Sirimavo Bandaranaike

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Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
In office
14 November 1994 – 10 August 2000
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Preceded by Chandrika Kumaratunga
Succeeded by Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
In office
22 May 1972 – 23 July 1977
President William Gopallawa
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Junius Jayewardene
Prime Minister of Ceylon
In office
29 May 1970 – 22 May 1972
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General William Gopallawa
Preceded by Dudley Senanayake
Succeeded by Position abolished
In office
21 July 1960 – 27 March 1965
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Oliver Goonetilleke
William Gopallawa
Preceded by Dudley Senanayake
Succeeded by Dudley Senanayake
Personal details
Born 17 April 1916(1916-04-17)
British Ceylon
Died 10 October 2000(2000-10-10) (aged 84)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Political party Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Spouse(s) Solomon Bandaranaike (1940–1959)
Religion Buddhism

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike[1] (17 April 1916 – 10 October 2000) was a Sri Lankan politician. She served as prime minister three times and was the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. She was the first female to be elected head of government in the world.[2] Bandaranaike was the widow of a previous prime minister, Solomon Bandaranaike, who was murdered in 1959. Her policies were based in socialism and similar to her husband's. All three of their children later served in the Sri Lankan government.[3][4]

She spent 40 years in political office. She resigned on 10 August 2000. Exactly two months later she died, aged 84, of a heart attack.[2]

Family life[change | change source]

Sirimavo Bandaranaike was born on 17 April 1916, as Sirimavo Ratwatte. Her family was part of the aristocracy. She was a Buddhist, but went to school at a convent in Colombo, where she was taught by Roman Catholic nuns. In 1940, she married Solomon Bandaranaike, who was a member of parliament at the time. He became prime minister in 1956 as the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), eight years after Sri Lanka's became independent from Britain.[2] Sirimavo and Solomon had three children, Chandrika, Sunethra and Anura.

Political career[change | change source]

Sirimavo did not form a career in politics until her husband was shot dead on 26 September 1959.[2] She was named successor to her husband's leadership of the party. She led that party to win elections in July 1960, promising to continue her husband's policies. Bandaranaike became Prime Minister on 21 July 1960. She was the first female prime minister in the world, and the first woman to be elected head of government.[2][5]

Bandaranaike was a socialist. She continued her husband's policies of nationalising major sectors of the economy. She also brought all schools that were owned by the Roman Catholic Church under the government's control.[6] The most famous of her early policies was the Sinhala Only Act, also started by her husband but never finished. This included a plan to repatriate Tamil residents to India (get them Indian citizenship and deport them). It also made Sinhala the state's only official language by removing English. This was seen as discriminatory and was the beginning of human rights protests and Tamil militancy.

The government's takeover of foreign businesses, particularly petroleum companies, upset Britain and the United States, who both ended aid to Sri Lanka. As a result, Bandaranaike made a closer relationship with China and the Soviet Union. In 1962, Christian officers of the military made an unsuccessful attempt at a coup d'état. Bandaranaike lost a vote of confidence in 1964, and her party was defeated in the resulting elections in 1965.[3] Before she was replaced, Bandaranaike's government signed an agreement with India over the status of about one million Tamils: 600,000 were to be granted Indian citizenship and repatriated, and 375,000 were to be granted Sri Lankan citizenship.

Bandaranaike became prime minister again in the 1970 elections. She led a coalition of three parties. Just over a year later, another group tried a coup d'état and created a brief insurgency. The government was saved by military aid from India and Pakistan.

A new constitution was introduced in 1972. The monarchy was abolished, and the Commonwealth realm known as Ceylon was replaced by the modern republic of Sri Lanka. The President of Sri Lanka replaced Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

During her second term, Bandaranaike became more and more intolerant of criticism. She forced critical media outlets to shut down. She also nationalised the country's largest newspaper, Lake House. Bandaranaike was chosen chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1976. Despite success in foreign affairs, she was losing popular support in Sri Lanka very quickly. Her government was accused of corruption while the economy was quickly declining. Elections were scheduled to be held in 1975, but Bandaranaike used a clause of the new constitution to delay them indefinitely. The elections took place in 1977, and her party was defeated severely. In 1980, Bandaranaike was charged with abusing her power for delaying the elections. She was forced out of her seat in parliament and banned from public office for seven years.

Bandaranaike stayed as leader of the SLFP despite losing every general election in the next ten years. Her party led a coalition (the People's Alliance) to win the general elections in 1994. Bandaranaike's daughter, Chandrika, became prime minister, and was then elected president the same year.[7] Bandaranaike became prime minister again, but the constitution had changed since her last term. As prime minister she was now subordinate to her daughter, the President. She stayed in office until a few months before her death, but had little real power. She resigned on 10 August 2000. Exactly two months later she died, aged 84, of a heart attack.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. Sinhala: සිරිමාවෝ රත්වත්තේ ඩයස් බණ්ඩාරනායක. Tamil: சிறிமாவோ ரத்வத்த டயஸ் பண்டாரநாயக்க.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "1960: Ceylon chooses world's first woman PM". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/20/newsid_2784000/2784527.stm. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Sirimavo Bandaranaike: First woman premier". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 10 October 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/964914.stm. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  4. "Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike (prime minister of Sri Lanka)". BRITANNICA-Online. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9012125/Sirimavo-RD-Bandaranaike.
  5. Webley, Kayla (15 November 2010). "Brief History: Female Heads of Government". Time. Time Inc.. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2029470,00.html.
  6. Sinhala Without Tears, TIME Magazine, May 5, 1961
  7. Dugger, Celia. "Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka Dies at 84; First Woman Premier". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/11/world/sirimavo-bandaranaike-of-sri-lanka-dies-at-84-first-woman-premier.html. Retrieved 16 October 2012.

Other websites[change | change source]

Political offices
Preceded by
Dudley Senanayake
Prime Minister of Ceylon
1960–1965
Succeeded by
Dudley Senanayake
Prime Minister of Ceylon
1970–1972
Position abolished
New office Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
1972–1977
Succeeded by
Junius Richard Jayewardene
Preceded by
Chandrika Kumaratunga
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
1994–2000
Succeeded by
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake