Mahinda Rajapaksa

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Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa shows a victory sign after voting in the presidential election in Medamulana on Jan. 26, 2010

President Mahinda Rajapaksa — Sri Lanka's self-described "rebel with a cause" — extended his four decades in politics with a landslide victory on Jan. 27 in the country's first election since the end of its 26-year civil war. Upending predictions that the contest would be a close fight, Rajapaksa easily beat his challenger, General Sarath Fonseka — a former ally in Sri Lanka's military victory over the separatist Tamil Tigers — with 57.9% of the vote. Though he was hailed by many members of Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese majority for emerging victorious from the decades-long conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Rajapaksa's reputation was dented by international criticism of his headlong rush into the war's final battle. Dismissing calls for a last-minute cease-fire, Rajapaksa pushed to corner and crush the rebels, resulting in thousands of deaths among the 300,000 civilians stranded in the combat zone. Despite claiming an overwhelming majority in the Jan. 26 vote, Rajapaksa fared less well in the north and the east — areas that are home to most of the island's Tamil population. Though the Tamil minority is fearful of how it will be treated by the man who crushed its hopes of a homeland, during his speech following the election results, he said, "I am the President of those who voted for me and those who did not."

Quick Facts:
• Born Nov. 18, 1945, in the district of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka. His father was a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament from 1947 to 1965.

• A Buddhist and human rights lawyer, at the age of 24 in 1970 he became the youngest person ever elected to Parliament.

• Married to Shiranthi Rajapaksa; the couple has three sons.

• Became Labor Minister under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and later the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

• Was appointed Prime Minister by Kumaratunga in April 2004 after the Sri Lanka Freedom Party won the general election.

• Was endorsed by Kumaratunga as her successor; in November 2005 he was elected the fifth President of Sri Lanka.

• The highest point of his presidency thus far is the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009 — thereby ending the country's civil war, which was waged for 26 years.

• Has three brothers who are serving in his administration, a fact that has led to charges of nepotism.

Quotes By:
"Today we have been able to liberate the entire country from the clutches of terrorism. We have been able to defeat one of the most heinous terrorist groups in the world."
— Declaring the end of civil war with the announcement that Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed (BBC, May 19, 2009)

"I reject that totally. There was no violation of human rights. There were no civilian casualties. If I did that, it wouldn't have taken 2½ years to finish this. I would have done this in a few hours. These are all propaganda."
— Responding to accusations that the cost of ending the Sri Lankan civil war was too high (TIME, July 13, 2009)

"Today's victory will be remarkable ... We expect a peaceful election and are getting ready to enjoy a better tomorrow."
— After voting in Medamulana, his rural district on the southern coast, on Jan. 26 (Reuters, Jan. 26, 2010)

"I am the President of the those who voted for me and those who did not."
— Reacting to the announcement of the election results on Jan. 27 (TIME, Jan. 27, 2010)

Quotes About:
"You are a divine gift to the country. May the gods bestow their blessings on you."
— Enormous banners displayed in the Sri Lankan capital city, Colombo, following the end of the civil war against the Tamil Tigers in May 2009 (TIME, July 27, 2009)

"[Rajapaksa] has liberated this country."
— O.K. Dingininya, 85, a resident of Medamulana, who insisted on voting — for the first time in 15 years — despite being barely able to walk (Reuters, Jan. 27, 2010)

"The President keeps his promises. I hope that he will be a savior for Sri Lanka."
— Gamage Banduwathie, a former member of the opposition United National Party, who left to support Rajapaksa in the election (The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2010)

"There is no democracy. This government is behaving like murderers."
— Sarath Fonseka, Rajapaksa's challenger in the 2010 election, after the election results were announced. He immediately rejected the results, alleging vote rigging, and claimed his life was under threat from the government (TIME, Jan. 27, 2010)