Jayaratne -- the simple rural touch to Sri Lankan premiership

09:14, April 22, 2010      

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Senior Sri Lankan politician Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Jayaratne was sworn in here as the 20th prime minister Wednesday evening before President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse (L) administers the oath of office to new Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Jayaratne (R) in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, April 21, 2010. Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Jayaratne was sworn in here as the 20th prime minister of Sri Lanka Wednesday evening. (Xinhua)

Known also as Dimu, Jayaratne is a veteran in Sri Lankan politics.

A man from Gampola in the rural heartland in Central Province, the 79 year-old is a favourite among the majority Sinhala community rural folk.

Being the oldest person ever to win the island's premiership, the long wait has been rewarding for the ever smiling and unassuming grassroots politician.

The premiership was just reward for his sticking with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) through and through -- its best and the worst times.

He became a member of the SLFP on its founding day of Sept. 2, 1951. So no living rivals to his seniority in the party.

He stood with the party during its difficult days in the opposition between 1977 and 1994.

Internal squabbling among party factions saw most of its seniors leaving the party to either form other parties or to join the rival United National Party (UNP).

Jayaratne never left the party and carried its flag almost single handedly in Central Province.

His first entry to parliament was in May 1970 in the SLFP's landslide win.

Jayaratne was a government backbencher until 1977 when the SLFP was crushed in the rival UNP's landslide electoral win.

In 1993 Jayaratne having elected to parliament as an opposition frontliner in the election held in 1989, was made the general secretary of the broader opposition front -- People's Alliance (PA) .

The PA won the election in 1994 by ending the UNP's 17 year rule.

He was rewarded with the cabinet position of Agriculture and Lands.

Subsequently he held senior cabinet positions of Food, Posts and Telecommunications.

The father of two daughters and a son, Jayaratne is known for his Sinhala oratory.

His parliamentary speeches feature witty banter and off-the- cuff remarks which take his opponents off-guard.

A simple rural politician, Jayaratne champions the cause of the downtrodden masses.

Source: Xinhua



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