” and “father of the country”. Rajapaksa also printed his picture on currency notes and named the budget airline Mihin Lanka after himself. Rajapaksa thought having his name in the sky would bring him good fortune. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre and Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium were all high-profile lavish infrastructure projects initiated by Rajapaksa during his administration and named after him. Due to these critics including psychiatrists have further accused him of having Narcissistic personality disorder citing these alongside the 18th amendment and claims by his loyalists that Rajapaksa is related to King Dutugamunu and through him to Buddha show his grandiose sense of self-importance, need of excessive admiration and fantasies of excessive power and his treatment of Shirani Bandaranayke and Sarath Fonseka was cited as evidence of his lack of empathy. Critics also pointed that organizing post presidential election rallies with his supporters instead of retiring was also considered a source of Narcissistic supply.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was chosen by Sri Lanka Freedom Party to contest with former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party in this Presidential Election held on 17 November 2005. Despite the huge election campaign led by UNP, Mahinda Rajapaksa was able to gain a narrow victory by 190,000 votes. The Opposition claimed that LTTE calling for a boycott of the polls in the North and East from Tamil voters in areas within their control lead to their defeat. Most voters in these areas were forcibly restrained from voting, and it is said that they would have favored Ranil Wickremasinghe and his UNP party in the said election. Rajapaksa received 50.3% of the vote.
After becoming President of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa reshuffled the cabinet and took the portfolios of Defence and Finance in the new cabinet, which was sworn on 23 November 2005.
Sri Lankan Civil War
Although styling himself as a man of peace and a willing negotiator, Rajapaksa signaled his intention to end the peace process once in power by forging an alliance with the Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Jathika Hela Urumaya. The JVP had opposed the original 2002 peace process as treasonous.
The agreement made with Rajapaksa included provisions which called for a revision of the ceasefire agreement to give the military broader powers against the LTTE, as well as ruling out of any devolution of power to the Tamil people. Furthermore, the cessation of aid to the tsunami struck LTTE occupied areas, and the sidelining of the Norwegian facilitators due to their alleged bias were included.
Immediately following his election victory, a series of mine blasts blamed on the LTTE in the country claimed the lives of many off-duty servicemen and civilians, pushing the country back to the brink of war. Following the closure by the LTTE of a reservoir supplying water to 15,000 people named “Mavil Aru” in government controlled areas on 21 July 2006, the Sri Lankan military launched an offensive against the LTTE, bringing the entire reservoir under government control. Further military engagements have led to the LTTE been driven out of the entire Eastern Province of Sri Lanka and loss of 95% of the territory they controlled.The Sri Lanka government declared total victory on 18 May 2009. on 19 May 2009 President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered a victory address to the Parliament and declared that Sri Lanka is liberated from terrorism.
Family and personal life
In 1983 Rajapaksa married Shiranthi Wickremasinghe, a child-psychologist and educator. Shiranthi Rajapaksa is the daughter of E. P. Wickramasinghe, a retired Commodore of the Sri Lanka Navy. The Rajapaksas have three sons, Namal, Yoshitha and Rohitha. In April 2010 Namal Rajapaksa was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Hambantota District, obtaining the highest number of preferential votes in his father’s former district. Namal was again selected for the parliament by obtaining highest votes from Hambantota district in 2015 General Elections as well. Yoshitha was commissioned as an Acting Sub Lieutenant in the Sri Lanka Navy in March 2009.
A number of members of Rajapaksa’s family are currently active in politics.One brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa a former military officer who served in the Sri Lanka Army for 20 years is the former secretary of the Ministry of Defense until Mahinda Rajapakse’s presidency was over on 9 January 2015.
Another brother, Basil Rajapaksa, was elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka from the Gampaha District obtaining the largest number of votes by any candidate in the April 2010 general election, and was appointed Minister of Economic Development. Basil was arrested in April 2015 for many corruptions.
His eldest brother Chamal Rajapaksa has been a Member of Parliament since 1989, and was elected Speaker of the 14th Parliament of Sri Lanka. Currently Chamal is a member of the parliament. Other family members involved in politics include his nephew, Shashindra Rajapaksa, who was the Chief Minister of the Uva Province. Shameendra Rajapaksa (second son of Chamal Rajapaksa), Director SriLankan Airlines, his cousins Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States, Udayanga Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Russia, Prasanna Wickramasuriya, Chairman Airport & Aviation Services Limited Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa’s brother-in-law Nishantha Wickramasinghe is the Chairman of SriLankan Airlines.