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Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (Sinhalese: සිරිමා රත්වත්තේ ඩයස් බණ්ඩාරනායක, Tamil: சிறிமா ரத்வத்தே டயஸ் பண்டாரநாயக்கே; 17 April 1916 – 10 October 2000), commonly known as Sirimavo Bandaranaike (the suffix "vo" denotes respect), was a Sri Lankan stateswoman who was the modern world's first female head of government. She served as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka three times, 1960–65, 1970–77 and 1994 - 2000, and was a long-time leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
|Prime Minister of Sri Lanka|
14 November 1994 – 10 August 2000
|Preceded by||Chandrika Kumaratunga|
|Succeeded by||Ratnasiri Wickremanayake|
22 May 1972 – 23 July 1977
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||J. R. Jayewardene|
|Prime Minister of Ceylon|
29 May 1970 – 22 May 1972
|Governor General||William Gopallawa|
|Preceded by||Dudley Senanayake|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
21 July 1960 – 25 March 1965
|Governor General||Oliver Goonetilleke
|Preceded by||Dudley Senanayake|
|Succeeded by||Dudley Senanayake|
|Leader of the Opposition|
9 March 1989 – 24 June 1994
|Prime Minister||Dingiri Banda Wijetunga
|Preceded by||Anura Bandaranaike|
|Succeeded by||Gamini Dissanayake|
5 April 1965 – 25 March 1970
|Prime Minister||Dudley Senanayake|
|Preceded by||Dudley Senanayake|
|Succeeded by||J. R. Jayewardene|
|Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party|
|Preceded by||C. P. de Silva|
|Succeeded by||Chandrika Kumaratunga|
|Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
5 April 1965 – 1980
|Preceded by||James Obeysekera|
|Succeeded by||Lakshman Jayakody|
17 April 1916|
Ratnapura, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
|Died||10 October 2000 (aged 84)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
|Political party||Sri Lanka Freedom Party|
|Spouse(s)||Solomon Bandaranaike (1899–1959)|
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was born Sirima Ratwatte in Kandy to the Ratwatte family, which was a old Radala family hailing from the Kingdom of Kandy. Her ancestors were courtiers in the courts of Sinhalese monarchs, and one, Ratwatte, Dissawa of Matale was a signatory of to the Kandyan Convention. Her father was Barnes Ratwatte Dissawa, Dissawa of Sabaragamuwa and later member of the State Council and the Senate of Ceylon. Her mother was Rosalind Mahawelatenne Kumarihamy, daughter of Mahawalatenne Rate Mahatmaya of Balangoda. Sirima was the eldest in a family six children, which included four brothers, Barnes Ratwatte II, Dr Seevali Ratwatte, Dr Mackie Ratwatte and Clifford Ratwatte, and one sister Patsy Ratwatte who married Colonel Edward James Divitotawela.
Sirima Ratwatte was sent to Colombo for her education at St Bridget's Convent, she remained a practicing Buddhist for her entire life. After completing schooling, she became involved in social work, as she distributed food and medicines, organised clinics and developed village industries.
In 1940, Sirima Ratwatte married Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, a Oxford educated lawyer turned politician, who was at the time Minister of Local Administration in the State Council of Ceylon. Their wedding was dubbed "the wedding of the century", but caused a sensation within the Ratwatte family, as Bandaranaike was not considered to be an "acceptable" family. Sirima's marriage, however, was noted to have helped break down social barriers in Sri Lanka over the years.
Sirima was noted to have persuaded her husband to resign from government, resign from the United National Party, and establish the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951. She campaigned for her husband during the 1952 parliamentary election, as her husband campaigned across the country. While the SLFP only won 9 seats during that election, Bandaranaike won his seat in Parliament.
Sirima became the SLFP's leader, after her husband was assassinated by a Buddhist monk who opposed his advocacy of Western medicine over traditional cures. She became leader after desperate pleas by the SLFP to assume the party's leadership.
During this time Sirimavo was brought forward as legitimate successor to her husband's party leadership and she entered politics. In 1960 M. P. de Zoysa Jnr stepped down from his seat in the Senate (appointed upper house of Parliament) paving the way for Sirimavo to be appointed as a member of the Senate from the SLFP. She led her party to win the July 1960 elections on the pledge to continue her husband's policies, notably the Sinhala Only Act, and to proceed with repatriation of the estate Tamils to India. On 21 July 1960, as a Senator she became prime minister, thus becoming the first female prime minister in the world.
During the campaign in the July 1960 elections, Bandaranaike toured the country and made emotional speeches, frequently bursting into tears as she pledged herself to continue her late husband's policies. That earned her the title "The Weeping Widow".
Bandaranaike was a socialist who continued her husband's policies of nationalizing key sectors of the economy, such as banking and insurance, and also nationalizing all schools then owned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1961. Bandaranaike was on a roller-coaster ride from the moment she took office. Within a year of her 1960 election victory she declared a "state of emergency". This followed a civil disobedience campaign by part of the country's minority Tamil population who were outraged by her decision to drop English as an official language and her order to conduct all government business in Sinhala, the language of the majority Sinhalese. This they considered a highly discriminatory act and an attempt to deny Tamils access to all official posts and the law. This led to an increase in Tamil militancy which escalated under succeeding administrations.
Further problems arose with the state takeover of foreign businesses, particularly petroleum companies, which upset the United States and Britain; they ended aid to Sri Lanka. As a result, Bandaranaike moved her country closer to China and the Soviet Union and championed a policy of nonalignment. At home, she crushed an attempted military coup by Christian officers in 1962 and appointed her uncle William Gopallawa Governor-General of Ceylon. In 1964, she entered into a historic coalition with the Marxist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). At the end of 1964, she lost a vote of confidence. The SLFP coalition was defeated in the 1965 elections, ending her first term as Prime Minister.
Pact with IndiaEdit
Under the terms of the 1964 agreement with India, 600,000 Indian Tamils were to be repatriated, while 375,000 were to be granted Sri Lankan citizenship. By 31 October 1981, when the two countries were to have settled this issue, India had taken more than 300,000 persons as repatriates. Sri Lanka had granted citizenship to over 185,000 plus over 62,000 post-1964 offspring. Over 207,000 Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka before 1964, plus nearly 45,000 offspring, were granted Indian citizenship but still awaited repatriation. In the wake of the July 1983 anti-Tamil violence, some in this latter group are being processed for repatriation or have emigrated to India.
With the lapse of the 1964 agreement India declined to consider any more applications for citizenship. The government of Sri Lanka believes that the 1964 pact remains in force until the citizenship cases and permanent residence of all Indian Tamils covered by the pact have been settled. The All-Party Conference has agreed that the government should grant Sri Lankan citizenship to stateless Indian Tamils who did not apply for Indian citizenship and were not granted Sri Lankan citizenship under the 1964 agreement.
She regained power after the United Front coalition (SLFP, LSSP, and the Communists) won the 1970 elections with a large majority. But after just 16 months in power, the government was almost toppled by the 1971 JVP Insurrection of left-wing youths. Bandaranaike had disbanded the government's intelligence service, suspecting that it was loyal to the opposition United National Party (UNP). Thus there was no warning of the uprising, and Sri Lanka's small army was caught off guard. The army mobilized its reserves and held the capital, but some outlying areas were occupied by the insurgents. The government was saved by military aid from both India and Pakistan, thanks to Bandaranaike's skillful foreign policy. In those tough political years, she turned herself into a formidable leader. "She was the only man in her cabinet", one of her officials commented during the height of the insurgency.
Her second term saw a new constitution introduced in 1972, replacing the Soulbury constitution. Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka and became a republic. The 1973 oil crisis had a traumatic effect on the Sri Lankan economy: the government had no access to Western aid and her socialist policies stifled economic activity. Rationing had to be imposed. Bandaranaike became more and more intolerant of criticism and forced the shut-down of the Independent newspaper group, whose publications were her fiercest critics. Earlier she had nationalized the country's largest newspaper, Lake House, which has remained the government's official mouthpiece. Bandaranaike enjoyed continued success in foreign affairs. She was chosen chairwoman of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1976, and hosted the Movement's conference, attended by numerous heads of state. Despite her high international standing, she was losing Sri Lankan support rapidly amid allegations of corruption and against the background of a rapidly declining economy.
Under the Soulbury constitution, election would have been held in 1975. However, the government had become very unpopular. Bandaranaike used a clause of the 1972 constitution to delay elections until 1977. This did not help and in the 1977 elections the United Front was routed, winning only 8 seats.
Bandaranaike held her own seat in 1977, but in 1980, she was charged with abuse of power, expelled from parliament, and banned from office for seven years. Her rights were restored in 1986, and she ran for the post of President in 1988, but was narrowly defeated.
In 1994, the SLFP-led coalition won the general elections. Chandrika then outmanoeuvred her mother to become prime minister; and then was elected President the same year. Bandaranaike became prime minister again, but constitutional changes in the years since her last term meant the office has been transformed into a mostly ceremonial post. Despite the office's lack of powers, Bandaranaike was noted to have wielded great influence among her party's faithful supporters. She remained in office until August 2000.
Bandaranaike was the widow of Ceylon's 4th Prime Minister, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. She had four children: Chandrika, Sri Lanka's fourth President, Anura, former speaker and cabinet minister, and Senethra, who was not involved in politics, and worked in philanthropic endeavours.
It was noted by the BBC in 2000 that Bandaranaike and Chandrika did not get along, largely due to leadership issues. Chandrika was known to be keen on Bandaranaike leaving, in order to make way for a younger face.
- Rettie, John (10 October 2000). "Sirima Bandaranaike". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
- SIVALI VIDYALAYA
- "Sirimavo Bandaranaike". The Daily Telegraph. 11 October 2000. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
- Jeyaraj, D. B. S. ""Stateswoman" Sirimavo made history as the world's first woman prime minister". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
- "1960: Ceylon chooses world's first woman PM". BBC News On This Day. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- "Sirimavo Bandaranaike: First woman premier". BBC News. 10 October 2000. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
- "Ceylon: Sinhala Without Tears" (subscription required for full story). Time Magazine. 5 May 1961. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
- "Sirimavo Bandaranaike; World's First Female Prime Minister". Los Angeles Times. 12 October 2000. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- Ganguly, Dilip (10 August 2000). "World's First Woman Prime Minister Resigns". ABC News. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- "Veteran Sri Lankan PM resigns". BBC News. 10 August 2000. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- Dugger, Celia W. (11 October 2000). "Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka Dies at 84; First Woman Premier". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
- "Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike (prime minister of Sri Lanka)". BRITANNICA-Online.
- The Ratwatte Ancestry
- The Bandaranaike Ancestry
- Golden memories of a political prodigy
- Website of the Parliament of Sri Lanka
- New York Times: Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka Dies at 84; First Woman Premier
- Sirimavo Bandaranaike
- The resolute woman who put Sri Lanka firmly on the political world map
|Prime Minister of Ceylon
|Prime Minister of Ceylon
|New office||Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
|Prime Minister of Sri Lanka