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Mahinda Rajapaksa: brief life sketch

world Updated: Jan 27, 2010 21:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

----- Mahinda Rajapaksa, 65, in 1970 was Sri Lanka’s youngest Member of Parliament. He has since held ministries like labour and fisheries became prime minister in 2004, and in 2005 November, became President. Politically, he started young, watching his father, DA Rajapaksa, represent region of Hambantota, about 260 km South of Colombo.

A lawyer by profession, he has an honorary doctorate from Vishwa Bharathi University for championing the cause of human rights.

------- Since taking over as President in 2005, Rajapaksa, who at one time, sought a negotiated settlement to the issue of Tamil ethnicity. But by the middle of 2006, his position became that the LTTE had to be defeated militarily before a settlement could be reached. Ironically, it was his current arch political rival who spearheaded the military as army chief from August 2006.

------ Rajapaksa is not alone from his family to be in public life. He is the second among four brothers. The eldest, Chamal, is ports and civil aviation minister. Gotabhaya is the defence secretary and Basil, an advisor to him. It is said that close coordination between Gotabhaya, Basil and him kept the war effort streamlined. His sons too are active in youth politics. Several other extended family members are holding some important post or the other.

----- Rajapaksa is credited for politically leading the armed forces and tacking international pressure to defeat the LTTE. But in his four years as President, Rajapaksa has also been accused of favouring family, corruption and attacking those with dissenting opinion. Rajapaksa scoffs at these criticisms, saying these opinions are of the elite of Colombo. "He comes across as the homegrown country boy [to the poor farmers and fishermen] whom they feel comfortable with," BBC quoted analyst Jehan Perera telling the Associated Press.