Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena (pronounced [pallewat̪t̪ə ɡaməraːləlaːɡeː majt̪ɾiːpaːlə jaːpaː siɾiseːnə]; Sinhalese: මෛත්රීපාල සිරිසේන; Tamil: மைத்திரிபால சிறிசேன; born 3 September 1951) is a Sri Lankan politician and the 7th and current President of Sri Lanka, in office since January 2015. Although born in the Western Province, Sirisena hails from the North Central Province of the country and is the first president from that province. He is an agriculturist and does not belong to the Sri Lankan political elite.
Sirisena joined mainstream politics in 1989 as a member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka and has held several ministries since 1994. He was the general-secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and was Minister of Health until November 2014 when he announced his candidacy for the 2015 presidential electionas the opposition coalition’s “common candidate”. His victory in the election is generally viewed as a surprise, coming to office through the votes won from the alternative Sinhala-majority rural constituency and the Tamil and Muslim minority groups that have been alienated by the Rajapaksa government on post-war reconciliation and growing sectarian violence. Their votes were more anti-Rajapaksa than pro-Sirisena. Maithripala Sirisena pledged to implement a 100-day reform program where he promised to rebalance the executive branch within 100 days of being elected, by reinforcing Sri Lanka’s judiciary and parliament, to fight corruption and to investigate allegations of war crimes from 2009, repeal the controversial eighteenth amendment, re-instate the seventeenth amendment and appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.
Sirisena was sworn in as the sixth Executive President before Supreme Court judge K. Sripavan in Independence Square, Colombo at 6.20pm on 9 January 2015. Immediately afterwards he appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister. After being sworn in Sirisena stated that he would only serve one term. On 28 April 2015, Sirisena voluntarily transferred significant presidential powers to parliament.
Early life and career
Maithripala Sirisena was born on 3 September 1951 in Yagoda, a village in present-day Gampaha District. He is the son of World War II veteran Albert Sirisena, who was awarded five acres of paddy land in Polonnaruwa near Parakrama Samudra by D. S. Senanayake. His mother was a school teacher.
He was educated at Thopawewa Maha Vidyalaya and Royal College, Polonnaruwa where he first developed an interest in politics. While still in school, as a teenager, Sirisena became interested in communism and joined the Communist Party becoming closely associated with party leader N. Shanmugathasanin party activities. In 1968 he took part in a communist party anti-government rally which was broken up by baton charging police.
At the age of 17 years he was chosen as the secretary of the SLFP Youth Organisation in Polonnaruwa by the SLFP Member of Parliament for Polonnaruwa, Leelaratna Wijesingha. In 1971, aged 19, he was jailed for 15 months for alleged involvement in the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Insurrection.Following his release from prison, Sirisena joined All Ceylon SLFP Youth Organization led by Anura Bandaranaike and joined politics at the national level. After serving at a number of state institutions, Sirisena obtained the SLFP membership in 1978. In 1974 Sirisena started working at the Palugasdamana Multi Purpose Cooperative Society as a purchasing office and in 1976 he became a grama niladhari (village officer) but resigned in 1978. He rose up the SLFP ranks, joining its politburo in 1981, where he was chosen as the President of the All Island SLFP Youth Organisation, and also later served as Treasurer. During the 1981 Presidential poll, when Basil Rajapaksa joined the United National Party, he took over the responsibility of the Secretary of the organisation. Subsequently, he was appointed the Polonnaruwa SLFP chief organiser by the SLFP hierarchy. He became president of the All Island SLFP Youth Organisation in 1983.
Sirisena studied for three years at the Sri Lanka School of Agriculture, Kundasale from where he earned a diploma in agriculture in 1973. In 1980 he earned a Diploma in political science at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Russia.