COLOMBO (Reuters) - Following is a profile of Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed Finance and Media Minister Mangala Pinsiri Samaraweera who assumed office on May 22.
- Born on April 21, 1956, Samaraweera obtained a fashion and textile designing degree from Central St. Martins in London before entering politics in 1988. He represents the southern district of Matara in the national assembly.
- In the January 2015 presidential election, Samaraweera played a key role as a joint spokesman of the opposition coalition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, who unseated former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, one of Asia’s longest-serving leaders.
- Samaraweera was the foreign minister until May 22 and had worked hard to ease international pressure on Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes by the military in the 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
- As foreign minister, Samaraweera was able to get a two-year extension to implement fully the commitments that were made under the 2015 resolution, though the United Nations had expressed concern at the “slow progress” of reforms in Sri Lanka.
- Samaraweera was one of the most trenchant critics of alleged corruption and human rights violations by the Rajapaksa administration.
- Previously, he was foreign minister under Rajapaksa from 2005-2007, but Samaraweera formed a new party and backed the opposition after Rajapaksa sacked him.
- He had also served as minister of port and aviation, urban development, media and information, and post and telecommunication since 1994.
- As the telecommunications minister between 1994-2000, he revived the island nation’s telecom sector with the privatisation of state-run Sri Lanka Telecom with NTT of Japan buying 35 percent, and introduced private operators.
- From a political family, Samaraweera has been in parliament since 1989.
- In October 2013, a local court issued an order to arrest him and 10 others for alleged involvement in obstructing a peaceful protest to oust party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the current prime minister.
- Popular for his political shrewdness and strategic decision in winning elections, Samaraweera is considered as one of the kingmakers in local politics.
Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath