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- President Mahinda Rajapaksa -

President Mahinda Rajapaksa hails from a well known political family. His uncle D.M. Rajapaksa known as the Lion of Ruhuna, a State Councillor for Hambantota from the 1930s started wearing the earthy brown shawl (also worn by President Rajapaksa) to symbolize the kurakkan grain (a type of local maize) cultivated by the people of his area, whose cause he championed right throughout his life.

President Rajapaksa’s father D.A. Rajapaksa was a well-known public figure and many have remarked on his integrity, courage and perseverance with which he carried out his duties. He succeeded his brother in the Hambantota district in the second State Council of Ceylon. He held various officers in Government, and was finally the Deputy Speaker of the House of Respresentatives in Independent Sri Lanka.

President Rajapaksa is married to Shiranthi and has three sons.


Education/ Early life

Born in Weeraketiya in the deep south, November 18, 1945, Rajapaksa schooled at Richmond College, Galle, later shifting to Nalanda College and Thurstan College Colombo. In 1974 he passed out as an Attorney-at-Law from the Colombo Law College and took his place at the bar, pursuing a special interest in human rights.

Throughout his parliamentary career, except for the period when he was a minister, he continued his law practice in Tangalle, in other courts of the south particularly espousing the cause of those affected by human rights violations.

Loyalty to principle and party has been the hallmark of Rajapaksa’s political philosophy. Such loyalty was a special quality in his father, as well. When the SLFP’s founder S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, left the UNP Government to form the SLFP in 1951, all his promised allies had abandoned him, but D.A. Rajapaksa, stood by him and crossed over with him immediately.

Early political life

Mahinda Rajapaksa was first elected to Parliament as an SLFP member, from the Beliatta seat in 1970. At just 24 years of age, he was the youngest member of the House. His father, D.A. Rajapaksa represented the same seat from 1947 to 1965.

Although he lost his parliamentary seat in the landslide victory of the UNP in 1977, he was re-elected to Parliament in 1989 to represent Hambantota District under the Proportional Representation System.

From the start of his career, Rajapaksa adopted a centre-left political stance, identifying himself with labour rights and becoming a champion of human rights. He was a leading member of the Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

He came into prominence as a champion of human rights, together with Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu, of the Mother's Front, which organized the mothers of the “disappeared” in the white terror of 1988-90. The Visva Bharati University of Calcutta in India conferred on him the title Professor Emeritus for his record on human rights.

He has been the President of the Sri Lankan Committee for Solidarity with Palestine for 25 years until 2004 and has always maintained a close interest in finding a peaceful solution to the Middle East problem within the framework of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Rajapaksa was Minister for Labour and later for Fisheries in President Kumaratunga's Cabinet from 1994 to 2001. As the Minister of Fisheries he started the sagara vishwa vidayalaya (University for Oceanography) and established a Coast Guard Unit.

He also held the Portfolio of the Ports and Shipping in addition to Fisheries, for three months. During this period he initiated work for the construction of a new harbour at Hambantota.

Ascension to Presidency

In March 2002 Rajapaksa was elected Leader of the Opposition.

After the elections of April 2004 in which the United People’s Freedom Alliance was victorious, President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the country’s 13th Prime Minister on April 6, 2004.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was chosen as the Candidate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party for the Presidential Election held on 17 November 2005. His candidature was supported by 25 political parties and people’s movements.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the fifth Executive President of the Democratie Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on the 19th of November 2005, after being elected President with a majority that endorsed Mahinda Chinthana his manifesto at a closely contested and peaceful election.

     
 

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