Colombo: Sri Lanka’s former foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera passed away at a private hospital here due to COVID-19 related complications. Samaraweera, 65, contracted the virus earlier this month and was admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) of the Lanka Hospital.
Samaraweera, who was Sri Lanka’s foreign minister twice between 2005 and 2007 and from 2015-2017, was the second highest ranking Sri Lankan politician to succumb to coronavirus after the death of former parliamentary speaker WJM Lokubandara.
A proponent of liberal democratic politics, Samaraweera held many senior Cabinet positions since 1994, including the ministry of finance. He stepped down from politics last year.
Samaraweera hailed from the southern Matara district where he began his political career as a chief organizer for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
Having built his political career in the SLFP, mainly under Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Samaraweera defected to the rival United National Party (UNP) in 2010, after he fell out with Rajapaksa.
He remained a bold voice over the last few years, critical of the Rajapaksa administration’s domestic and foreign policy. He stood out, challenging the Buddhist clergy who wield great influence in politics, and consistently speaking for minority rights that are under frequent attack under the Rajapaksa administration.