New Sri Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe: Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been in Parliament for 45 years. Lawyer-turned-politician Wickremesinghe has made a remarkable comeback in the August 2020 general election, nearly two years after his United National Party (UNP) lost and failed to win a single seat.
The 73-year-old leader, considered close to India, has been appointed as the 26th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa amid the country’s worst economic crisis. He is widely acknowledged in political circles as a man who can manage the economy with visionary policies.
PM became after violent movement
His appointment fills a leadership void as Sri Lanka has not had a government since Monday when Gotabaya’s elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters .
Wickremesinghe is considered a leader in Sri Lanka who can command international cooperation. He has held many important positions during his political career spanning four and a half decades. He built personal ties with Sri Lanka’s close neighbor India and visited the country on four occasions – October 2016, April 2017, November 2017 and October 2018 – during his previous term as prime minister.
During the same period, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made two visits to Sri Lanka and he also responded to a personal request by Wickremesinghe to help set up an ambulance system in the island nation in 1990. This free health care service proved to be extremely helpful in Sri Lanka during Covid-19.
When did Wickremesinghe lose the election?
Wickremesinghe supported the deal with India on the eastern terminal of Colombo port, which Rajapaksa rejected in 2020, despite opposition from the then President Maithripala Sirisena. His party UNP is the oldest party in the country which failed to win a single seat in the 2020 parliamentary election. This was the first time since 1977 that his party did not get a single seat. Wickremesinghe, who contested from Colombo, a stronghold of the UNP, himself lost. Later he was able to reach the Parliament through the National List allotted to the UNP on the basis of Gross National Votes.
Wickremesinghe, the nephew of Sri Lanka’s first acting President Junius Jayawardene, was appointed Prime Minister from 1993-1994 for the first time after the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. He was also the Prime Minister from 2001-2004 when the United National Front won the general election in 2001. But she lost power in 2004, after Chandrika Kumaratunga called for early elections.
Have even led minority government?
During his tenure as prime minister, he initiated peace talks with the LTTE, even offering a power-sharing deal. Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapakse accused him of being too soft with the LTTE and giving it too many concessions.
In the year 2018, the then President Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister. This move of Sirisena created a constitutional crisis in the country. However, a Supreme Court decision forced President Sirisena to reinstate Wickremesinghe, ending Rajapaksa’s brief reign.
When were MPs elected for the first time?
Born in 1949 after Sri Lanka gained independence from the British, Wickremesinghe was elected to Parliament in 1977 at the age of 28. He joined the youth league of the United National Party (UNP) while studying at the university. As the youngest minister in Sri Lanka at that time, he held the position of Deputy Foreign Minister under President Jayawardene.