Maithripala Sirisena

From TobaccoUnmasked


Maithripala Sirisena, born in 1951, is a politician in Sri Lanka. He had his formal education at Laksha Uyana School, and Topawawa Maha Vidyalaya. He completed a diploma in Agriculture at the School of Agriculture, Sri Lanka and a diploma in Political Science at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, Russia. He was elected to the parliament in 1989 as one of Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s candidates from Polonnaruwa District, and subsequently held several ministerial portfolios as a Minister until 2014. He served as the 7th Executive President of Sri Lanka from January 2015 to November 2019.[1]

Image 1: Maithripala Sirisena[2]

Sirisena was born in to a farming family. His father Pallewatte Gamaralalage Albert Sirisena was a World War II veteran. His mother, Yapa Appuhamilage Dona Nandawathi, was a school teacher.[3] Two of his brothers received media spotlight in recent years; Dudley Sirisena, the Chairman of Araliya Group of Companies and P. G. Kumarasinghe, a Sri Lankan business executive and former Group Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom.[4][5] He is married to Jayanthi Pushpa Kumari and they have two daughters, Chathurika Sirisena, Dharani Sirisena, and a son, Daham Sirisena.[1][6]

Political/ Government Positions held[1][7]

  • Member of the parliament - 1989 to 2014 and 2020 to present
  • 7th Executive President in Sri Lanka - 2015 to 2019
  • Cabinet Minister for Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine - 2010 to 2014
  • Cabinet Minister for Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services Development – 2007 to 2010
  • Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) – 2015 to present
  • General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party - 2001 to 2014
  • Minister for Mahaweli Development - 1997
  • Deputy Minister for Irrigation - 1994

Tobacco Related Activities

Negative Involvements in relation to Tobacco Control

Maithri Sewana

In January 2016 Maithripala Sirisena ceremoniously opened Maithri Sewana, a pilgrim’s rest house built in Polonnaruwa, his electorate district. The evidence suggested that it is built through a sponsorship by Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC), the British American Tobacco (BAT) subsidiary, which has the monopoly of cigarette trade in Sri Lanka. Please visit our page Maithri Sewana for more details.

Image 2: Dinesh Dharmadasa, Director/ CTC, standing next to the President Maithripala Sirisena at the opening ceremony of Maithri Sewana[8]

Appointing Romesh De Silva as the Head of the Law Commission

In March 2015, Maithripala Sirisena appointed Romesh De Silva as the Chairman of The Law Commission of Sri Lanka. Romesh De Silva represented the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) in the court cases against the government of Sri Lanka in relation to pictorial health warning issue. Please visit our page Romesh De Silva for more details.

Image 3: Romesh De Silva obtaining his appointment as the Chairman of the Law Commission from the then President Maithripala Sirisena in the presence of the then Minister of Justice, Wijedasa Rajapaksha.[9]

Promoting the Image of a Ceylon Tobacco Director

In November 2015, Maithripala Sirisena participated in the book launching ceremony of the then Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC)’s director Dinesh Weerakkody.[10]

In September 2017, media reported a ceremonial distribution of school material among children sponsored by Dinesh Weerakkody Foundation in the presence of President Sirisena.[11]

Image 4: President Maithripala Sirisena distributing school material to children sponsored by Dinesh Weerakkody Foundation.[11]

Positive involvements in relation to Tobacco Control

Implemented 80% of Pictorial Health Warnings on Cigarette Packs

In 2012, as the Minister of Health, Maithripala Sirisena issued a special gazette notification to mandate pictorial health warnings (PHWs) covering 80% of the front and back of the cigarette packs. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) used various tactics to delay and stop its implementation, including Implementing Pictorial Health Warnings on Cigarette Packs: Bribery Allegations. His involvement in PHWs and the industry response against it became widely discussed topics in the succeeding Presidential Election, of which he became a candidate, and ended up winning the election. When he got elected as the 7th Executive President of Sri Lanka in 2015, the 80% PHWs got implemented through a parliamentary approved amendment of the law, in the first month of his tenure.

For more details, please visit the ‘’TobaccoUnmasked’’ pages Implementing Pictorial Health Warnings on Cigarette Packs: Bribery Allegations and Ceylon Tobacco Legally Challenging Pictorial Health Warnings in Cigarette Packs.

Increased tobacco tax

During his Presidency, in September 2016, measures were taken to impose 15% of Value Added Tax (VAT) on cigarettes and increase production tax by Rs.5 per cigarette. This was the highest tax increase on cigarettes in the recent past resulting in Sri Lanka topping the list of countries in which the cigarettes are most unaffordable in the South East Asian Region.[12]

Advocacy against tobacco industry tactics

When Maithripala Sirisena was President of Sri Lanka, he publicly exposed tobacco industry tactics in several occasions. Some examples are mentioned below:

  • In November 2016 at the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) held in Noida, India, Maithripala Sirisena encouraged other governments not to be deterred by the interference from the tobacco industry. He highlighted several examples of the tobacco industry trying to undermine efforts of tobacco control in Sri Lanka, including litigation, interference in policy interventions by influencing policymakers and involvement of the mass media to interfere with the public opinion.[13][14]
  • In 2013, at a school ceremony, Maithripala Sirisena stated that even though the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) reports that they contributed tax revenue of Rs. 26 billion in the previous year to the government, this money was not paid by the CTC, but by the poor smokers who are enticed and deceived by the industry to smoke cigarettes. He emphasised the fact that the money government spends to treat tobacco victims who are in hospitals is more than ten times of tobacco tax paid by the industry.[15]

Received Awards for Tobacco Control

In 2014 and 2017, Maithripala Sirisena received the World No Tobacco Day Award, bestowed by the World Health Organization (WHO).[16] He also received the Award for Excellence in Public Health from the World Health Organization in 2016 for his services in controlling Tobacco and illicit drugs.[17]

Plan to ban tobacco cultivation

In 2016, then President Maithripala Sirisena announced that the government aimed to ban the tobacco cultivation in Sri Lanka by the year 2020. However, the ban was not gazetted nor implemented during his period of Presidency.[18] Unfortunately, this was never implemented. Please read our pages All Ceylon Cigarette Tobacco Barn Owners' Association and Attempts of Ceylon Tobacco to Sustain Tobacco Cultivation in Sri Lanka for more details.

TobaccoUnmasked Resources

Other TobaccoUnmasked pages relevant to this page:

The local language translations



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The famous people. Maithripala Sirisena, Undated, Accessed June 2020
  2. Nile International. Sri Lanka's president to reconvene parliament on November 5, says, Undated, Accessed July 2020
  3. Sandun A Jayasekara. Who is this Sirisena?, Dailymirror, 10th January 2015, Accessed March 2021
  4. Udeshi Amarasinghe. BE STRONG, Business Today, January 2017, Accessed March 2021
  5. economynext. Ex-President Sirisena’s brother steps down as Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom, 7th January 2020, Accessed March 2021
  6. FAMOUS BIRTHDAYS. Maithripala Sirisena, undated, Accessed March 2021
  7. Parliament of Sri Lanka. Hon. Maithreepala Sirisena, M.P., Undated, Accessed August 2020
  8. Daily news. President opens ‘Maithri Sevana’ Holiday Resort, 5th January 2016, Accessed July 2020
  9. OMLANKA. Veteran lawyer Romesh Chairman of Law Commission, 26th March 2015, Accessed January 2021
  10. Mirror Business. The Great November Revolution, 23rd November 2015, Accessed February 2021
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sunday Observer. “Education is Key for sustainable development”, 9th July 2017, Accessed February 2021
  12. T. Fernando. Permission granted for VAT, production tax increases on cigarettes, 30 September 2016, Accessed June 2020
  13. The Island. ‘Tobacco and alcohol control at top of my national agenda’, 7th November 2016, Accessed June 2020
  14. World Health Organization. President of Sri Lanka delivers powerful address at Global Anti-Tobacco Conference, 2020, Accessed June 2020
  15. M,Peiris. Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena blasts tobacco industry for attempting to bribe, 26th September 2013, Accessed June 2020
  16. DailyFT. Sri Lanka receives World No Tobacco Day Award for third time, 24th December 2017, Accessed July 2020
  17. President awarded WHO Award for Excellence in Public Health - 2016, 6th September 2016, Accessed July 2020
  18. Asian Mirror. Sri Lanka To Ban Tobacco Cultivation By 2020, 4th January 2016, Accessed July 2020