Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sworn in as the Sri Lanka’s seventh Executive President on Monday, 18 November. This author known and interacted with the President-elect while reporting on Eelam War IV (2006-2009) and in subsequent years, so here are some fascinating and little-known facts about the man who will lead the island nation for the next five years:
- Gotabaya joined the Sri Lankan Army in April 1971 as a cadet officer.
- He was commissioned in the Signals Regiment and sent for the Young Officers’ course to Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
- On his return, his first posting in the SL Army was Palaly in northern Sri Lanka.
- In October 1974, Gotabaya opted to move to the infantry, joining the Sinha Regiment. Later, he was tasked with raising the Gajaba Regiment and commanded the 1st Gajaba Battalion.
- In 1983, he completed the Staff Officers Course at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, near Ooty, in India.
- Then Lt Col (now Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka), commanding the 1st Sinha Battalion and Gotabaya, as Commanding Officer of the 1st Gajaba Battalion, launched a combined operation to rescue Sri Lankan Army soldiers from the besieged Jaffna Fort, surrounded by the LTTE.
- The current Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, has served under Gotabaya in the 1st Gajaba Battalion as a young officer.
- Gotabaya quit the Army in November 1991 and migrated to the United States.
- He returned to Sri Lanka to help his elder brother Mahinda’s election campaign in 2005 and stayed on to become Defence Secretary and play a pivotal role in Eelam War IV to end the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka.
- Gotabaya is a devout Buddhist and a vegetarian.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them. This article was originally published on SNWire)
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