Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (77) is at the helm of the current economic crisis in the island nation. In his long political career, he served as President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015, as Leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2004 and 2018 to 2019, and as Minister of Finance from 2005 to 2015 and 2019 to 2021.
Early life and Education
Born in 1945 in Weeraketiya, a town in southern Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is the second among six brothers (three of whom are also in the national politics) and three sisters. He was first elected as a member of parliament from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1970 from the Hambantota district. He is an alumnus of Colombo Law College and practised law in the southern town of Tangalle from 1977 to 1994.
Rajapaksa was first elected as the President from SLFP in 2005. In his first term, which ended in 2010, he was known for the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who were defeated in May 2009. He won the 2010 presidential election and his second term ended in 2015.
Accused of corruption in both the previous elections, Rajapaksa lost the 2015 presidential election to his former ally Maithripala Sirisena.
He was the leader of the opposition between December 2018 and November 2019 from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party.
In 2019, Rajapaksa assumed power as prime minister after his brother and former defence chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election.
Sri Lanka crisis
Rajapaksa’s support base mainly comprised a conservative and Buddhist majority population who favoured his political ambitions until the deepening economic crisis shook the country.
His government’s decisions to reduce taxes and ban all chemical fertilizers used in agriculture along with the Covid-19 pandemic have taken a huge hit on the Sri Lankan economy.