The 108th birth anniversary of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world’s first woman prime minister, falls on 17 April.

Floral tributes will be paid to her statue at the BMICH in Colombo by invitees led by her daughter, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

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Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (17 April 1916 – 10 October 2000), commonly known as Sirimavo Bandaranaike was a Sri Lankan politician. She was the world's first female prime minister when she became Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (then the Dominion of Ceylon) in 1960.

She chaired the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) from 1960 to 1994 and served three terms as prime minister, two times as the chief executive, from 1960 to 1965 and from 1970 to 1977, and once again in a presidential system from 1994 to 2000, governing under the presidency of her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Born into a Sinhalese Kandyan aristocratic family, Bandaranaike was educated in Catholic, English-medium schools, but remained a Buddhist and spoke Sinhala as well as English.

On graduating from secondary school, she worked for various social programmes before marrying and raising a family.

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Wedding invitation - 1940


Playing hostess to her husband S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who founded the socialist SLFP in 1951 and became prime minister in 1956, she gained his trust as an informal advisor.

Her social work focused on improving the lives of women and girls in rural areas of Sri Lanka.

Following her husband's assassination in 1959, Bandaranaike was soon persuaded by the party leadership during a brief time in opposition to enter politics herself and succeed her husband as chairwoman; she returned her party to the government and defeated prime minister Dudley Senanayake's UNP in the July 1960 election.

She was then unseated by Senanayake in the 1965 election and became Leader of the Opposition, before winning a large majority in 1970 due to a cleverly structured election alliance with rival Marxist parties.

Bandaranaike attempted to reform the former Dominion of Ceylon into a socialist republic by nationalising organisations in the banking, education, industry, media and trade sectors.

Changing the administrative language from English to Sinhala and routinely campaigning on Sinhalese nationalist and anti-Tamil policies, which was political mainstream, she exacerbated discontent among the native Tamil population, and with the estate Tamils, who had become stateless under the Citizenship Act of 1948.

During Bandaranaike's first two terms as prime minister, the country was plagued by high inflation and taxes, a dependence on food imports to feed the populace, high unemployment, and polarisation between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations because of her Sinhalese nationalist policies.

Surviving an attempted coup d'état in 1962, as well as a 1971 insurrection of radical youths, in 1972 she oversaw the drafting of a new constitution and the formation of the Sri Lankan republic, separating it from the British Empire and also extending the parliamentary period until 1977.

In 1975, Bandaranaike created what would eventually become the Sri Lankan Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, also appointing the first woman to serve in the Sri Lankan Cabinet aside from herself.

Bandaranaike's tenure was marked by inadequate economic development at the national level.

She played a large role abroad as a negotiator and a leader among the Non-Aligned Nations.

Losing against J.R. Jayewardene in a colossal landslide in the 1977 election and as the UNP government greatly reduced democratic rights, Bandaranaike was stripped of her civil rights in 1980 for claimed abuses of power during her tenure and barred from government for seven years, making her ineligible for the 1982 presidential election in the new presidential system.

The new government initially improved the domestic economy, but failed to address social issues, and led the country into a protracted civil war against Tamil militants, which escalated in brutality over the years, especially when the Indian Peace Keeping Force was allowed to intervene.

When she was allowed to return as a public figure in 1986, Bandaranaike opposed the Indian intervention, believing it violated Sri Lankan sovereignty.

Failing to win the office of President against new UNP leader Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1988, she restored her party, which had by now developed more centrist policies and advocated for a reconciliatory approach towards Tamils in the civil war, as a relevant force in the first parliamentary election after 12 years and served a second time as Leader of the Opposition from 1989 to 1994.

When her daughter, who succeeded her as party leader, won the 1994 presidential election, Bandaranaike was appointed to her third term as prime minister and served until her retirement in 2000, two months prior to her death.

-With inputs from Wikipedia

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