President Maithripala Sirisena, the 6th President of
the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, assumed his term of
office on January 9, 2015, after the Presidential Election held the
His election came with the defeat of the incumbent
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was seeking an unprecedented third term
as Executive President. Contesting as the candidate of the Common
Opposition, Mr. Sirisena obtained 6,217,162 votes (51.28%) while Mr.
Rajapaksa obtained 5,768,090 votes (47.58%) of the total 12,264.377
votes polled with a turnover of 81.52%, obtaining a majority of 449, 072
Maithripala Sirisena is the first member of the rural
agricultural population to be elected as President of Sri Lanka, and
hails from Polonnaruwa, where is located the second ancient capital of
the country, stablished in 1070 AD. Polonnaruwa remains a rural region
largely populated by rice cultivators, and is the home of many
irrigation reservoirs, historic places of Buddhist worship, and other
monuments of the history of Sri Lanka, and the Ancient City of
Polonaruwa is a declared World Heritage Site.
A person with no previous family links to politics,
Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena comes with a long
personal history in politics, especially as a representative of the
rural people. The son of a middle-class farming family, whose father was
a veteran of World War II, and cultivated five plus acres of paddy land
in Polonnaruwa near the historic Parakrama Samudra. The son of Sinhalese
Buddhist parents, Maithripala Srisena was born on 3rd September 1951,
and brought up as a Buddhist, with close associations with the Buddhist
A friendly and unassuming person, Maithripala Sirisena
shows the traditional Buddhist values that prevail in the rural areas of
Sri Lanka. He has shown a great commitment to duty, service to the
people, an emphasis of simplicity in living and an attachment to family
values that make the core of the Sri Lankan rural tradition to this day.
His political life has its roots in his youth, from the time he was 16
years of age, and has since grown with a deep understanding of social
and political issues. He has shown a demonstrable commitment to ease the
economic and social burdens of the rural and working people who comprise
the majority of the Sri Lankan people. This has brought him from the
politics of youth leadership, to participation in protests, moving up to
Parliamentary representation, leadership in political party
organization, holding of important ministerial positions and now to the
highest office of Executive President of Sri Lanka. His campaign for
election as President, which was focused on the need to reduce the
powers of the Executive Presidency and pave the way for good governance
in a functioning democracy, with unity among all communities of Sri
Lanka is the new challenge that he faces.
Having received his primary education at Lakshauyana
School, Polonnaruwa, he moved for secondary education to Topawawa Maha
Vidyalaya - Polonnaruwa and finally to Royal Central College -
Polonnaruwa. Having a keen interest in academic studies, and the
agriculture that surrounded him in his home region, he excelled in
aesthetic studies - especially singing, dancing, music and cultural
activities. In 1973 he obtained a Diploma in Agriculture from the Sri
Lanka School of Agriculture at Kundasale, the premier center for
agricultural training. His interests in political science later saw him
obtain a Diploma in Political Science from the Maxim Gorky Academy in
Russia, in 1980.
Although having an initial interest in the left wing
politics of the Communist Party, his interest moved towards progressive
and moderate politics, and in 1967 he joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(SLFP), the political party of the Middle Way, and soon became Secretary
of the SLFP's Youth Organization in Polonnaruwa, while completing his
GCE (Ordinary Level) Examination at the Royal Central College,
Polonnaruwa. In 1970, he was very active in the election campaigns of
the SLFP that year.
During the extreme left wing youth uprising in 1971,
led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), he was arrested and
imprisoned on unproven allegations, at a time of widespread suspicion of
youth in politics, although he was not involved with the JVP and its
insurgent activities. He underwent much hardship while being
incarcerated for nearly 15 months, until finally released with no
charges against him.
He obtained his first employment as a Co-operative
Purchasing Officer at Polonnauruwa in 1974, and in 1976 he became a
"Grama Niladhai" or Chief Village Officer, attending to a wide range of
localized administrative matters at the village level, which brought him
into very close association with the rural people, and also sharpened
his political thinking on rural issues.
Continuing his interest in politics with his links and
concerns for the rural people and issues, saw him take a greater
interest in the politics of the SLFP, and rose in its ranks, becoming
President of the All Island SLFP Youth Organization in 1983. He has
since continued his close association with the SLFP, which has seen his
rise in politics and national service
Appointed Secretary of the SLFP's Central Committee in
the Polonnaruwa electorate in 1977, he played a leading role in the
General Election campaign of the same year that saw a major defeat for
the SLFP island wide, with a considerable post-election violence after
the victory of the United National Party (UNP). He had to face much
hardship due to this politically oriented violence of the ruling UNP at
the time. This experience contributed much to his deciding to resign
from his position as Grama Niladhari, and take to full time politics in
1978, during which year he attended the International Youth Congress
held in Havana, Cuba.
The office of Executive President which he won in the
recent national election was established by changes to the Constitution
of Sri Lanka, by the government of the UNP that was elected with a huge
majority in 1977, under the leadership of the late JR Jayewardene, the
first Executive President of the country. Over the years he saw the many
dangers to the democratic process through the Executive Presidency, and
the changes made in the Parliamentary Electoral System, which were made
worse after gathering of more powers to the Executive Presidency by
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, under whom he served as Secretary of the
SLFP and a Minister of the Cabinet. This experience led to his moving
for major changes in the country's political system, giving more
strength to democratic processes, and full meaning to universal
franchise that Sri Lanka obtained in 1931, the first country in Asia to
The year 1979 was also of significance in his
political life, being elected Secretary of the SLFP, Polonnaruwa
District, at a time of considerable political hardship for the party. He
was arrested and briefly held in judicial custody for taking part in
public demonstrations of protest against the decision of the ruling UNP
to strip the leader of the SLFP, former Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike of her civic rights.
The following year he was appointed SLFP Polonnaruwa
District Organizer, and began leading the party at the District Level.
Very soon, in 1981, he was appointed Treasurer of the All Island SLFP
Youth Organization, and obtained membership of the SLFP's Central
Committee, the highest level decision making body of the Party.
His entry to Parliamentary politics took place in
1989, when he contested for election to Parliament from the Polonnaruwa
District, and saw his first election to Parliament on 15th February
1989, having contested under the "Hand" symbol of the SLFP. This was to
see the beginning of a remarkable rise in the SLFP and in national
service through Parliament.
In the General Elections of 1994 Maithripala Sirisena
was again elected to Parliament from Polonnaruwa, obtaining the highest
preferential votes from the District, and in the government that was
formed was appointed Deputy Minister for Irrigation. His rise continued
with the appointment to the Ministerial Portfolio of Mahaweli
Development and Parliamentary Affairs, and was also elected Assistant
Secretary of the SLFP, and in the following year, 2000, was elected as
Vice Chairman of the SLFP.
In 2001 he was elected to the 12th Parliament and in
July of the same year was appointed the General Secretary of the SLFP,
which position he continued to hold when he announced his decision to be
the Common Candidate of the Opposition in the 2015 Presidential Election
that saw his victory, and is the person who has held this position in
the SLFP for the longest period.
In February 2004 Maithripala Sirisena signed the
important Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Sri Lanka Freedom
Party (SLFP) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which led to the birth
of United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In the subsequent Genera
Election, he was elected to the 13th Parliament of Sri Lanka and was
appointed as the Cabinet Minister of Mahaweli, River Basin & Rajarata
Development, and the Parliamentary Leader of the House.
In November 2005, he was given the two portfolios
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development and The
Minister of Environment & Natural Resources.
A significant move in 2006 saw him sign a Memorandum
of Understanding between the SLFP and the Opposition UNP for cooperation
between the Government and the Opposition party to end the armed
conflict in the country caused by the separatist terrorism of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Subsequently, he served as the Minister for
Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services Development, during which
period he introduced the special agricultural cultivation drive of the
ministry "API WAWAMU - RATA NAGAMU" (Let us Grow - Raise the Country), a
program which led to an agricultural boom throughout Sri Lanka including
accelerated field crop production to sustain the agricultural sector in
On 25th January 2007, he initiated and started the
Moragahakanda - Kalu Ganga project under the Mahaveli Master Plan, which
was a 90 billion Sri Lankan Rupee irrigation and development project. In
addition to providing water for irrigation and drinking purposes in
North-Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces, the Moragahakanda project
was also to generate 25 MW of power, fulfilling a long-term need for
domestic and industrial electricity demand.
Threats from terrorism
In March 2007 the Minister Maithripala Sirisena
escaped injury from the terrorist suicide-bombing attempt by the LTTE in
Welikanda. The Security Forces later learnt that 3 terrorist attackers
remained on the hunt, but they killed themselves at the time of capture,
by swallowing cyanide capsules they wore on their necks.
Once again in 09th October 2008, he was targeted by
the LTTE, in an attack carried out when he was returning from the "Wap
Magul Ceremony" held in Bandaragama. This was seen as a miraculous
escape; in an attack where 4 people died 15 were injured.
Since 2005, at the height of the war against terrorism
in Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena functioned on five occasions as the
Acting Defence Minister of Sri Lanka, and was in this position in the
final days of the war in Sri Lanka, in the absence from the country of
the President who is also Defence Minister.
In the Year 2010, Minister Maithripala Sirisena was
re-elected to Parliament and was appointed as the Minister of Health of
the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government. This saw the
beginning of a major record of service in the Health Sector. This
included his initiative to introduce the "National Drug Policy Act" from
2010 to 2014, for meaningfully implementing of the National Drug Policy
recommended by late Dr. Senaka Bibile, to ensure a rational and people
friendly drug supply system in the country.
He also took a major initiative to introduce the legal
requirement for "Pictorial Warnings on Tobacco Packaging", having to
fight with the multinational tobacco company, both in and out of the
courts to ensure such packaging, which became a reality, with a court
ruling, and to educate the general public on the adverse effects of the
His work was well received by the World Health
Organization - WHO - which awarded the 'World No Tobacco Day Award 2013'
for his determined action taken to stop tobacco smoking in the country.
This is the first time a Sri Lankan was awarded with this honour.
He also received '2013 Harvard Ministerial Leadership
in Health Award' from Harvard School of Public Health & Kennedy School
of Government, United States of America, in recognition of his
commitment to innovative leadership in his tenure as Minister of Health,
Sri Lanka. This is also the first time a Sri Lankan was awarded with
The leadership he rendered to the G15 Group of
Countries at 2013 World Health Assembly in Geneva, where he presented
the G15 Statement on health related issues to the Assembly was notable,
and saw him elected as one of the four Vice-Presidents of the World
Health Assembly 2014.
He has also taken an important initiative as the
Health Minister to ensure the approvals to purchase locally manufactured
medicines directly to the Ministry of Health, thus empowering the local
medicine manufacturers. As Minister of Health he also saw an important
agreement between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to establish the proper
conditions for Sri Lanka to get quality medicines at good prices to help
the needy people of the country.
He took a bold new step in his political life in
November 2014, when he announced his agreement to be the Common
Candidate of the Opposition, when the country's Executive President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, decided to call for a snap election, two years before
the end of his second six year term, with the hope of being elected for
a third term of six years, under a controversial amendment to the
Constitution that had been passed removing the two term limit for the
Presidency. He campaigned to rescind this Amendment to the Constitution,
and for the restriction of the powers of the Executive Presidency, with
more power sharing in a democratic manner and spirit among the
Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, and to ensure a country
free of corruption and assured of Good Governance. The theme of his
campaign that brought him victory was "Maithri palanayak, sthavara
ratak" (A rule with loving kindness, a stable country).
The joint opposition alliance known as the National
Democratic Front endorsed him as the Common Candidate for the
Presidential Election of January 8, 2015, when he won a clear victory
and became the Sixth President of Sri Lanka.
President Maithripala Sirisena is married to Jayanthi
Pushpa Kumari and has two daughters and one son.