Mahinda Rajapaksa is a significant politician in Sri Lanka who served as the Executive President of the country for nearly 10 years. Similarly, he served as the Prime Minister of the country 3 times. He was the leader of the opposition two times as well. Besides, Mahinda Rajapaksa was a lawyer by profession.
In 1970 he entered the parliament of Sri Lanka through the election. Then, he served as the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party for 10 years from 2005 to 2015. However, in 2019 he split the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and became the leader of it. Later, in 2022 Sri Lankan protesters stood over the mismanagement and corruption by the Rajapaksa family. This led to a huge islandwide protest and Mahinda Rajapaksa had to resign from his position in May 2022. Yet, he is still one of the most famous people from Sri Lanka, who could win millions of hearts.
Continue reading to know more about this significant personality!
Early Life and Education
Mahinda Rajapaksa was born on the 18th of November 1945. Little Rajapaksa spent his early childhood at his family home in Medamulana in the Hambantota district. When he became six, his father admitted him to Richmond College in Galle for his primary education. At the end of his primary education, the Rajapaksa family shifted to Colombo in the mid-fifties. As a result, Mahinda had to change his school from Richmond College to Nalanda College in Colombo. But in 1957, he was transferred to Thurstan College in Colombo. There he engaged in many sports like rugger, cricket, and athletics. He was significant in the 400m relay and became the putt shot champion too.
After his school life, Mahinda Rajapaksa started working as a library assistant at the Vidyodaya Pirivena in the mid-sixties. Meanwhile, he became active in leftwing politics. In 1967, Mahinda joined the Ceylon Mercantile Union and became its branch secretary. Mahinda’s father was D. A. Rajapaksa and he was a member of the parliament. Yet, he had lost his parliamentary seat in the 1965 general elections.
D. A. Rajapaksa passed away in 1967 and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), offered his father’s post to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa. By that time, Chamal was a Sub-inspector of the Ceylon Police Force and he passed Mrs. Bandaranaike’s offer to his younger brother Mahinda. Thus, Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped officially into national politics as an SLFP organizer for Beliatta in 1968.
Political Career of Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa contested the 1970 general elections as the SLFP candidate against Dr. Ranjit Atapattu from the United National Party (UNP) for the Beliatta constituency. Winning over his opponent, Mahinda was elected to the House of Representatives. When he entered the parliament, he was only twenty-four years and he was the youngest member of parliament (MP). This young politician served as a backbencher in the governing party.
Meanwhile, he got the chance to enter Sri Lanka Law College following the changes to the admission process to the Sri Lanka Law College. However, he was only able to secure his parliamentary seat for 7 years with the SLFP’s landslide defeat in the 1977 general elections. Thus, Dr. Ranjit Atapattu won over Mahinda and secured his seat in the parliament.
After his defeat, Mahinda was called to the bar and enrolled as an attorney at law in November 1977. Then, he practiced as a criminal lawyer in the Unofficial Bar in Tangalle until 1994.
Mahinda Rajapaksa in Opposition
Mahinda continued to engage in politics. As a result, he re-entered the parliament after winning the 1989 elections, representing Hambantota District under proportional representation. Meanwhile, he got together with the Mothers’ Front led by Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu. Mothers’ Front was formed with the mothers of those who had “disappeared” during the 1987 – 1989 JVP insurrection in Sri Lanka.
Appointment as a Cabinet Minister
Mahinda was a part of the victorious People’s Alliance party in the 1994 election. As a result, he was appointed Minister of Labor. He held this position up to 1997 and became the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources following a cabinet reshuffle.
Leader of the Opposition
In the 2001 elections, the People’s Alliance was defeated by the United National Party (UNP). As a result, Mahinda lost his position in the government. However, in March 2002, he was able to become the Leader of the Opposition.
Mahinda Rajapaksha as the Prime Minister (2004–2005)
In 2004, the United People’s Freedom Alliance gained a slim majority in parliamentary elections. As a result, Mahinda was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s 13th Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Highways, Ports & Shipping was under his control.
Mahinda Rajapaksa as the President of Sri Lanka
Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the executive president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka two times. His first term extends from 2005 to 2010 while the second term was from 2010 to 2015.
Mahinda’s First Term of Presidency
Mahinda who represented the Sri Lanka Freedom Party fought against Ranil Wickremesinghe who was the leader of the United National Party in the presidential election. This took place on the 17th of November 2005 while the civil war was heavily going on in the country. However, Mahinda was lucky enough to win over Ranil by gaining a narrow victory, by 190,000 votes and 50.3% of the vote.
As soon as he was sworn in as the president, Mahinda reshuffled the cabinet. Next, he took the portfolios of Defense and Finance in the new cabinet. In addition, he extended the term of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Sarath Fonseka. In the next few years, Mahinda gave the political leadership to the battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) with the support of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Sarath Fonseka, and his brother, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Ultimately, Mahinda and his team were capable enough to kill the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and defeat them.
The final battle against the LTTE started on the 21st of July 2006 when the LTTE closed the Mavil Aru reservoir which supplied water to around 15,000 people. After completing the reservoir securing project, the Sri Lankan military started and ended up driving the Tamil Tigers out of the entire Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Thus, the LTTE lost 95% of the territory they had controlled. Finally, ending up 30 years of civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced a total victory against the LTTE on 18 May 2009. On the day after, president Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered a victory address to the Parliament.
Mahinda’s Second Term of Presidency
As soon as the civil war came to an end, a rift emerged between Rajapaksa and the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Sarath Fonseka over reasons. As a result, Rajapaksa issued a letter from his secretary and ordered Fonseka to leave his post on the 15th of November 2009. Later, Fonseka joined the opposition and participated in the 2010 Presidential election against Rajapaksa. However, having the fame of winning war in peoples’ hearts Rajapaksa was able to win over Fonseka.
Infrastructure Development Projects by Mahinda Rajapaksa
As soon as Mahinda Rajapaksa started his office for the second term, he initiated the following large-scale infrastructure projects.
- Colombo Lotus Tower
- Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Sooriyawewa
- Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport
- Colombo Harbour South Container Terminal
- Colombo – Katunayake Expressway
- Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port
Rajapaksa’s development projects included rural infrastructure development projects, Colombo beautification projects, highways as well as roads. However, all these projects reportedly had extremely high costs. Thus, they were suspected of corruption. Furthermore, Rajapaksa had taken large Chinese loans for these projects and these loans tripled the country’s foreign debt and created a huge economic crisis in the country.
Mahinda’s Third Term of Presidency
In September 2010, Rajapaksa passed an amendment to the constitution removing presidential term limits. He gathered more than a two-thirds majority in the parliament by getting the maximum benefits of the near-collapsing of the opposition United National Party, election win in 2010, and capitalizing on the end of the war. Thus, Rajapaksa made all the things ready for the presidential election in 2015 to secure the chair for the presidency for the third consecutive time.
In order to battle with Mahinda Rajapaksa in the election, several leading personalities in the country like UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and the leader of the National Movement for Social Justice Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero had been suggested for nomination as the common opposition candidate. However, the UNP announced Maithripala Sirisena who had been the general secretary of the SLFP and Minister of Health in Rajapaksa’s government as the common opposition candidate.
On the 8th of January 2015 the Presidential Election – 2015 took place between Rajapaksa and Sirisena. However, receiving 51.28% of all votes Maithreepala Sirisena could win over Mahinda Rajapaksa who received 47.58% of all votes. This ended Rajapaksa’s 9 years of presidency.
Mahinda re-entered the parliament as a minister through the 2015 Sri Lankan parliamentary election for the Kurunegala district with 423,529 preferential votes. But his party wasn’t successful enough to capture power. In order to split with the SLFP, some of the loyalists and supporters of Rajapaksa formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in 2016. Later in 2018, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won the local authority elections securing 239 local government bodies out of 340.
On 26 October 2018, Rajapaksa was appointed the Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena. However, Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that it was unconstitutional and he refused to accept the dismissal. As a result, the 2018 Sri Lankan constitutional crisis arose. Thus, on 15 December 2018, Rajapaksa had to resign from the post of Prime Minister. Again on 18 December 2018, Rajapaksa became the Leader of the Opposition with the announcement of the Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya.
In the 2019 presidential election that took place in November, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother and former wartime defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa won and became the president of Sri Lanka after President Maithripala Sirisena. This regained the Rajapaksa family the power. In the parliamentary elections of August 2020, the Rajapaksa family’s political party Sri Lanka People’s Front won a huge victory.
Finally, Mahinda Rajapaksa again became the new prime minister of Sri Lanka while five of his family members won seats in the parliament. However, Mahinda was only able to stay in his new prime minister seat for 2 years until the 9th of May 2022 because the 2022 Sri Lankan protests removed him due to the mismanagement of public property, corruption issues, and the destruction of the Sri Lankan economy which created a huge economic crisis in the country.
Personal Life and Family of Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa was born as Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa in Weeraketiya village of the Hambantota district of the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. His father D. A. Rajapaksa was a member of the State Council of Ceylon. From 1947 to 1965 he served as a member of parliament from the Beliatta seat. D. A. Rajapaksa’s brother D. M. Rajapaksa, who was a politician, used to wear an earthy brown shawl to represent kurakkan (finger millet) cultivated by the people of his area and Mahinda Rajapaksa continued this with brothers and sons.
Mahinda’s mother was Dona Dandina Samarasinghe Dissanayake. Mahinda had 8 siblings in the family. Chamal Rajapaksa and Jayanthi Rajapaksa are the elder siblings while Tudor Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Preethi Rajapaksa, Dudley Rajapaksa, and Gandini Rajapaksa are the younger siblings. Many of these siblings are currently active in politics.
Mahinda married Shiranthi Wickremesinghe, the daughter of Commander E. P. Wickremasinghe in 1983. She was a child psychologist and educator. They have three sons: Namal, Yoshitha, and Rohitha. Namal Rajapaksa is their eldest son and he is active in politics. Namal is a Member of Parliament for the Hambantota District. Their second son Yoshitha Rajapaksa was an Acting Sub Lieutenant in the Sri Lanka Navy while their youngest son Rohitha Rajapaksa is an Aeronautical Engineer.
Rajapaksa Family and Politics
Mahinda Rajapaksa was from an established political family and most of his relations are active in politics as follows.
|Gotabaya Rajapaksa||Former president of Sri Lanka|
Former secretary for the Ministry of Defence
|Basil Rajapaksa||Former Member of Parliament|
Former Minister of Economic Development
Former Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka
|Chamal Rajapaksa||Member of the Parliament since 1989|
Speaker of the 14th Parliament of Sri Lanka
|Shashindra Rajapaksa||The Chief Minister of Uva Province|
|Shameendra Rajapaksa||Former Director of Sri Lankan Airlines|
|Jaliya Wickramasuriya||Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States|
|Udayanga Weeratunga||Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Russia|
|Prasanna Wickramasuriya||Chairman of Airport & Aviation Services|
|Nishantha Wickramasinghe||Chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines|
|Namal Rajapakse||Member of Parliament for the Hambantota District|
Honors and Titles to Mahinda Rajapaksa
Rajapaksa has received a number of honors and titles under his name. In 2014, he was honored with the “Star of Palestine”. In addition, his alma mater Nalanda College in Colombo awarded him with “Nalanda Keerthi Sri”. Furthermore, Mahinda received three honorary doctorates. First, he received a Doctor of Law from the University of Colombo in 2009. Next, admiring his contribution to world peace and outstanding success in defeating terrorism, the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia honored him with a doctorate in 2010. In the same way, the Beijing University of Foreign Languages in China offered Rajapaksa an honorary doctorate in August 2011. Moreover, admiring Rajapaksa for his record on human rights, the Visva Bharati University of Calcutta in India honored him with the title Professor Emeritus.
The Bottom Line
Since Mahinda Rajapaksha was a person involved in politics, there can be controversial opinions about him. However, it is important to note that his immense contributions to the country and the political leadership given during the civil war period are appreciable. Let us wish him all the luck and fortune in his future endeavors!