Rajapaksa – Hero of LTTE war retires hurt after two innings

Rajapaksa - Hero of LTTE war retires hurt after two inningsCOLOMBO: Mahinda Rajapaksa etched his name in Sri Lankan history by the military victory over the LTTE and went on to become the first executive President to secure a landslide victory in Parliamentary polls earning a second term in 2010 but internal revolt and corruption charges did him in.

69-year-old Rajapaksa, who amended the constitution soon after his victory in 2010 to give himself a third term, called the election two years ahead of schedule, hoping to win a record third six-year term before the defeat of Tigers fades in the memory of the people of the island which saw a three decades war over the demand of a separate Tamil Eelam.

However, a series of defections including the desertion by his health minister and General Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Maithripala Sirisena, who has now emerged as a winner in the polls, caught him unawares.

Rajapaksa’s tenure saw the Lankan economy growing with many infrastructure projects rolled out but charges of corruption and presence of his brothers in the cabinet led to discontentment.

Rajapaksa’s brothers – Gotabhaya and Basil – were defense and economic ministers respectively besides a number of his family members who were holding key posts and positions.

The Sinhalese nationalist was also accused of being an authoritarian ruler and flouting human rights.

Muslim parties and groups also had major grievances over the handling of the anti-Muslim violence last year.

The President ignored an early warning from his key ally the Buddhist nationalist JHU or the Heritage Party. The JHU support was key to Rajapaksa’s wafer thin win in 2005 for his first term.

The party of the Buddhist clergy urged Rajapaksa to implement urgent democratic reforms before the snap poll. The 19th amendment envisages a less powerful presidency, reforms in electoral, judicial and public service – in a nutshell to break the shackles of what his detractors called the authoritarianism of the President’s rule. Before the revolts, Rajapaksa held the record of becoming the first Executive President to lead his party to a landslide victory in Parliamentary polls in 2010 which were held before its schedule.

His success in Presidential and Parliamentary polls in January and April 2010 came after a series of victories in polls to eight Provincial Councils by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by him.

Rajapaksa’s election for a second term of office in the Presidential Election held on January 26, 2010, came soon after crushing the Tamil Tigers and bringing an end to the bloody nearly 30 year-old civil war that had raged between the state and the Tamil

Born in Weeraketiya on November 18, 1945, Rajapaksa studied law at the Colombo Law College and went on to be elected to Parliament as an SLFP member, from the Beliatta electorate in 1970.

At 24, he was then the youngest Member of Parliament and represented the same electorate his father D A Rajapaksa did.

He lost his parliamentary seat in the landslide victory of the UNP in 1977. In the parliamentary election that followed in 1989 he was re-elected to Parliament from Hambantota district and held the position until he became Executive President in November 2005.

Rajapaksa served as Minister for Labour & Vocational Training and of Fisheries in President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Cabinet from 1994 to 2001.

He also held the Portfolio of Ports and Shipping for three months. During this period he initiated work for the construction of a new harbor at Hambantota.–PTI

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