The 73-year-old former Prime Minister and younger brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former military commander who attended Assam Rebel and Jungle Military School in 1980. He was the first man with a military background to be elected President of Sri Lanka in 2019 with a huge mandate.
His resignation comes days after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the island’s unprecedented economic turmoil since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
The economic crisis is partly due to a shortage of currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple food and fuel, which leads to acute shortages and very high prices.
Under growing pressure, President Rajapaksa first released his older brother Chamal and Namal’s older cousin from the government in mid-April. Later, Prime Minister Mahinda also resigned after his supporters attacked protesters against the government, which caused violence against the Rajapaksa family across the country.
President Rajapaksa tried to deal with the crisis for several weeks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before being forced to flee his residence in the face of strong protests over the economic crisis that has brought Sri Lanka to its knees.
From an unspecified location, Rajapaksa Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced her decision to resign late on Saturday night.
However, he fled to the Maldives without resigning. From the Maldives he went to Singapore which “allowed” him to enter the city-state on a “private visit”.
President Rajapaksa sent his resignation letter to the President after his arrival in Singapore.
Rajapaksa, who served as defense minister during his older brother Mahinda’s presidency from 2005 to 2014, was elected president by Sri Lankans concerned about Islamic extremism in the country, where Buddhists are the majority following the Easter bombings on April 21, 2019. Killed more than 250 people.
Although Rajapaksa is called the “war hero”, Rajapaksa’s role in ending the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) over the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran’s boss in 2009 is somewhat divisive as he is accused of human rights abuses. an indictment which he vehemently denies.
Rajapaksa was sworn in as president of the holy Buddhist temple Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura – an ancient temple built by Dutugemena, the King of Singapore, best known for defeating the invading king of Tamil.
His oath indicated that the president was leaning towards the control of Sinhala Buddhists on the island, where Hindus and Muslims together make up about 20 percent of the total population.
Rajapaksa is accused of overseeing torture and involuntary killings of both civilians and soldiers, and later of political assassinations.
He and his brother Mahinda are also accused of receiving sexual violence and murder without trial, according to Lankan security forces during the war.
Rajapaksa, the main target of the Tamil Tigers, survived a December 2006 assassination attempt on an LTTE suicide bomber.
He is also believed to be leaning towards money-rich China.
During his brother Mahinda’s rule, China began investing heavily in infrastructure in the island nation, where Lanka faced international isolation at the end of the civil war.
Critics say it was because of Mahinda that the country fell into a “Chinese debt trap”.
Hambantota Port, which was financed by a Chinese loan during Mahinda’s rule, was leased to Beijing in a 99-year exchange of debt for shares in 2017 after the country failed to pay the debt.
Sri Lanka has traditionally been an important seafront trade hub due to its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, where China is increasingly making inroads.
Rajapaksa, born on June 20, 1949, in Palatuwa, Matara District, is from a well-known political family and is the fifth of nine siblings.
His father DA Rajapaksa was a prominent politician in the sixties in the government of Wijeyananda Dahanayake and also a founding member of the Liberal Party in Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa received his undergraduate and graduate education at Ananda College in Colombo and completed his postgraduate studies in information technology from the University of Colombo in 1992.
He joined the Ceylon Army as an officer in 1971.
In 1983 he also completed a master’s degree in defense science from the University of Madras.
In 1991, he was appointed Deputy Commander of the Sir John Kotelawala Defense Academy, a position he held until his retirement from the Army in 1992.
During his 20 years of military service, Rajapaksa received an award for his diligence from three presidents of Lanka – JR Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa and DB Wijetunga.
After his retirement, Rajapaksa pursued postgraduate studies in information technology from the University of Colombo. He later joined Informatics, Colombo’s IT company, as its marketing manager. He then moved to the United States in 1998 and worked at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles as an IT specialist.
In 2005, he returned to Sri Lanka to assist his brother Mahinda in his brother’s presidential campaign. At that time, he received dual citizenship from Sri Lanka.
He was appointed Minister of Defense in November 2005 by the then newly elected President of Mahinda. In this role, he oversaw the military operation that eventually defeated the LTTE in May 2009 and was awarded the title of “War Hero”.
Rajapaksa is married and has a son.
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