Who is Ranil Wickremesinghe? The 26th PM of crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ColomboEdited By: C KrishnasaiUpdated: May 13, 2022, 08:29 PM IST

File photo of Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe Photograph:(Reuters)

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His appointment comes at a time when Sri Lanka has been functioning without an elected government since Monday

Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the 26th prime minister of Sri Lanka on Thursday as chaos and violence gripped the crisis-laden country in the wake of its worst economic crisis.

His appointment comes at a time when Sri Lanka has been functioning without an elected government since Monday after Gotabaya's elder brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other cabinet members resigned after violent protests.

The 73-year-old leader is believed to be close to India, and in fact, asserted that he would try to solidify their relationship under his tenure.

His remarkable comeback is noteworthy since his United National Party (UNP) was routed in the general elections held in 2020, where his party managed to win only one seat.

He has been elected to the prime ministership five times since 1993 and has never able to complete his full term.

He is perceived 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 Sri Lankan premier.

1. Born in 1949 after Sri Lanka gained independence from the British, Wickremesinghe, a lawyer by profession, was elected to Parliament in 1977 at the age of 28. He hails from a political family and his uncle Junius Jayewardene served as president for more than a decade.

2. As the youngest minister in Sri Lanka at the time, he held the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Jayewardene.

3. In an interview to AFP, the 77-year-old leader once said that he would have pursued a career as a journalist, had the then government not nationalised his family's newspaper business in 1973.

4. He has been the chief of the United National Party since 1994. He is the sole representative of his party in the Sri Lankan parliament. 

5. 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 separatist outfit LTTE during Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war. His first term lasted little more than a year. 

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9.  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 inputs from agencies)