Born on June 20, 1949, in Palatuwa in the Matara District, to parents of nine children, Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the fifth of nine siblings.
He was brought up in Weerakatiya in the southern rural district of Hambantota and obtained his primary and secondary education at Ananda College Colombo.
Hailing from a well-known political family in Sri Lanka, the need to serve one’s country was a belief that was instilled into all the Rajapaksa children at an early age. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s father, D.A. Rajapaksa, was not only a prominent politician in Sri Lanka but also an independence agitator, a Member of Parliament, and served as the Deputy Speaker and Cabinet Minister of Agriculture and Land under Wijeyananda Dahanayake’s government. This tradition of public service and interest in politics ran in the family as several of the Rajapaksa children followed in their father’s footsteps. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was first elected to Parliament as a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the age of 24 in 1970. He gradually rose through the party ranks to become the Leader of the Opposition in 2001, Prime Minister in 2004 and the President of Sri Lanka in 2005. Two of his other elder brothers, Chamal Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa, also followed a political path having served as Members of Parliament.
After completing his primary and secondary education at Ananda College, Gotabaya Rajapaksa completed his Master’s Degree in Defence Studies at the University of Madras in 1983. In addition, Mr. Rajapaksa also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology at the University of Colombo in 1992, and was awarded an Honours Doctor of Letters by the University of Colombo in 2009.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s public service started at an early age with the decision to join the military. He joined the Sri Lanka Army as a Commissioned Officer in 1971 and subsequently held positions of Deputy Commandant of the Kotalawala Defence University and the Commanding Officer of the Gajaba Regiment. Mr. Rajapaksa’s time in the military included battlefront experience in some of the most hard-fought battles in the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist group. He participated in “Operation Liberation,” the offensive mounted to liberate Vadamarachchi from the LTTE in 1987, and also commanded the same battalion in “Operation Strike Hard” and “Operation Thrividha Balaya” in 1990. As a reward of gallantry and excellence in combat, Mr. Rajapaksa was awarded the Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP) and Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) in 1991.
In 1998, Mr. Rajapaksa and his family migrated to the United States of America. He worked as a Systems Administrator at Loyola Law School, California, where he was able to gain more experience in the operation of computer systems, particularly in the area of electronic communications. That experience further cemented his desire to work towards enhancing national security in Sri Lanka.
In 2005, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was appointed the Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence where he played a key role in ending the three-decade-long terrorist war through an expertly-conceived and skillfully-coordinated military strategy. He then turned his focus to swiftly restoring normalcy to the country whilst taking steps to further consolidate national security. This included a series of initiatives, including capacity building within state agencies and departments under the Ministry of Defence such as the Department of Immigration & Emigration, the Registration of Persons Department, and the Coast Guard. He oversaw the military involvement in demining, reconstruction and resettlement in the North and East, and in the rehabilitation and reintegration to society of 12,000 former LTTE cadres. Mr Rajapaksa was also instrumental in uplifting the General Sir John Kothalawala Defence Academy to a fully-fledged university. His leadership and strong, principled diplomacy helped end the war and protect the country from terrorism that had been a major impediment to Sri Lanka’s further development for decades.
In 2010, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official responsibilities were expanded to include both Defence and Urban Development. Within a short span of four years, he was able to transform Sri Lanka’s cities and improve the quality of life for many citizens by fostering a sustainable and attractive urban environment.
Gotabaya Rajapaks is currently the Chairman of the Viyathmaga organisation whose primary objective is to rebuild a stronger economy in Sri Lanka within an equal and more democratic society in a more secure nation.Mr. Rajapaksa and his wife, Ioma, are parents to their son Manoj Rajapaksa.