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Sirisena, Maithripala

Sirisena, Maithripala (Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Gapa Sirisena), 1951–, Sri Lankan political leader. After an early interest in the Communist party, he joined the Sri Lankan Freedom party (SLFP) in 1968, becoming head of its youth organization in 1983. First elected to parliament in 1989, Sirisena held several ministerial posts, including those of agriculture (2005–10) and health (2010–14). In 2015, after breaking with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and accusing the president and his family of corruption and undermining the rule of law, Sirisena ran against him and was elected president of Sri Lanka; he also became defense minister as well as Mahaweli development and environment minister and later (2018) law and order minister. Sirisena later rejoined and led the SLFP. In 2018 Sirisena's dismissal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointment of Rajapaksa to succeed him provoked a political and constitutional crisis. Sirisena then sought to dissolve parliament, but the supreme court ultimately ruled his decree unconstitutional, and Wickremsinghe was restored to office. He was criticized for lax oversight of national security in the wake of the Easter 2019 bombings in which more than 250 died, and failing to prevent violence against Muslims following the attacks. Sirisena failed to achieve many promised reforms, including abolishing the presidency and allowing power-sharing with Tamils, on which he won election, and did not run for a second term.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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