His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Charismatic Leadership

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Pakistan and Sri Lanka historically enjoy a conflict-free and relatively stable relationship. While their cultural affiliations and diplomatic cooperation in multilateral forums had initially undergirded their bilateral ties, their economic and defense partnerships have further bolstered their relations since the turn of the 21st century. His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa is considered to be the most popular Sri Lankan politician of his time. He is referred to as King by his supporters and television ads where songs are sung by school children in his rallies hail him as our father and father of the country. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was presented with the Nalanda Keerthi Sri award in 2004 by his alma mater, Nalanda College. He has been given three honorary doctorates. The first was a Doctor of Law from the University of Colombo on 6 September 2009. The second degree was awarded by the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in 2010 for his contribution to world peace and outstanding success in defeating terrorism. Sri Lankan Prime minister was given an honorary doctorate by the Beijing University of Foreign Languages in China in August 2011. The Visva Bharati University of Calcutta in India conferred on him the title Professor Emeritus for his record on human rights. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, and Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium were all high-profile lavish infrastructure projects initiated by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his administration and named for him.

In November 1977, Mahinda Rajapaksa was called to the bar as an attorney at law. He thereafter started his legal practice in criminal law in the Unofficial Bar in Tangalle, which he did until 1994. His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa is a lawyer by profession and was first elected to the Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1970. He served as the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party from 2005 to 2015. His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in for his first six-year term as president on 19 November 2005. He was subsequently re-elected in 2010 for a second term. His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in his bid for a third term in the 2015 presidential election by Maithripala Sirisena, and he left office on 9 January 2015. Later that year, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa unsuccessfully sought to become Prime Minister in the 2015 parliamentary election; that year, the United People’s Freedom Alliance was defeated. He was, however, elected as the Member of Parliament for the Kurunegala District. On 26 October 2018, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed to the office of prime minister by President Maithripala Sirisena after the United People’s Freedom Alliance withdrew from the unity government. He became Prime Minister again on 21 November 2019 after being appointed by his brother, Gotabaya His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had become president on 18 November after winning the 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election. On 9 August 2020, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the fourth time at a Buddhist temple on Colombo’s outskirts.

Loyalty to principle and party has been the hallmark of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political philosophy. In this, he followed the example set by his father, especially in the loyalty he showed to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which he helped found, and to the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike whose leadership and politics he accepted, and was deeply loyal to Mrs. Bandaranaike and the SLFP, the leader and party that brought him to Parliament. His loyalty to the SLFP, which was responsible for the ups and downs in his politics, just like his father’s, has kept him with the party from the time he was a youth activist and throughout his political life as a Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister and as the country’s President. It is this loyalty that saw him chosen as Prime Minister after the General Election of April 2004, when the United People’s Freedom Alliance, a coalition led by the SLFP, won a majority in Parliament. He had by then risen to the position of Senior Vice President of the SLFP. Loyalty to the party also saw him chosen as the SLFP’s presidential nominee in November 2005.

His tenure was characterized by impressive economic growth and ambitious infrastructure projects, including the construction of a new section of motorway connecting Colombo’s international airport with its political and commercial center. Rajapaksa’s second term oversaw sustained economic growth, and he continued to enjoy the strong support of the large Sinhalese majority in the country. Mahinda Rajapaksa maintained an image of security and stability in 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic took hold, especially as Sri Lanka reported much lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths than other South Asian countries.

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