Saviour to some, war criminal to others, this lawyer-cum-politician is admired and criticized in equal measure.
Wily, ruthless and charismatic, are some his strong suits with which he dominated the political arena of Sri Lanka.
Known to be superstitious, he wears talismans and consults astrologers in his decision-making.
Percy Mahendra “Mahinda” Rajapaksa was born on November 18, 1945 inÂ Weeraketiya. He hails from a well known political family inÂ Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa got his education fromÂ Richmond CollegeÂ inÂ Galle, before moving toÂ Nalanda College Colombo.
He also had a few cameo roles as a movie actor in Sinhalese movies and worked as a library assistant atÂ Vidyodaya University.
A law student at theÂ Sri Lanka Law College, he took oaths as an attorney-at-law in 1977.
Rajapaksa was elected to Parliament in 1970 as the youngest Member of Parliament at just 24. After losing the seat in 1977, he focused on his law career until reentering the parliament in 1989.
He was viewed as a centre-left politician and became known as a defender of human rights.
Rajapaksa served as labour minister (1994â€“2001) and minister of fisheries and aquatic resources (1997â€“2001).
After the Parliamentary Elections of 2004, in which theÂ United People’s Freedom AllianceÂ gained a slim majority in Parliament, Rajapaksa was sworn-in as the countryâ€™s 13th Prime Minister.
Rajapasksa vs LTTE
Rajapakse was elected president in 2005 as the candidate of UPFA.
At the time, the Sri LankanÂ governmentÂ was in the midst of ongoing peace talks and a precarious cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), better known as theÂ Tamil Tigers, the guerrilla organization which sought to establish an independent Tamil state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
Rajapaksa announced his intention in 2006 to eradicate the separatist group, which had operated as both a rebel army and a de facto government in parts of Sri Lanka for more than 20 years.Â
In 2009, the Sri Lankan army defeated the Tamil forces, ending the countryâ€™s long civil war.
In late 2009, four years into his six-year term and hoping to capitalize on his popularity following victory over the Tamil Tigers, Rajapakse called for a presidential election in early 2010. Rajapakse easily defeated his counterpart, winning 58 % of the vote, though the general protested the results.Â
Media groups alleged media freedom was curtailed in Sri Lanka during Rajapaksa’s term as President. In 2008Â Reporters Without BordersÂ ranked Sri Lanka 165th among 173 countries in its annual WorldwideÂ Press Freedom Index.
After defeating LTTE, Rajapaksaâ€™s popularity surged, but international observers criticized his armyâ€™s brutality in the warâ€™s final battle, which had led to many civilian deaths.Â
He was conferred with twoÂ Honorary Doctorates. The first one is aÂ Doctor of LawÂ from theÂ University of ColomboÂ in 2009.Â The second degree was awarded by theÂ Peoplesâ€™ Friendship University of Russia in 2010 for his contribution for world peace and outstanding success in defeating terrorism.
TheÂ Visva Bharati UniversityÂ ofÂ CalcuttaÂ in India conferred on him the title Professor Emeritus for his record on human rights.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by theÂ Beijing University of Foreign LanguagesÂ in China on August 2011.
In 1983, Rajapaksa marriedÂ Shiranthi Wickremasinghe, a child-psychologist and educator. The Rajapaksas have three sons.Â