She is the First Lady of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Shiranthi Rajapaksa (nee Wickramasinghe) the beloved wife of the sixth Executive President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Born in Pin-araawa Badulla to late Commodore E. P. Wickramasinghe and Mrs. Violet Wickramasinghe, Shiranthi spent much of her formative years in the hill country. As the only daughter, she was doted on by her parents, and two brothers, and grew up in a contended family atmosphere.
Having schooled at Holy Family Convent (HFC), Bambalapitiya, she opted to follow a Diploma in Child Psychology and Pre-school Education, also at HFC. At school, she excelled both academically and non-academically, having been an active netball, hockey and tennis player who won numerous awards for her sporting prowess.
She entered the limelight when she was crowned ‘Miss Sri Lanka 1978. Thereafter she had the distinction of being one of the contestants at the Miss Universe pageant held in Athens. She also participated in Miss World 1973, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London on November 23, 1973.
Following is a summary of a recent Interview she had with a local week end news paper.
Q: You have first entered the limelight as Miss Sri Lanka?
A: Yes, It was my father’s decision, and then both my father and mother were beside me throughout the pageant.
Q: What was the feedback you received after crowned as Miss Sri Lanka?
A: I’ve got good reputation, in fact some even invite me to the Silver Screen. But my father rejected all those invitations. It was his law that ruled our home, and I was doted on by my parents and by my brothers.
Q: How did you get to know the person ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’?
A: I knew him as the youngest Member of Parliament in Sri Lanka, as an answer to a General knowledge question that’s all. Who thought he’ll become my husband?
Q: How did it happen?
A: It was a proposal, Veteran Female vocalist Seetha Nanayakkara was asked to find a suitable girl for Mahinda, by his parents. She asked another veteran vocalist Kokoladevi Weeratunga to visit our parents to do the initial search and the proposal. Our horoscopes were matched and he came with his parents to see me, that’s how it happened.
Q: Was he the first who came to see you?
A: No, no there were several proposals, but none matched with my horoscope as mine’s a difficult one to match according astrologers.
Q: Why did you like Mahinda?
A: I think it may be love at first sight, he looks a decent gentleman and most importantly our horoscopes were a perfect match.
Q: Why did you prefer a politician?
A: Not at all, my father seeks a professional for me, he through ally opposed to give my hands to a politician. So he has chosen Mahinda the Lawyer and said Mahinda is the perfect match for me as both of us will reach the top. May be he has consulted the astrologers before taking this decision. It was Daniel Gamaariya and Kodippili Hettiarchchige Mathees who have read my horoscope and did the predictions. We married in 1983.
Q: How is he as a husband?
A: Quite understanding, and steady character who always encourage me. And most importantly he always believes in me which I never will break.
Q: Do you have a interest in politics?
A: Not at all, that’s the main reason for our happy family life. I always wanted to give maximum education for my three children and dedicated my life to achieve it. I want them to become professionals, as my father wished for his children.
Q: How did you plan their education?
A: We always keep them engage in some sort of activities, sports, social work, and studies etc. that avoid them from aberration. We never missed an occasion or event they participate. As the President Mahinda went to watch rugger matches they played. And he is the one who always signed the school progress reports of our children. I always interacted with their teachers and other parents and ensure giving them an ordinary family life apart from being the children of the president.
Q: why all of them went to St.Thomas College Mt.Lavinia?
A: Because my father and brothers all went to that school. And it is the main reason for the deep bond between them as brothers.
Q: How they are doing now?
A: My mother said that Namal will become a lawyer someday, but I never thought he will become a politician. I am quite happy Yoshitha joined Navy as his Grandfather. Rohitha is in England studying medicine. And also become an astronaut is his childhood ambition for which he studying separately.
Q: You are the founder of Carlton Pre-schools of Sri Lanka?
A: I think education is particularly important for women because they play a more central role in nurturing children and it is the children who represent the future of any country.
Q: And ‘Siriliya Saviya’ Foundation?
It is to empower rural women and war widows who are economically disadvantaged. I love to help people in any way I could, especially the poor and children irrespective of caste or creed.I think that may be a result of both my up-bringing and my husband. From a very young age, my parents have encouraged me to lend a helping hand wherever possible.
I have another ambition of construct a Cancer Hospital in North without spending state money. I feel that if every one of us works to make a difference in whatever small way, then Sri Lanka certainly has a bright future.
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