Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Thursday sworn in as the new prime minister of Sri Lanka, succeeding Mahinda Rajapaksa who had quit on Tuesday amid protests due to the current economic crisis in the island nation.
The 73-year-old leader has been the prime minister five times since 1993 and has been picked as an effort to end the political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka. He is seen as a pro-West free-market reformist, potentially making bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and others smoother. Here’s all you need to know about the new Lankan prime minister.
1. A lawyer by profession, Wickremesinghe entered politics in the 70s. He was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1977. He hails from a political family and his uncle Junius Jayewardene served as president for more than a decade.
2. The veteran leader had once told news agency AFP that he would have pursued a career as a journalist, had the then government not nationalised his family’s newspaper business in 1973.
3. He has been the chief of United National Party since 1994. He is the sole representative of his party in the Sri Lankan parliament.
4. Wickremesinghe was first appointed the prime minister in 1993 after the assassination of then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was killed in a bomb attack by LTTE during Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war. His first term lasted little more than a year.
5. He returned to power in 2001, earning a reputation for sound economic management after steering the country out of recession. However, a tussel with the president resulted in him being sacked before his term was over.
6. He was sworn in as prime minister again in 2015 after the election defeat of president Mahinda Rajapaksa after the opposition rallied behind him as a unity candidate.
7. His “Mr Clean” image was tarnished that year after his government was rocked by an insider trading scam involving central bank bonds. The key accused the central bank chief Arjuna Mahendran, Wickremesinghe’s schoolmate and choice for the job.
8. Wickremesinghe was accused of cronyism during his tenure and failing to prosecute members of the previous Rajapaksa regime, members of which had been accused of corruption.
9. In 2018, the then Sri Lankan president Mathiripala Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe, appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister, plunging the country into constitutional crisis. Barely two months later, Wickremesinghe was back as the premier.
10. In his political career spanning more than four decades, he lost two presidential contests and led his party to a string of electoral defeats.
(With AFP inputs)