Sri Lanka has a new President – Maithripala Sirisena

Maithripala Sirisena is sworn in as the President of Sri Lanka - Photograph courtesy of the Daily News in Sri Lanka.

Maithripala Sirisena is sworn in as the President of Sri Lanka – Photograph courtesy of the Daily News in Sri Lanka.

 

Maithripala Sirisena was elected President of Sri Lanka in the recent Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka. Here is the Wikipedia entry for him –

 

Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena (pronounced [pʌllɛwʌθθə gʌmʌɹɑːlʌlɑːgeɪ maɪθɹiːpɑːlʌ jɑːpɑːsɪɹɪseɪnə], Sinhala:පල්ලෙවත්තෙ ගමරාළලාගේ මෛත්‍රීපාල යාපා සිරිසේන) (known as Maithripala Sirisena,Sinhala: මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන; born 3 September 1951) is the 7th President of Sri Lanka.He joined mainstream politics in 1989 and has held several ministries since 1994. He was the general-secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and was Minister of Health until November 2014 when he announced his candidacy for the 2015 presidential election as the opposition coalition’s “common candidate”. He had also served as the actingDefence Minister for several occasions during the Sri Lankan civil war. On 9 January 2015, Maithripala Sirisena, presidential candidate of the New Democratic Front, was elected as the President after his opponent Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat

Early life and education

Sirisena was born on 3 September 1951. He is the son of World War II veteran Albert Sirisena, who was awarded five acres of paddy land in Polonnaruwa near Parakrama Samudra by D. S. Senanayake.

He was educated at Royal College, Polonnaruwa. He studied for three years at the Sri Lanka School of Agriculture, Kundasale. In 1980 he earned a Diploma in Political science at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Russia.

Early political activity

As a teenager Sirisena became interested in communism but in 1967 he joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party‘s (SLFP) youth league in Polonnaruwa. He was jailed during the 1971 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Insurrection.  He rose up the SLFP ranks, joining itspolitburo in 1981. He became president of the All Island SLFP Youth Organization in 1983.

Sirisena worked at the Palugasdamana Multi Purpose Cooperative Society and also as a grama niladhari (village officer). 

Legislative career

Sri Lankan Parliament

Sirisena contested the 1989 parliamentary election as one of the SLFP’s candidates in Polonnaruwa District and was elected toParliament.  He was re-elected at the 1994 parliamentary election, this time as a People’s Alliance (PA) candidate. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Irrigation in the new PA government led by Chandrika KumaratungaPresident Kumaratunga promoted him to the Cabinet in 1997, appointing him Minister of Mahaweli Development. In August 2000 Sirisena tried to become general-secretary of the SLFP but was beaten by S. B. Dissanayake.  Sirisena was instead appointed one the Deputy Presidents of SLFP.  He was re-elected to Parliament at the 2000 parliamentary election and retained his ministerial portfolio. He became general-secretary of the SLFP in October 2001 following Dissanayake’s defection to the United National Party (UNP).

Opposition

He was re-elected at the 2001 parliamentary election but the PA lost the election and so Sirisena lost his ministerial position.

In January 2004 the SLFP joined forced with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to form a political alliance called the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Sirisena was re-elected at the 2004 parliamentary election as a UPFA candidate. President Kumaratunga appointed him Minister of River Basin Development and Rajarata Development in the new UPFA government in April 2004. He was also appointed Leader of the House. Sirisena’s ministerial portfolio was renamed as Minister of Irrigation, Mahaweli and Rajarata Development in July 2005. He resigned as Leader of the House in August 2005.

Minister of Agriculture

After the 2005 presidential election newly elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Sirisena Minister of Agriculture, Environment, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development in November 2005.  On 27 March 2006 Sirisena’s personal secretary M. L. Dharmasiri was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Aranangawila. Following a cabinet reshuffle in January 2007 he was appointed Minister of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services Development by President Rajapaksa.

Assassination attempt

Sirisena narrowly escaped death on 9 October 2008 when a convoy he was part of was attacked by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam‘s suicide bomber at Piriwena Junction in Boralesgamuwa, Colombo. One person was killed and seven injured.

Minister of Health

Sirisena was re-elected at the 2010 parliamentary election and was appointed Minister of Health in April 2010.

Presidential campaign

Following days of speculation in the media, Sirisena announced on 21 November 2014 that he would challenge incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2015 presidential election as the common opposition candidate. Sirisena claimed that everything in Sri Lanka was controlled by one family and that the country was heading towards a dictatorship with rampant corruption, nepotism and a breakdown of the rule of law. He has pledged to abolish the executive presidency within 100 days of being elected, repeal the controversial eighteenth amendment, re-instate the seventeenth amendment and appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister.

Sirisena has received the support of the UNP, the main opposition party, as well as 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).

Following the announcement Sirisena, along with several other ministers who supported him, were stripped of their ministerial positions and expelled from the SLFP. His ministerial security and vehicles were also withdrawn

 

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