Mahinda Rajapaksa
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Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa
  • Birthday : 1945 November 18



    1Nomiyena Minisun
    2Nomiyena Minisun

    Great President of Sri Lanka.

    Today he is the President of a country and a people to whom he gave dignity and self-respect. And yet, he is still a villager from Medamulana; feet firm in his native soil, head held high and proud to inhale the winds that caress the concerns of the most humble and gentle people, conscious of his past, looking to the future and doing what has to be done right now. For his motherland. For his people.  Sixty-four years is a long time.  Mahinda Rajapaksa achieved so much in this time and remains as energetic, focused, determined and confident as has been throughout his life.

    On the 18th day of November, 1945, a child was born in a small hamlet called Medamulana in Hambantota.  Mahinda Rajapaksa was the second son in a family of six boys and three girls.  He grew up like any rural lad, breathing the air of ancient ways that had sustained a civilization for well over two millennia.  He walked an earth nourished by ancestral ash and the sweat of proud labour. He learnt simple ways of being and sharing, the higher worth of community and the power of solidarity. 

    He began schooling at Richmond in 1951, the alma mater of his father, Don Alwin Rajapaksa and his politically inclined brothers, and later moved to Nalanda and then to Thurstan College in Colombo. 

    Mahinda has politics in his blood. His father was a Member of Parliament, his uncle D.M. Rajapaksa, a Sate Counsel his cousin, George. In 1967 at the relatively tender age of 22, he was appointed as the SLFP candidate for Beliatta after his father’s death.  In 1970 he was elected to Parliament with a record majority of 6626 votes.  Ever the activist and man of initiative, he formed the SLFP Lawyers’ Association in 1973 after he entered Law College.  It was with similar commitment and enthusiasm that he formed the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine in 1975 of which he remained Chairman for 30 years.  

    In 1976 he took oaths as an Attorney-at-Law and did his apprenticeship under President’s Counsel Daya Perera.  In 1977 began the long period of political marginalization of the SLFP after the UNP scored an unprecedented electoral victory, securing a five-sixths majority in Parliament leading to a new constitution and the creation of an Executive Presidency.  Those were dark days for the opposition.  It was the hour for the stoic, the strong-willed, the determined.  That period saw the political blooding of Mahinda Rajapaksa, which include a three month incarceration in the Magazine Prison in 1985.

    He returned to Parliament in 1989 and soon became the unwavering voice of objection to all draconian measures adopted by the UNP regime, organizing protests, demonstrations and all manner of agitation against terror and political oppression. He was the voice of those robbed of a voice, the strength to those rendered powerless, hope to those forced to abandon hope.  That was the tempering of the steel that leaders are made of. 

    In 1994, he was appointed as Minister of Labour in the new government of Chandrika Kumaratunga. Later he was made Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.  Whatever task he was assigned, Mahinda brought freshness, rallied expertise and mobilized human and other resources to deliver that which was thought to be undeliverable.  This is when the foundation was laid for the development of fisheries harbours and the island’s university devoted to the study of maritime resources was established.

    In 2001 the UNP returned to power for a brief period of 3 years.  Mahinda was the automatic choice for the post of Opposition Leader.  When the UPFA ousted the UNP in 2004 April he was the obvious choice for Prime Minister.

    Adversity has been his constant companion.  Humiliation and deliberate sidelining too.  He treated these vicissitudes with equanimity as has been the way of his people, his home, his family.  In 2005 he triumphed over all odds to assume office as the 5th Executive President of Sri Lanka.

    In May 2009 he announced proudly to the world that his country was the first to comprehensively defeat terrorism and thereby fulfilling the most daunting of tasks in the first decade of the 21st Century. 

    Unflinching against all odds, the man is also endowed with tenderness, good humour, empathy and an amazing capacity to bring together people whose differences were considered irreconcilable. 

    He was the first Head of State to address the United Nations in Tamil. It was a brief statement but nevertheless amounted to a recognition granted the Tamil-speaking community that none had bothered to give before. 

    He was called ‘hawk’ and other derogatory names. He smiled and shrugged it all off. Today he has delivered on the promise that no leader before him had come good on: bringing peace to the entire nation. 

    For many, all this would constitute a lifetime’s achievement; sufficient for contentment and happy reflection in retirement. For Mahinda Rajapaksa, indefatigable and with a voracious appetite for work, it constituted a beginning; nothing more than a foundation upon which the edifice of prosperity can be built with utmost fidelity and sensitivity to cultural sensibilities and the heritage of this country.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa: never wanted to be a hero, but was hailed as one; never aspired to sit on the throne, but was nevertheless crowned.  Never wanted to be owner or ruler, but insisted that he is the temporary custodian of land, people and resources. 

    A man without a family in an agricultural society dominated by ethics of solidarity, community and collectivity is a lonely man indeed.  Family matters; and that’s the bottom line in politics throughout the length and breadth of the island.  For some family is handicap and even curse; for others a blessing. Mahinda Rajapaksa is truly blessed.

    He is the proud inheritor of a tradition that was launched by his uncle, D.M. Rajapaksa, the Lion of Ruhuna, who was elected to the State Council from Hambantota in the 1930s.  A champion of the rural masses and one of the strongest emerging voices of the nationalist movement, ‘DM’ was identified by the earthy brown shawl he wore, the kurahan saatakaya which was later to take on iconic significance thanks to Mahinda Rajapaksa.


    Equally influential was DM’s brother ‘DA’, Mahinda’s father, himself known for integrity, courage, perseverance in the face of odds and an indefatigable champion of the cause of the rural poor.  He entered active politics after DM died suddenly in 1945, succeeding his brother in the Second State Council.  He was included in the Council’s Committee on Agriculture and Land, prior to independence from the British in 1948.

    DA Rajapaksa pushed through a 99-year lease scheme to transfer crown land to landless peasants in five acre plots. For the middle income earners, land extending from 10 to 50 acres was alienated in the same manner; measures that gave a boost to rice and coconut cultivation in the southern parts of Sri Lanka.

    Elected to Parliament from the Beliatta electorate of the Hambantota District in the first Parliament of 1947, he was a member of the governing party, the United National Party (UNP), till in 1951 he crossed over to the Opposition on matters of policy, together with the late SWRD Bandaranaike, which led to forming of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that gave weight to Social Democratic policies. He was re-elected to Parliament from the SLFP in 1952 and 1956 after which election Mr. Bandaranaike was elected Prime Minister of an SLFP-led Government. Mr. Rajapaksa was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Lands in 1959. He was defeated in the parliamentary election held in March 1960 following the assassination of Prime Minister Bandaranaike in September 1959. In the next general election held soon after in July 1960 he was re-elected from Beliatta from the SLFP then led by Mr. Bandaranaike’s wife Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. He was appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees in Parliament and subsequently Deputy Speaker. He lost his seat in the 1965 election which brought the UNP back to power.

    So when Mahinda entered Parliament in 1970 he brought with him the political blood of his father and uncle, their sensibilities, priorities, vigour, nationalist sentiment and uncompromising and unapologetic tilt towards the rural poor.  

    Among his brothers, Chamal and Basil were the ones most interested in politics. They’ve left their mark in their own ways, Chamal in the quiet manner so typical of the elder brother and Basil in the more colourful ways often seen in younger siblings.  Mahinda was the rock; he was the anchor, the man unruffled, who took praise and blame in his stride, never held a grudge, never forgot a friend, endowed with patience and the rare ability to see beyond war and warrior. 

    It was after Mahinda became President that the younger sibling Gotabhaya came into the limelight.  Gotabhaya, a former Army officer, retired from service, was recruited to the all important post of ‘Defence Secretary’.  It proved to be a crucial and deciding move and one that changed the course of the nation’s history.

    Among the more profound of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s public statements is the one he made about the family in Parliament following the rout of the LTTE in May 2009.  He pointed out the important if silent role played by the family in all his endeavours and indeed in offering encouragement and strength to all those who were risking their lives on a daily basis to protect the motherland from all threats.

    It is customary to say that the wife of a successful man is a tower of strength.  Shiranthi Rajapaksa had to nurture into manhood three sons, all endowed with the energy and enthusiasm for life so characteristic of the Rajapaksa clan.  She did this while her husband fought draconian laws, practices and regimes in various theatres of contention, here and abroad.

    Today, as the head of the Seva Vanitha Movement, Shiranthi takes a keen interest in championing the rights of women and children and in advancing the humanitarian policies of Mahinda Chinthana.  She has taken an important initiative in helping the women and children who are internally displaced in the north due to terrorism. Under the‘Siriliya Saviya’ organization led by her, special action has been taken to provide cooked food and essential drugs to the IDPs, training in community culinary work among women IDPS and also for vocational training among them to help them have better livelihoods once resettled.

    Then there are the sons. All three of them are keen sportsmen and have represented their school St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia in Rugby. This is not surprising since their father, Mahinda, is himself a very keen sportsman, having represented his school in Athletics in track events specializing in the 4 x 400 metres relay.

    The eldest son Namal, in addition to studying law in the UK, is the vibrant and inspiring organizer of Tharunyayata Hetak (A tomorrow for Youthfulness) that seeks to empower youth in the rural sector for the purpose of uplifting the rural economy.

    The second son Yoshitha is a Sub-Lieutenant in the Sri Lanka Navy after training at Dartmouth in the UK and the youngest, Rohitha is pursuing higher studies in Aeronautical Engineering and Astronautics at the University of Southampton, UK.

    Mahinda is a proud father, but a strict one, able to show great affection but also one who does not tolerate sloth or insensitivity; a father who despite all his numerous responsibilities has never once abdicated his nurturing role. 

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