Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon. Mangala Samaraweera
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka
Mangala Samaraweera was born in Matara, Southern Sri Lanka on 21st April 1956. He hails from a renowned political family and his father, Mahanama Samaraweera was a Minister in the governments of Hon. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. His mother, Khema Samaraweera was the first female councilor of the Matara Urban Council in the late 1950s.
After having his primary education at Royal College, Colombo, Mangala completed his studies in London. He obtained his BA (Hon) in Fashion and Textile Design at the prestigious Central St. Martins in London. On his return to Sri Lanka in 1982, he worked as a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya as well as being a consultant to the Department of Textiles, spearheading a campaign to market local textiles in the west.
In 1988, Mangala entered the political arena at the request of Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and in the General Elections of 1989, Mangala Samaraweera was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Matara District and he has continuously represented the Southern constituency, making him one of the most senior Parliamentarians in Sri Lanka today. In the Presidential Election of 2015, his constituency in Matara defeated the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
- 1988 – 1994; the architect of the Mother’s Front Movement which was in the forefront in fighting against Human Rights violations of the period.
- 1993; Appointed to the Central Political Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the highest decision making body.
- 1994;sworn into the Cabinet of President Chandrika Kumaratunge as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications – youngest member of the Cabinet.
- 1994 – 2000;Spearheading far reaching reforms in the Telecom sector in Sri Lanka. The strategic divestiture of Sri Lanka Telecom to NTT of Japan was hailed by the World Bank as a model privatization programme in the developing countries. Introduced two private operators, Suntel and Lankabell. Also successfully completed a programme to provide telephones to all the sub post offices in Sri Lanka. The Telecom Regulatory Commission was established in 1997.The teledensity rate was 0.7 in 1994 and today as a result of these reforms it is 19.0.
- 1997; Appointed as Minister of Media and Information in addition to the existing portfolio. Also the official Government Spokesman.
- 1995 -2001; the conveynor of “The Sudu Nelum (white lotus) Movement initiated by President Chandrika Kumaratunge to educate the people on the need for a political settlement to meet the genuine grievances of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka to end the ethnic war which was ravaging the country. This was the biggest peace movement in Sri Lanka and hundreds of seminars, workshops, including street performances were held to educate different sections of Sri Lankan Society on the need to devolve power and the need to evolve a common Sri Lankan identity based on its diversity.
- 2000 – 2001;appointed as Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Construction in President Kumaratunge’s second Government. Initiated the ‘Greening of Colombo’ programme when well known Colombo Landscapes such as the Galle Face Green and the Beire Lake were given a face lift amidst much critical exclaim. The first phase of the relocation of shanty dwellers with modern housing schemes was also completed during this period. The first phase of apartments for Government servants, a project initiated by President Kumaratunge in 1997 was expedited and completed while phase two was also launched.
- 2001-2004; Chief Opposition Whip in the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
- 2004- 2007; Appointed as Minister of Ports and Aviation and the Media and the Deputy Minister of Education by President Kumaratunge. New airport modernization programme expedited and completed in 2005. Bunkering project for the new Hambantota Port finalized and MOU signed with the Government of China, initiated the Weerawila Airport project and finalized the Colombo South Port extension with the ADB.
- 2004 - 2006: Executive Committee Board Member of UNESCO representing Sri Lanka.
- 2004; Appointed as Minister of Information in addition to the existing portfolios.
- 2005; principal campaign manager for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse during the Presidential campaign of 2005.
- 2005-2007; Appointed as Foreign Minister by President Mahinda Rajapakse. Spearheaded the campaign to list the LTTE as a terrorist organization in the EU and Canada on the basis that the Sri Lankan government was committed to a negotiated settlement. Further strengthened the relations between Sri Lanka and the International community especially with India and USA.
- June 2007 – Crossed the floor of Parliament to the opposition as a protest against the increasingly militaristic and extremist approach of the Rajapakse administration; Human rights violations and abductions had become the order of the day as the government met LTTE terror with equally brutal state terrorism.
- July 2007; Leader of SLFP(M); A political pressure group based on the social democratic founding principles of the SLFP to counter the drift towards extremism of the party under President Rajapakse.
- April 2010; Re-elected to Parliament as UNP MP for Matara district.
- 2011 - Present: Head of the media and communications unit of the UNP.
- 2012 - Present: Member of the Leadership Council of the UNP
- 2014 December/2015 January: Joint spokesperson for Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, common candidate for the opposition during the 2015 election campaign.
- 2015 January - Present: Appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs