About Ranil Wickremesinghe

Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on five occasions. He was first appointed as PM from 1993 – 1994 after the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Subsequently, from 2001 to 2004 he was elected as the Prime Minister to lead the United National Front Government during the presidency of President Chandrika Bandaranayake. In January 2015, he was appointed as the Prime Minister of the coalition government on the election of President Maithripala Sirisena. His appointment was sanctioned by the Sri Lankan people at the general election of August 2015. Once again, in December 2018, President Sirisena was compelled to appoint him as PM after having illegally dismissed him in October 2018. In November 2019, after the defeat of the UNP presidential candidate, he resigned from his position of Prime Minister.

He is the Leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka’s largest political party in the Sri Lankan Parliament. He is currently Sri Lanka's senior-most and longest-serving statesman who has continuously served the country as a member of Parliament since 1977.

Political Beginnings

Born in 1949 after Sri Lanka gained independence from the British, Ranil Wickremesinghe is truly a leader of the new independent era. A lawyer by profession, he was elected to Parliament in 1977 at the age of 28, having worked in the Youth League of the UNP from his university days. As the youngest Minister in Sri Lanka at the time, he held the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Jayewardene. Very soon, in recognition of his exceptional talents and unique capacity for work, he was appointed to the Cabinet of Ministers as the Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment. Later on, he was given the portfolio of Education. Then in 1989, as a seasoned legislator, he was made the Leader of the House under President Premadasa. He also served as the Minister of Industries, Science and Technology.

Early Achievements

From 1977 to 1994, during the seventeen years that the UNP was consecutively returned to power, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as a dynamic young politician, had a crucial impact on the development of the country. He is still considered to be the best Education Minister of the country due to the radical educational reforms he initiated in the 1980s aimed at the qualitative improvement of school education (with a special focus on English, Technology and Computer skills) and the Education Administrative Service. He energised the young people in Sri Lanka with creative, motivational as well as skill development programs through youth clubs (Yovun Samaja) and youth camps (Yovunpura).

Later on, as the Minister of Industries, Science and Technology, he was responsible for Sri Lanka’s second round of economic liberalisation that commenced in 1989 with the focus on financial de-regularization and industrial promotion in rural areas through infrastructure development and the institution of industrial estates. As the MP for Biyagama, he dramatically developed his electorate to become a modern model suburb with new carpeted roads, electrification schemes, water and sanitation projects, schools, community centres and other infrastructure inputs. He also established the Biyagama Free Trade Zone to employ thousands of young men and women in a range of industries.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasignhe

In 1993 after the untimely demise of President Premadasa, Ranil Wickremesinghe was unexpectedly appointed the Prime Minister during the brief presidency of D. B. Wijetunge. Eveready for a challenge, the young Prime Minister rose to the responsibility of high office and he is credited for establishing law, order and stability in the country at this crucial juncture. During this short period, he personally drove the economy; and the country recorded its highest levels of economic growth for the decade; he introduced new technologies; and strengthened the Army with a new program of training.

Leader of the United National Party and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament

After the UNP was voted out in 1994, Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Leader of the United National Party. Under his leadership, the UNP has undertaken several rounds of extensive restructuring at institutional and grassroots levels from time to time. He has worked to democratise the Party to ensure a more equitable balance in representation especially when it comes to ethnicity, gender and youth.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, a position which he held from 1994 to 2001 and once again from 2004 to 2015.

Prime Minister Again and Again

In 2001, Ranil Wickremesinghe led his party back to power and was sworn in as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2004. Despite a President from an opposing party at the helm of the state and a rampant Opposition in Parliament, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s most significant achievements were to restore full-time electricity, rejuvenate the ailing economy, break down the many ethnic barriers in the country, bring the warring LTTE to the negotiating table for peace talks, and galvanize the goodwill and financial support of the international community for Sri Lanka.

After another stint in the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe functioned as Prime Minister with the election of President Sirisena in 2015. This time too, he had to carry out governmental affairs under an increasingly hostile President from 2018 onwards. Despite the manipulations of President Sirisena, significant achievements during this era included a series of legislative and legal reforms to institute good governance in the country and liberate the people from the culture of fear and oppression prevailing earlier. This involved ensuring macroeconomic stability, pruning the extensive powers of the presidency, putting in place parliamentary oversight committees, ensuring due process in the execution of law and order (thereby improving the human rights profile of the country), upgrading the health and educational sectors (which included establishing an island-wide emergency medical service) and strengthening diplomatic relations and enhancing Sri Lanka’s image international image.


Ranil Wickremesinghe was born on 24th March 1949 and is married to Maithree Wickremesinghe, the Chair Professor of English and the founding director of the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Kelaniya. She is a Visiting Professor at several universities including the University of Sussex, UK. An internationally renowned writer/speaker on gender and women’s studies, her work interfaces research, teaching/training, policy development, advocacy and activism.

He is the second son of Esmond and Nalini Wickremesinghe and has three brothers and one sister who have distinguished themselves in their professions and fields of interest. Esmond Wickremesinghe was an eminent press magnate and one-time President of the International Press Institute and the winner of the Golden Pen of Freedom (the annual award to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the defence of press freedom). Nalini Wickremesinghe, the daughter of D R Wijewardene (one of the country’s famed freedom fighters and the press baron who founded Sri Lanka’s largest publishing house Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.), was a patron of the arts who contributed greatly to the revival of Sinhala drama, craft and culture from the 1950s – 1980s.