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Mahinda Rajapaksa (Sinhala: , ; full name Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa; born November 18, 1945) is the 6th and current executive President of Sri Lanka and Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. A lawyer by profession, Rajapaksa was first elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1970, and served as prime minister from April 6, 2004 until his victory in the 2005 Presidential election. He was sworn in for a six-year term as president on November 19, 2005. He was conferred with Doctor of Law by the University of Colombo on September 06,2009

Early life and career

Rajapaksa was born in Weerakatiya in the southern rural district of Hambantotamarker. He hails from a well known political family in Sri Lanka. His father, D. A. Rajapaksa, was a prominent politician, independence agitator, Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister of Agriculture and Land in Wijeyananda Dahanayake's government. D.M. Rajapaksa, his uncle, was a State Counselor for Hambantota in the 1930s who started wearing the earthy brown shawl to represent kurakkan (finger millet) cultivated by the people of his area, whose cause he championed throughout his life. It is from his example that Rajapaksa wears his characteristic shawl.

Rajapaksa was educated at Richmond Collegemarker, Galle before moving to Nalanda College Colombomarker and later Thurstan Collegemarker, Colombo. He also had a few cameo roles as a movie actor in Sinhalese movies and worked as a library assistant at Vidyodaya University.

Following the death of his father in 1967, Rajapaksa took over as the SLFP candidate for Beliattamarker constituency and was elected to Parliament in 1970 as the youngest Member of Parliament at the age of 24. Later he studied law at the Sri Lanka Law College and took oaths as an attorney-at-law in November 1977. Throughout his parliamentary career, except for the period from 1994-2001 when he was a minister, he continued his law practice in Tangallemarker.

He lost his parliamentary seat in the landslide defeat of the SLFP in 1977. During the 1985 by-election campaign in the Mulkirigala electorate in Hambantota district, for which his brother Chamal Rajapaksa contested representing the SLFP, during this time Mahinda was remanded for allegations of possession of unauthorized fire arms, but he was cleared of charges due to lack of evidence.

In Opposition

In 1989 he was re-elected to Parliament to represent Hambantotamarker District under Proportional Representation. He came into prominence as a leader, together with Manorani Saravanamuttu, of the Mothers Front, which organised the mothers of the "disappeared" in the white terror of 1988-90 instigated by a rebel group that called themselves Deshapremi Jathika Vyaparaya or 'Patriotic National Movement'.

Political career

Appointment as Cabinet Minister

In 1994, following the election victory of the People's Alliance a political front led by Sri Lanka Freedom Party and headed by Chandrika Kumaratunga, Rajapaksa was appointed Minister of Labour. He held this post until 1997 when, following a cabinet reshuffle, his portfolio was changed to Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Leader of the Opposition

When the United National Party (UNP) defeated the People's Alliance in the 2001 elections, Rajapaksa lost his position in the Government. He was however appointed as Leader of the Opposition in March 2002.

Premiership

After the Parliamentary Elections of 2004, in which the United People's Freedom Alliance was gained a slim majority in parliament. Rajapaksa was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s 13th Prime Minister on April 6, 2004. While Rajapaksa was the Prime Minister, he also held the Ministry of Highways.

Presidency (November 2005 - Present)

Rajapaksa was chosen by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party for the Presidential Election held on November 17, 2005. Rajapaksa prime opponent was former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe, the leader of the United National Party in this election. Rajapaksa defeated Wickremasinghe narrowly by 190,000 votes and took office as President of Sri Lanka on November 19, 2005. This has often been cited as being a result of the LTTE calling for a boycott of the polls in the North and East from tamil voters in areas within their control. Most voters in these areas were forcibly restrained from voting, and it is common knowledge that they would have favored Ranil Wickremasignhe 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 November 23, 2005.

Dispute with General Sarath Fonseka

A rift between Rajapaska and his former Armed Forces Chief General Sarath Fonseka has recently surfaced. It mainly involves a dispute over which of the two, the political leader or the military leader, were in fact responsible for the defeat of the LTTE and the reconquering of the North and East. In fact, according to Fonseka and the Sri Lankan government, he was asked by the Department of Homeland Security to give evidence against the president and administration on war-crimes charges. The government was quick to issue a press conference in which they stated that he was not allowed to give out any confidential information. Many say that this is solid proof of that the President and his General are currently on very bad terms.http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1934060,00.html

Though those in the Government are currently denying the existence of this dispute between the two, there is much proof to the contrary. In a speech that the General gave to the army on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, he repeatedly stressed his personal role in the recent military victory of the army over the LTTE.

The latest on the matter is that the General is considering running against Rajapaska in the upcoming Presidential Elections as an opposition candidate.

On the 15th of November 2009, the Rajapaksa ordered Fonseka to leave his post and the army with immediate effect through a letter from his secretary.

The following day, the President named Air Force Chief Roshan Goonatilake as the new Chief of Defence Staff.

Latest news emerges as rift within Rajapaksa Family, because of General Sarath Fonseka's resign. Spouse of President Rajapaksa, Shiranthi Rajapaksa had query with President's sister in-law, Ioma, regrding Sarath Fonseka affair. This sparked wave within Rajapaksa family.

Political positions

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 Rajapakse 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. [62655]

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 July 21, 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 Provincemarker of Sri Lanka and lost 95% of the territory they controlled.

The content of the President's historic speech in Tamil at the UN was an effort to establish that he is a people's leader representing all the peoples of Sri Lanka, including the Tamil minority.

“While my mother tongue is Sinhala, let me elaborate a few thoughts in Tamil. Sinhala and Tamil are the two languages of the people of Sri Lanka. Both these have been used through the centuries, are rich in literature, and are widely used in my country, with recognition as Official Languages.” He said in Tamil adding,

“With the widening of democracy in our country, the bonds between the Sinhala and Tamil people of Sri Lanka will grow stronger and remain a major force for its future development. We will march towards a richer freedom and lasting unity that await us as a nation.”

Family and personal life

He is married to former beauty queen Shiranthi Wickremasinghe, a Roman Catholic and daughter of the late Commander E. P. Wickramasinghe, SLN and Mrs. Violet Wickramasinghe and has three sons, Namal, Yoshitha and Rohitha. Namal Rajapaksa is active in politics while his brother Yoshitha was commissioned as an Acting Sub Lieutenant in the Sri Lanka Navy in March 2009 and appointed a Aide-de-camp to the President in 2006.

Cultural and political image

Controversies

Helping Hambantota case

Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused of corruption by the opposition before his election as President, citing the "Helping Hambantota" case, where he was accused of appropriating close to USD 830,000 into a Treasury approved private fund, known as Helping Hambantota, to help the victims of the Boxing Day tsunamimarker in Hambantotamarker - his hometown and electoral district. Before the election, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka put a hold on the case. Later dismissing the case, Chief Justice Sarath Silva said the court case had been brought as soon as Rajapaksa was nominated as a presidential candidate. "The court sees this as an attempt to get political mileage for [UNP leader] Ranil Wickramasinghe and to discredit Mahinda Rajapaksa." It was told in parliament that the cabinet was aware of the existence of the Helping Hambantota fund. His office said he had held donations in Helping Hambantota fund to speed up the rate at which aid money was being handed out to victims of the 26 December, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The money in question had been put in a state account and Rajapaksa had not taken "even a cent" for his use, then Prime Minister's secretary Lalith Weeratunga told the AFP news agency at the time.

Media Freedom

During the Rajapaksa administration the Reporters without borders index, ranked Sri Lanka 165th among 173 countries in its annual worldwide press freedom index. The Human Rights Watch research alleged that the Sri Lankan government is responsible for widespread abductions.

See also



References

  1. http://www.colombopage.com/archive_091/Sep1252248219RA.html
  2. President's Fund of Sri Lanka, President's Profile
  3. When Mahinda became the youngest MP Thilakarathne, Indeewara, The Sunday Observer
  4. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, president.gov.lk
  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8352676.stm
  6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8352676.stm
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8361862.stm
  8. http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/17/stories/2009111754561700.htm
  9. General Fonseka Rift
  10. BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Fighting mars Lanka peace moves
  11. Sri Lankan troops search for rebel leader, Xinhua
  12. VATICAN Pope To Sri Lankan President: Only Dialogue Leads To Lasting Solution
  13. First Lady of Sri Lanka
  14. His Excellency the President Chief Guest at the Commissioning Parade held at the Naval and Maritime Academy
  15. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19391
  16. http://www.hrw.org/en/video/2008/03/06/sri-lankas-ghosts


External links

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