Sri Lankan politician, current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa commonly known as Mahinda Rajapaksa (Sinhala: මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ, Tamil: மஹிந்த ராஜபக்ஷ; born 18 November 1945) is a Sri Lankan politician currently serving as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka since 21 November 2019 after being appointed by his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya Rajapaksa gained victory in the 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election and became President on 18 November 2019, two days before he announced that he will name his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa to return as the new Prime Minister after two occasions in the same position. Mahinda will be swearing-in as the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and officially taking over the office again on 21 November 2019, Thursday and serving under his brother, the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. He also previously served as Leader of the Opposition from 2018 to 2019, when he turned to take over as Prime Minister from his predecessor Ranil Wickremesinghe.  Additionally, he has also served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Kurunegala since 2015. He served as the President of Sri Lanka and Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party from 2005 to 2015. He became the leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in 2019, splitting the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
A lawyer by profession, Rajapaksa was first elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1970, and he served as Prime Minister from 6 April 2004 until his victory in the 2005 presidential election. He was sworn in for his first six-year term as president on 19 November 2005. He was re-elected for a second term on 27 January 2010. He was defeated in his bid for a third term in the 2015 presidential election by Maithripala Sirisena and left office on 9 January 2015.
Several months after leaving office, Rajapaksa unsuccessfully sought to become Prime Minister in the 2015 parliamentary election, where the United People’s Freedom Alliance was defeated. He was, however, elected as Member of Parliament for Kurunegala District.
On 26 October 2018, Rajapaksa was appointed as Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena after the United People’s Freedom Alliance withdrew from the unity government. Incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe refused to accept the dismissal stating that it was unconstitutional, resulting in a constitutional crisis.
Two no-confidence motions brought against Rajapaksa were passed by the Sri Lankan Parliament on 14 and 16 November 2018. Both were rejected by President Sirisena stating that proper procedures were not followed. On 3 December 2018, a court suspended Rajapaksa’s powers as Prime Minister and ruled that his cabinet could not function until its legitimacy was established. Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister on 15 December 2018, with Ranil Wickremesinghe re-appointed as Prime Minister, and Rajapaksa appointed Leader of the Opposition.
Early life and career
Mahinda Rajapaksa was born in Weeraketiya in the southern rural district of Hambantota. 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 Councillor 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.
Early life and education
Rajapaksa was educated at Richmond College in Galle, before moving to Nalanda College in Colombo and, later, Thurstan College. Mahinda Rajapaksa was presented with the Nalanda Keerthi Sri award in 2004 by his alma mater, Nalanda College. He has also appeared in the Sinhalese film Nomiyena Minisun in 1994 and worked as a library assistant at Vidyodaya University. 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 Tangalle.
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.
Rajapaksa is known to be superstitious and wears talismans and consults astrologers in his decision-making. He is known for acquiring a large number valuable rings as lucky charms, some with coloured stones and elephant hair and earned the reputation as a “Lord of rings”. During a wedding he attended as a VIP guest he lost a gem-studded ring which was recovered after his security and hotel staff found the ring fallen near a VIP table after covertly searching under carpets and the washrooms.
Sri Lankan Parliament
Following the death of his father in 1967, Rajapaksa took over as the SLFP candidate for the Beliatta constituency and was elected to Parliament in 1970 as the youngest Member of Parliament at just 24. Later he studied law at the Sri Lanka Law College and took oaths as an attorney-at-law in November 1977.
Losing his parliamentary seat in the landslide defeat of the SLFP in 1977, Rajapaksa was re-elected in 1989 to Parliament to represent Hambantota 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’.
During this time he frequently attempted bring third party intervention and frequently complained about Sri Lanka in Geneva and has claimed it is neither treacherous nor unpatriotic to seek third party intervention to restore democratic ideals. He also demanded in the parliament that United Nations alongside NGOs such as amnesty international be allowed to come to Sri Lanka and investigate. He also requested foreign nations to put conditions on Sri Lanka when giving aid. On 25 October 1990 he said “If the government is going to deny human rights, we should go not only to Geneva, but to any place in the world, or to hell if necessary, and act against the government. The lamentation of this country’s innocents should be raised anywhere.”
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.
After the Parliamentary Elections of 2004, in which the United People’s Freedom Alliance gained a slim majority in Parliament. Rajapaksa was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s 13th Prime Minister on 6 April 2004. While Rajapaksa was the Prime Minister, he also held the Ministry of Highways.
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.
Immediately following his election in 2005, Rajapaksa extended the term of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Sarath Fonseka, less than 30 days before he was scheduled to retire. Over the next three and a half years Fonseka and Rajapaksa’s brother and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa led the country’s armed forces in their battle against the LTTE, ultimately defeating the Tigers and killing their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
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.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the
on May 15, 2009 just 3 days before the death of LTTE head Vellupillai Prabhakaran
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.
Allegations of war crimes
WikiLeaks made public secret US cables (Contents of the United States diplomatic cables leak (Sri Lanka)) from 2009–10, stating that American diplomats including Patricia A. Butenis believed that Mahinda Rajapaksa was responsible for the massacres of Tamil civilians and captured LTTE fighters at the end of the war with the LTTE. The cable also states the responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa, his brothers and General Fonseka.
In April 2011, Ban Ki-moon published a report by a UN-appointed panel of experts, which concluded that as many as 40,000 people were killed in the final weeks of the war between the Tamil Tigers and government forces. A number of foreign journalists and news teams, such as the UK’s Channel Four News, have reported and filmed evidence of targeted shelling of civilians, executions and atrocities. Dead female Tamil fighters appeared to have been raped or sexually assaulted, abused and murdered.
For their part, Rajapaksa and his government have denied all allegations of war crimes. Former Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka was later prosecuted for an interview which he gave to Frederica Jansz, editor of the Sunday Leader, in which he is stated to have said that he is aware of a rumor that surrendering LTTE fighters were executed on the orders of Defence Secretary at the time, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Following the end of the conflict, a rift emerged between Rajapaksa and Fonseka, over reasons which are still disputed. On 15 November 2009, Rajapaksa ordered Fonseka to leave his post as Chief of the Defence Staff with immediate effect through a letter from his secretary. Fonseka then joined opposition as the candidate against Rajapaksa in the 2010 Presidential election, at which Rajapaksa emerged victory. Fonseka was subsequently sentenced to two years in jail for various offenses by a military court martial. President Rajapaksa signed the order documents for the release of Fonseka in May 2012.
Infrastructure development projects
His presidency after ending the Civil war in 2009 is known for the initiating the large scale infrastructure projects such as the, Colombo Lotus Tower,Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port,Colombo Harbour South Container Terminal, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, Colombo – Katunayake Expressway, Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka also made it into the “high” category of the Human Development Index during this time. Initiating, completing and development of many Highways, Roads, Colombo beautification project, Rural infrastructure development projects are some several major projects. However the roadways are known for extremely high costs and is suspected of corruption and the large amount of Chinese loans tripled the countries foreign debt and created an economic crisis. Rajapaksa claimed that under him Sri Lanka started to experienced a rapid economic growth and the GDP growth rate reached over 7%. However this has been disputed and after his fall the successor government revealed that GDP growth was inflated by using the year 2002 as the base year; which is usually revised once in five years. GDP growth for 2013 and 2014 which was 7.2% and 7.4% using 2002 as base year was reduced to 3.4 and 4.5 percent respectively.
Third term bid and alleged election fraud
Previous allegations of election fraud
Rajapaksa has been accused of election fraud for both his previous presidential election runs. During the 2005 presidential election, opposition parties accused Rajapaksa of bribing LTTE to avoid people from voting in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Most voters in these areas were forcibly restrained by the militant group from voting, and it is said[by whom?] that they would have favoured opposition candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe.
In the 2010 election, Rajapaksa was accused of manipulating election results using computers.
In the 2015 election, according to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating irregularities into SriLankan Airlines, it was revealed that Security officers and vehicles of the national carrier had been used in the 2015 presidential campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the time Nishantha Wickramasinghe, a brother-in-law of Rajapaksa, was also Chairman of SriLankan Airlines until Rajapaksa lost the presidential election in 2015.
Abolishes term limits
Capitalising on the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in May 2009 and coming off an election win in January 2010 and with the near-collapse of the opposition United National Party, President Mahinda Rajapaksa rallied more than the two-thirds majority in Parliament necessary to pass an amendment to the constitution removing presidential term limits.
On 9 September 2010 the Parliament passed the amendment to remove presidential term limits from the Constitution. This amendment allowed Rajapaksa to run for a third term and cement his grip on power. The move came just a day after the Supreme Court ruled that a referendum was not required to make the change. The amendment had even more even more far-reaching consequences than just term limits, including provisions that increased the president’s power to act without oversight removing an independent advisory council that the president currently must consult before appointing people to important nonpartisan posts, like Supreme Court judges and members of the human rights and electoral commissions. A Parliamentary Council without veto power and with only two opposition members was created in its place.
In a move that was widely seen as solidifying his control over the Supreme Court, Rajapaksa removed chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake from office in January 2013, allowing him to appoint an ally and legal adviser, former Attorney General Mohan Peiris, as Chief Justice. In November 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed legal concerns about President Rajapaksa’s eligibility to seek a third term.
Two years ahead of schedule, in November 2014, Rajapaksa signed an official proclamation confirming that he will seek re-election for a third term, after being unanimously endorsed by his Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The first time any Sri Lankan President has ever done so. Though his second term officially was to ends in November 2016, he could legally seek re-election after completing four years in office, a marker his office said he passed on 19 November.
2015 presidential campaign
In the run up to the election being called several names had been suggested for nomination as the common opposition candidate: former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya, former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and leader of the National Movement for Social Justice Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero. However, on 21 November 2014, after the election had been called, Maithripala Sirisena, was revealed as the common opposition candidate by the UNP. Sirisena had been Minister of Health in Rajapaksa’s government and general secretary of the SLFP before defecting to the opposition coalition. Sirisena immediately received the support of former president Chandrika Kumaratunga and several UPFA MPs that had defected alongside him (Duminda Dissanayake, M. K. D. S. Gunawardena, Wasantha Senanayake, Rajitha Senaratne, Rajiva Wijesinha). Sirisena and the other UPFA MPs were stripped of their ministerial positions and expelled from the SLFP.
Rajapaksa received the backing of a number of small constituent parties of the UPFA including the Ceylon Workers’ Congress,Communist Party,Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP),National Freedom Front, National Union of Workers and the Up-Country People’s Front. On nomination day, 8 December 2014, two opposition MPs, Tissa Attanayake and Jayantha Ketagoda, defected to the government to support Rajapaksa. Attanayake was later appointed Minister of Health — the post previously held by Sirisena. Rajapaksa also received support from the Buddhist extremist Bodu Bala Sena group.
However, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) withdrew from UPFA government on 18 November 2014 citing Rajapaksa’s refusal to reform the executive presidency and enact reforms to promote accountability. After much hesitation the All Ceylon Muslim Congress and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress also withdrew from the UPFA government, on 22 and 28 December 2014 respectively, blaming the government’s failure to protect Sri Lankan Muslims from Sinhalese Buddhist extremists.
Rajapaksa released his manifesto, titled Mahinda’s Vision — The World Winning Path, on 23 December 2014 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. The manifesto pledges to introduce a new constitution within one year of being elected but the executive presidency won’t be abolished — it will be amended and the “weakness” in the parliamentary system eliminated. A naval force and a special security force will be set up, with the help of the army, to tackle drug trafficking and other organised crime. The manifesto also pledges to establish a transparent, judicial inquiry into the alleged war crimes during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War but Rajapaksa had refused to co-operate with UN investigation.
In the Presidential Election of 8 January 2015, Rajapaksa was defeated by his ex-aide Maithripala Sirisena, winning only 47.6% of the vote. Many had accused him of authoritarianism, nepotism, poor governance, and corruption.
Chinese interference and vote buying
Rajapaksa election posters
In June 2018 The New York Times reported that President Rajapaksa, during the 2015 presidential campaign and elections received large payments from the Chinese port construction fund that flowed directly into campaign aides and activities. Rajapaksa had agreed to Chinese terms and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times.
During the final months of the election, the ambassador of China to Sri Lanka had lobbied voters, “even caddies at Colombo’s premier golf course”, to support Rajapaksa over the opposition, which was threatening to tear up economic agreements with the Chinese government.
With the election coming around large payments started to flow toward the president’s circle. Affiliates of Rajapaksa’s campaign received at least $7.6 million that was dispensed from China Harbor’s account at Standard Chartered Bank. A sum around $3.7 million was distributed in checks with 10 days to go before polls opened: $678,000 to print campaign T-shirts and other promotional material and $297,000 to buy supporters gifts, including women’s saris. $38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting the Rajapaksa campaign, while two checks totaling $1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees. A sub-account controlled by China Harbor, named “HPDP Phase 2,” shorthand for Hambantota Port Development Project was where most of the payments came from.
In July 2018 Joint Chinese-Sri Lankan company Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) confirmed paying nearly 20 million Sri Lankan rupees as a donation to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation, a private fund meant to build houses for the poor. Pushpa Rajapaksa is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sister in law, wife of Basil Rajapaksa, who was also his economic development minister. CICT did not say how the money was used.
Alleged coup d’état attempt
According to Athuraliye Rathana Thero, Rajapaksa attempted a coup d’état hours after the announcement of the election result, in order to remain in power, but the Army Chief, Jagath Jayasuriya, disobeyed the orders. According to MPs Rajitha Senaratne and Mangala Samaraweera, before going to the Army Chief, Rajapaksa had earlier instructed the Attorney General to prepare the necessary documentation for the issuance of a State of Emergency but the Attorney General refused. Rajapaksa subsequently accepted defeat and left the Temple Trees, the official residence of president, with the control of the government peacefully transferring to Maithripala Sirisena.
The Sirisena government launched a probe into the alleged coup by Rajapaksa. The government argued that Rajapaksa attempted to seize the poll-counting centers when Rajapaksa realised that he was losing the election. One of the witnesses, the Attorney General, admitted to Criminal Investigation Department the coup attempt made by Rajapaksa. Fortunately, the Attorney General refused to act on behalf of Rajapaksa and many believe the story of an attempt is accurate after Attorney General orders an investigation into this coup. Former army chief General Sarath Fonseka claims that the Rajapaksa has moved nearly around 2,000 troops into Colombo from Northern Province three days before the election results were announced. The general claimed that the troops were ready take action on coup.
However the cabinet spokesperson of the new government stated, during a press conference held on 24 March 2015, that there was no evidence to prove that such a coup was attempted during the night of the election. A spokesman for Rajapaksa has denied the allegations as baseless. The army and police have also denied the allegations.
Prime Ministerial candidate
Mahinda Rajapaksa unsuccessfully sought to become Prime Minister again, after losing his third term presidential bid, in the 2015 parliamentary elections. The position of Prime Minister is largely that of a senior member of the cabinet who acts as deputy to the President. The Prime Minister is directly appointed by the President “who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament,” usually the leader of the party in power. Rajapaksa, although elected as a Member of Parliament for Kurunegala with 423,529 preferential votes, his party was defeated in the election by Ranil Wickramasinghe‘s United National Party and appointed as Prime Minister.
Return to legislature
Former President Rajapaksa meeting Indian Prime Minister
in New Delhi in September 2018
Rajapaksa returned to parliament after his tenure as president, the only former president to do so. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Kurunegala District.
Rajapaksa is being investigated by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) over alleged financial losses caused to the state-run Independent Television Network (ITN) due to the failure to pay for advertisements broadcast during Rajapaksa’s 2015 presidential election campaign and also over the appointment of the ITN Chairman in September 2014. However, Rajapaksa has accused the PRECIFAC of being unconstitutional and Rajapaksa’s lawyers objected on its composition.
In 2016, Rajapaksa loyalists created the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in attempt to split with the SLFP. While Rajapaksa is not officially the leader of the party the inaugural meeting was held in Rajapaksa’s political office which had a 15 ft cut out of Rajapaksa smiling and surrounded by school children. In the courtyard was a banner of similar size with golden rice fields and Rajapaksa’s smiling visage at its centre.
Rajapaksa adopted a more anti-China policy opposing major development projects such as the Southern Economic Development Zone in which China planned to invest over US$5 billion. During the opening ceremony protesters led by Joint opposition MPs ignored a court order banning protests in the area and pelted stones at the event in which the Chinese envoy claimed that China will ignore “Negative forces”. He also changed his stance on private medical universities such as the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM), during his rule SAITM was accepted with several concessions from the Board of Investment and SAITM gave scholarships for students that gained 3As in Advanced level exams but failed to go to public universities at the request of Rajapaksa and ten students were given each given Rs.7 million scholarships by Rajapaksa himself. However, in 2017 he claimed “There needs to be a standard. The law cannot interfere. If it happens, everyone in this country will try to become doctors”, opposing the institution. In reply Dr. Neville Fernando, the chairman of SAITM, called him an opportunist as the same students Rajapaksa granted scholarships are now in their final year.
2018 Local Election
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proxy Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna won a landslide victory in the 2018 local authority elections. They were able to secure staggering 239 Local Government bodies out of 340. The SLPP have called for the resignation of the government and for fresh general elections to be held.
In the evening of 26 October 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister after the United People’s Freedom Alliance withdrew from the unity government and informed Ranil Wickremesinghe was removed from office. Wickremesinghe refused to accept the dismissal stating that it was unconstitutional, which resulted in the 2018 Sri Lankan constitutional crisis. Amid claims that Rajapaksa failed to secure a majority in parliament while it was prolonged, Sirisena dissolved Parliament by proclamation on 9 November and called for snap elections. On 11 November 2018, Rajapaksa left the SLFP and joined the SLPP. The President’s proclamation was challenged in the Supreme Court by multiple petitions and the court stayed the proclamation on 12 November and the Parliament met soon after. Rajapaksa faced multiple no-confidence motions and after a quo warranto writ petition filed by 122 MPs against the appointment of Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and other Ministers, the Court of Appeal issued an interim order on 3 December restraining the functioning of the respondents Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister as well as other cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and state ministers. The following day Rajapaksa filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the interim order.
On 13 December 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that President Sirisena’s decision to dissolve the Parliament 20 months before the end of its term was unconstitutional. The following day, the Supreme Court refused to vacate the interim order given by the Court of Appeal restraining Rajapaksa and his cabinet from functioning. The next day 15 December, Rajapaksa publicly resigned from the post of prime minister at his official residence.
Leader of the Opposition
On 18 December 2018, the Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya informed that Mahinda Rajapaksa had been appointed as Leader of the Opposition with the UPFA joining the opposition benches in parliament. He replaced R. Sampanthan who was the leader of the Tamil National Alliance.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has been criticized for its corruption. During his leadership Sri Lanka scored extremely low in the Transparency International Corruption Index. A Transparency International-led coalition revealed Rs. 3,000,000,000 had gone missing from a roading project for a 2012 exhibition.
On 16 January 2015, The Sirisena government announced that it would investigate Rajapaksa’s deals with China and other countries that allegedly included kickbacks and mega project deals. Furthermore, the government stated that the deals would be suspended until the investigation was completed.Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) announced that they had filed corruption charges against the Rajapaksa brothers at the Bribery and Corruption Commission and demanded that 11 individuals and an institution be investigated for massive corruption.
Meanwhile, Mervyn Silva also filed corruption charges against Mahinda’s brothers, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa. Silva criticised former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the white van culture and the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
The Sri Lanka Air Force announced that Mahinda Rajapaksa and family used the military aircraft for the Presidential election campaign, using $17,273.28 (Rs. 2,278,000.00) of public funds to travel across the island. Rajapaksa and family received numerous state resource abuse complaints from organisations and election monitors including for their involvement in fraud, misuse of powers and murder – prior to their fraud cases are money laundering activities that are said to have taken $5.31 billion (Rs. 700 billion) out of the country illegally through Central Bank using Rajapaksa’s close association Ajith Nivard Cabraal the former governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
On 23 January 2015, The Seychelles government announced that it would assist the Sri Lankan government in their search of funds that were allegedly transferred by the Rajapaksa regime into Port Victoria offshore bank accounts. Earlier in the month of February, India announced that it would assist the Sri Lankan government in tracing the billion of dollars worth of funds that were allegedly deposited into oversea bank accounts of Rajapaksa and associates. The government sought help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in locating this hidden wealth to expose the alleged corruption of the previous regime.
Anti-Corruption Unit led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the new Cabinet has appointed a high-powered “rapid response team” to look into corrupt land transactions, stock market price-fixing and the abuse of state funds for political purposes by the Rajapaksa family and the close association of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On 7 May 2015, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera received intelligence reports from four foreign nations that involved in tracing billions of dollars stashed abroad, stating that the Rajapaksa family holds $18 Billion (approximate Rs. 237,933,000,000) worth of assets in foreign countries. Minister Samaraweera didn’t mention the names of countries that is involved in this investigation. The government asserted that they have only traced $2 Billion and is seeking access to a bank account that is held by the Rajapaksa family, However Minister Samaraweera stated it will not be an easy task to retrieve the entire assets held by the Rajapaksa family abroad and are willing to go after these assets that were stashed illegally abroad belonging to the State.
It is believed that Rajapaksa has a long history of denying ‘allegations’ that were levelled against his family members and political associations. He is also widely accused of using his family members for government duties, claims he has rejected.
Abduction and assault of Keith Noyahr
In August 2018 Rajapaksa was questioned at his official residence in Colombo by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in connection to the abduction and assault of journalist and former Associate Editor of The Nation Keith Noyahr in 2008. The CID detectives questioned Rajapaksa about a phone call from Karu Jayasuriya and the then Editor of The Nation newspaper Lalith Alahakoon to Rajapaksa after which to Noyahrs was released. Rajapaksa had said he did not recall receiving a phone call, and claimed the case as political revenge. Noyahr was abducted and severely assaulted before being released in May 2008, after which he fled to Australia with his family fearing for his life.
Controversies and criticisms
Nepotism & cronyism
Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused of nepotism, appointing three brothers to run important ministries and other political positions for relatives, regardless of their merit. The Rajapaksas held the offices of the ministries of Defence finance, defence, ports and aviation, highways and road development public works. This includes his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was given the post of Defence Secretary, without holding any elections for the post. He also controlled the armed forces, the police and the Coast Guard, he was in charge of immigration and emigration. Rajapaksa appointed his brothers Basil Rajapaksa as minister of Economic Development. His oldest brother, Chamal Rajapaksa, was appointed the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka from 2010 to 2015, and has held many[which?] other posts before. The Rajapakse family controlled over 70% of Sri Lanka’s budget during their governance.
Others includes his nephew, Shashindra Rajapaksa, who served as the Chief minister of Uva from 2009 to 2015. Some of his cousins were given ambassadorial positions: Jaliya Wickramasuriya was appointed as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States, as well as Udayanga Weeratunga, who was appointed the ambassador to Russia. Dozens of nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws have also been appointed as heads of banks, boards and corporations.
Media groups have alleged that media freedom has been curtailed in Sri Lanka during Rajapaksa’s term as president. In 2008 Reporters Without Borders ranked Sri Lanka 165th among 173 countries in its annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The next year, the country was ranked 162. By 2010, following the end of the war, the RSF ranking was 158th. However, these ranking have been questioned by independent Sri Lanka newspapers.
RSF’s 2010 Press Freedom Index has Sri Lanka at number 158, nearly tied with Saudi Arabia. This makes the rankings somewhat suspect. In Saudi Arabia, all newspapers are owned by the royal family or their associates. All TV and radio stations are government owned. Saudi journalists are forbidden by law to criticise the royal family or religious authorities and writers and bloggers are routinely arrested. Sri Lanka is obviously not this bad. – Indi Samarajiva, The Sunday Leader
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.
However he lost the support of minorities due to his inaction to Sinhala Buddhist extremist attacks minorities and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was seen supporting the extremist Bodu Bala Sena However he changed the stance and claimed that BBS was a “western conspiracy” even though his brother even opened a BBS office in Galle.
He also imposed an unofficial ban of the Tamil version of the Sri Lankan anthem which existed since 1948 and has been sung in various events including 1949 independence day. State administrators in the Tamil speaking regions blocked the Tamil version of the anthem in fear, School children in Tamil speaking north were forced to sing the anthem only in Sinhala version and in some cases the army barged into civil events when the Tamil version of the anthem was sung. He continued to stand against the Tamil version of the anthem and slammed his successors for removing the ban and singing it again in the Independence day, claiming “National anthem should be sung in one language and not two or three languages”, and the Pro-Rajapaksa Joint Opposition also boycotted the event.
Rajapaksa is considered to be the most popular Sri Lankan politician of his time. However, 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.
He was conferred with two Honorary Doctorates. The first one is a Doctor of Law from the University of Colombo on 6 September 2009. The second degree was awarded by the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia on 6 February 2010 for his contribution for world peace and outstanding success in defeating terrorism.
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- Official Website of Mahinda Rajapaksa Presidential Election Campaign – 2010
- Sri Lankan Prime Ministers’s Official Website
- Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Web Site
- Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s official Website
- Mahinda Rajapaksa’s PICTURE GALLERY
- Interview with The Hindu
- Last Editorial By Lasantha Wickramatunga
- Nalanda Keerthi Sri Award for Prime Minister
- The Rajapaksa Ancestry
- “Mahinda 4 Sri Lanka” A website with Mahinda Rajapaksa Biography, Photos, News and Critics