Sri Lanka, a highly famous island in the Indian Ocean, is significant for its naturalistic and atmospheric beauty. Apart from this significance, this island usually becomes a topic among outsiders considering its historical and political background. These aspects have a noteworthy role in the establishment of the island as a country. Besides, the political career of the country has a long and controversial history. More than the details, the most important part has been played by the political leaders and the members. One such renowned political leader in the field of Sri Lankan politics is Ranil Wickremesinghe.
And the most important fact is that he is still in the political field with a steady reputation. In fact, he serves as the president of Sri Lanka at present. Hence, we thought of focusing this read on this significant personality. Continue reading to know more about him!
Early Life of Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe was born as a baby with a silver spoon in hand to a prestigious family. To be specific, he was born on the 24th of March 1949.
He was the second son of this family. His father was Esmond Wickramasinghe – a lawyer who later on took over the Lake House Group of newspapers as a press baron. Ranil’s mother was Nalini Wickramasinghe. Not only his parents but his grandparents also held reputable career titles.
His paternal grandfather, Cyril Leonard Wickremesinghe was the first Sinhalese Land Commissioner. At the same time, a number of Wickremesinghe’s close relations were active in the government. Moreover, some of his cousins had been holding cabinet positions in the country. Hence, his background itself is an inspiration to his life to retain in the political field while being quite a powerful character.
Education of Wickremesinghe
He, as a student attended one school throughout his school education career, Royal Preparatory School and Royal College, Colombo. After completing his primary and secondary education, he entered the University of Colombo to complete his higher education.
Following the steps of his father, he also chose the law field for his higher studies. So, he studied as a law student in the Faculty of Law at the university. For four complete years, he had been taking the best out of the faculty. Indeed, he had worked with the intention of reaching the highest of the path he has chosen for his career. As a result, after graduation, Ranil Wickremesinghe completed the law exams at Ceylon Law College. This resulted in making him an advocate in 1972. He has placed the oath after having apprenticed under H. W. Jayawardena, QC. Developing further in the profession he became an Attorney of Law in 1973 marking a milestone in his career.
Being a lawyer who has given the oath to protect the justice of the country, he has later diverted his path to the political field. That is with the intention of involving in the system directly from where all the decisions are taken. Later on, after scoring really well in the field by contributing significantly to the economy, education, and human rights of the country he received an honorary doctorate from Deakin University in Australia in 2017, precisely on the 14th of February.
Political Career of Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe, the competitive Attorney at Law started his career in politics by joining the United National Party. There, he had consistent and commendable progress in ranks.
Keeping the first steps of his political career, he got an appointment to the Kelaniya electorate in the mid-1970s but failed in getting through. Later, he was appointed as the chief organizer of the Biyagama electorate in 1977 which made him win the parliamentary election. As a result, he could enter the parliament. From there onwards, Ranil is having a long run in the field, and he still remains a remarkable character in the field.
Following that great step of entering the parliament, Ranil became the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new government of J.R. Jayawardena. Thereafter, he got a promotion to the Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment pretty soon due to his energetic and strategic performance in the previous position. Being the Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment made him the youngest cabinet minister of Sri Lanka.
During this period of time, he initiated two major youth-aiding organizations called, Sri Lanka National Guard and National Youth Services Council. These two were established particularly targeting the school leavers who seemed to lose in their career path. After the remarkable role he played as the youth minister, he became the Minister of Education in the same government as a result of the amendments that took place in the cabinet.
Later under the presidency of Ranasinghe Premadasa, during one of the most controversial periods of political history, Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Minister of Industry. During this period, he initiated many important industrial zones which positively impacted the economy of the country. One such major step was to establish the Biyagama Special Economic Zone which still has a huge impact on the economy of Sri Lanka. Not only that, but he has also contributed to other fields like science and technology by giving portfolios.
The most noteworthy point in his political career is that he became the Prime Minister several times under different governments. Yet, he failed to rank up to the president until 2022 throughout his career.
At first, he became the Prime Minister in 1993. That was under president D. B Wijetunga who swore the title with the unexpected assassination of the former president, Ranasinghe Premadasa. With being the Prime Minister for the first time, Ranil Wickremesinghe succeeded in getting the attention of the public of the country. That was because he could make a huge contribution to the country’s economy at that time.
In fact, he became one of the greatest Prime Ministers who pushed the country through an impressive economic transformation that was especially backed up by the business community. He particularly got the two ends of the economy, the public, and private sectors together to stabilize the country’s economy. This was indeed a bold move of Ranil Wickremesinghe. This in fact resulted in making a prosperous future in his political career.
Yet, after defeating the parliamentary elections, the party UNP lost to Chandrika Kumaratunga. So, they become the opposition party. Ranil Wickremesinghe automatically became a candidate for the opposition party leader. Yet, he lost to Gamini Dissanayake by two votes.
Later, with all the amendments within the party, Wickremesinghe became the cooperative leader of the opposition party. Later, for the 1999 election, Wickremesinghe got a nomination as the presidential candidate of UNP but again lost to Chandrika Kumaratunga.
After this unfortunate loss, Wickremesinghe once again lost in the 2000 parliamentary elections as well. Although he was fortunate in the Premiership, his luck was not that good when it came to the presidency.
In the parliamentary election of 2001, Ranil Wickremesinghe led his party to win the election. Accordingly, the party was able to secure 109 seats and become the government in power. After that, he was appointed as the 19th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka under the president, Chandrika Kumaratunga from the other party. This situation was quite confusing as although the president was the head of the state and the head of the government, the Prime Minister had the full power to appoint his cabinet and control the government. In fact, the Prime Minister had a huge impact on decision-making while the president had a limited influence in decision-making.
As Ranil Wickremesinghe had nearly sole power over the government, rules, and decisions, he could initiate several new things in different fields. They indeed drove the country to prosperity. After all, this premiership was the most remarkable premiership of Wickremesinghe as he succeeded in solving a lot of problems prevailing in the country at that time.
Third, Fourth, and Fifth Premiership
After the 2001 premiership, Wickremesinghe was quite inactive as he was unable to take the rule into his hand with the Rajapaksa government. Yet, in 2015 he could straighten up his head once again in the political world with the nomination of Maithripala Sirisena as a presidential candidate. After winning the election, Sirisena became the president, and Ranil became the Prime Minister of the country for the fourth time. During this period, he took several steps in order to secure the future of jobless youth by offering 1 million job opportunities.
Further, he established reforms in the education and health sectors as well. He had the intention of developing the most needed infrastructure facilities within the territories of the country. At the same time, he took steps to improve the destroyed war zones by allocating a huge amount from the country’s budget. As such, he has taken a number of steps to make the country a better place. Also, he took the advantage of the foreign affairs and international connections he has developed throughout his political career.
During this period, he worked hard on re-establishing the reforms he initiated during his previous premierships and was inactivated when he became the Prime Minister for the fourth time. This was the period when Ranil Wickremesinghe turned his back on the Rajapakse family who had ruled the country unlawfully and corruptly for over a decade.
He Swore as the Prime Minister for the fifth time in 2018 with Rajapakse being backed down following the rulings by the Supreme court and Appeal court. This premiership did not last long as they had to face a presidential election in 2019 which resulted in making Gotabaya Rajapakse the president of Sri Lanka.
After being defeated in the parliamentary election in 2020, Wickremesinghe became a national list member of parliament in 2021. Yet, the conditions of hyperinflation which led to political and social unrest in the country resulted in an unbelievably hard period for Rajapakse. As a result, Ranil Wickremesinghe could again take oaths as the Prime Minister of the country. That was for the eighth time in his career. This was a sudden decision taken by president Gotabaya Rajapakse. He had to take this decision, following the resignation of Mahinda Rajapakse owing to the public protests.
This was the most challenging premiership of his. In fact, he got the responsibility of re-establishing the country from the undeniable deterioration that happened to the unlawful ruling of the former rulers. However, some complained that he is protecting the wrongdoings of the Rajapakse family. Hence, the public started to raise their voice against Wickremesinghe as well. This resulted in his resignation from his premiership.
Before being resigned from his eighth premiership, the former president, Gotabaya Rajapakshe fled from Sri Lanka. That was because he failed to face the controversial situation in the country. He left by imposing a state of emergency in Sri Lanka. As a result, Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of the country became the acting president of the country.
After considering the hectic situation in the country, Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the position of president. That was in July 2022, and accordingly, he became the 9th president of Sri Lanka. This selection happened through a secret ballot conducted in the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
He took oaths as the president to serve the remainder of Rajapakse’s term till 2024. Before being the president, while being the acting president, Wickremesinghe prohibited the usage of “His Excellency” as an honorific prefix for the President. At the same time, he abolished the usage of a Presidential flag officially as well.
Taking steps further, he is now trying his best to control the issues that are arising in the country, owing to the economic crisis. So, let us hope that he will be able to do his best to create a better future for this splendid island of Sri Lanka.
Family of Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe has been leading a peaceful and successful married life for 27 years up until today. His wife is a Sri Lankan academic and Professor of English, Maithree Wickremesinghe. Their marriage dates back to 1994.
However, many respect his wife as a humble and decent character. In fact, she has never taken the advantage of being a spouse of a significant political leader in the country. Rather, she has been trying to live life quietly and peacefully. Besides, She is well-known as a successful scholar in the education field from whom most English undergraduates urge to learn.
However, Ranil rarely makes his personal life exposed or a topic to talk about. Unfortunately, they do not have children. Yet, many believe that this couple leads a happy family life.
As mentioned above, Ranil Wickremesinghe had been a bold character when he was engaging in education, the same as he has been doing politics throughout. When it comes to the honors he has received, they all are related to his education, rather than to his political career.
According to the records, there are not many honors for him, but two important honors. One of the honors was the Robert E. Wilhelm fellowship he received from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014. The other was what he received as a Doctor of Law. It is an honorary award from Deakin University. He received it in the year 2017.
Although these are the only two honors recorded against his name, they are rare honors received by a Sri Lankan citizen.
The Bottom Line
Going through the political profile of Ranil Wickremesinghe would make you realize that he has had ups and downs in his journey. Yet, he had faced all the challenges positively while making his moves intelligently. For the same reason, many consider him one of the most intelligent, powerful, and retaining leaders in the politics of Sri Lanka. So, let us wish him all the best in his political career!