Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as the 7th Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka following the Presidential Election held on 16th November 2019.
President Rajapaksa took his oath of office within the sacred precincts of the historic Ruvanvaliseya Stupa in Anuradhapura on 18th November 2019. He is the first non-career politician and the first former military officer to be elected to the highest office in the land. He won 52.25% of the total votes cast at the election, garnering over 1.3 million votes more than his closest rival. He contested from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party.
The son of former Cabinet Minister D. A. Rajapaksa and brother of the 5th Executive President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was born in 1949 and educated at Ananda College, Colombo. He joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1971. During his military service, he earned a Masters Degree in Defence Studies from the University of Madras, and underwent advanced training in Pakistan, India and the USA. Having commanded many anti-terrorist operations in the North and East of Sri Lanka during the conflict, he was awarded the Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama medals for gallantry and excellence in combat. He also received commendations from the President of Sri Lanka and the Commander of the Army for his bravery in action. After retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1991, he studied Information Technology at the University of Colombo and later migrated to the United States of America, where he worked as an IT professional at the Loyola Law School, California, before returning to Sri Lanka in 2005.
Following the election of his brother as President in November 2005, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was entrusted with the position of Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. In this capacity, he rendered yeoman service to the nation by overseeing the defeat of the brutal LTTE terrorist organization that had been active in the country since the mid-1970s. In December 2006, he narrowly escaped assassination in the course of his duties when an LTTE suicide bomber drove an explosives laden vehicle into his car. Unbowed, he continued to play a pivotal role in strategizing, planning, coordinating and providing the wherewithal to the Armed Forces and the Police to combat the LTTE until its defeat in May 2009, which brought peace to the country after nearly thirty years. In recognition of his contribution to Sri Lanka through his role as the Defence Secretary, he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Colombo.
At the conclusion of the conflict, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was instrumental in the swift restoration of normalcy to the conflicted affected areas. He oversaw the military’s involvement in demining, reconstruction, and resettlement in the North and East, as well as the rehabilitation and reintegration to society of former LTTE cadres. Whilst overseeing the transition of the military and law enforcement agencies to a peacetime role, he initiated a range of activities to consolidate national security and strengthen the country’s intelligence apparatus. He also undertook significant capacity building within the various state bodies coming under his purview, including the Department of Immigration & Emigration, the Registration of Persons Department, the Civil Security Department and the Coast Guard.
With the return of peace and the increasing focus of the Government on accelerating economic growth, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administrative portfolio was augmented to include responsibility for Urban Development. As the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, he launched an ambitious, far reaching and remarkably successful programme to transform the country’s urban landscape. Under his stewardship, many longstanding issues that had long bedeviled Sri Lanka’s urban spaces were systematically addressed and resolved. Strengthening flood control and drainage management, provision of quality housing to those in underserved settlements, increasing the availability and quality of public open spaces, restoration of heritage buildings, rapid improvements to roads and pavements, the development of public amenities, and efficient garbage disposal were amongst his many accomplishments during this period. His work was instrumental in altering perceptions about the country, with Colombo being hailed as one of the most beautiful and well-managed cities in South Asia. The transformation of its urban spaces also helped attract significant foreign investments to Sri Lanka.
Following the change in Government in Sri Lanka after the Presidential Election in 2015, Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned from his position as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. Prior to his entry to active politics, which took place with his nomination as Presidential Candidate by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in August 2019, he founded Viyath Maga, an organization that brought together professionals committed to a better future for the country, and the Eliya organization, which sought to increase public awareness about critical issues pertaining to them.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is married to Ioma. They have one son, Manoj.