Former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake passes away at 83

The 83-year-old leader served twice as Prime Minister, first from 2000 to 2001 and then from 2005 to 2010.

Veteran Sri Lankan politician Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who served twice as Prime Minister, passed away after a brief illness on Tuesday.

The 83-year-old leader, ailing for sometime now, breathed his last on Tuesday morning, his family said. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of a leading private hospital on December 21.

Wickremanayake served twice as the Island nation’s Premier, first from 2000 to 2001 and then from 2005 to 2010. He was appointed Prime Minister by former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 21, 2005. Wickremanayake has also held many key ministerial positions since 1970.

It was Wickremanayake who paved the way for Mr. Rajapaksa to emerge as the next leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). He resigned from his position as the leader of the main opposition in 2002 to make way for Mr. Rajapaksa to become the leader of the opposition.

In his previous stint as Prime Minister, Wickremanayake succeeded Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who resigned at the age of 84.

A host of political leaders, cutting across party lines, paid tributes to Wickremanayake.

“Veteran Politician Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was loved by his people for many decades. My condolences are with his loved ones and followers,” President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted.

Mr. Rajapaksa said in a tweet, “Deeply saddened by the death of former Sri Lankan PM & veteran politician Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. My condolences to his family”.

Wickremanayake entered politics in 1960, winning the Horana seat in the March General Election as a member of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna.

In 1970, he was appointed Deputy Minister, Justice, and went on to be the general secretary of the SLFP in 1977.

In the 1994 general election, he won the Kalutara District seat and was appointed the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs and Plantation Industries and the Leader of the House in President Chandrika Kumaranatunge’s Cabinet.

Wickremanayake's son Vidura Wickremanayake is a member of the parliament.