Bandaranaike, Sirimavo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Bandaranaike, Sirimavo

Sirimavo Bandaranaike (sērēmä´vō bändränī´kē), 1916–2000, Sri Lankan political leader, b. Sirimavo Ratwatte. She and her husband, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, converted to Buddhism from Christianity before he became prime minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1956. After his assassination (1959), she became the first woman in the world to serve as a nation's prime minister. She led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which her husband had founded, and headed two coalition governments (1960–65, 1970–77). As prime minister, she emphasized Buddhist and Sinhalese nationalist policies and promoted a new constitution (1972) that proclaimed a republic and changed the country's name to Sri Lanka. The coalition broke up in 1975, and her government was defeated in 1977. She was expelled from parliament in 1980 and stripped (1980–82) of her civil rights because of abuses as prime minister. She reentered politics in the late 1980s and was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1988. In 1994 her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, was elected president, and appointed Bandaranaike prime minister, a post she held until she resigned because of ill health in 2000.

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