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Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga    

Former President of Democratic Socialist Republic Sri Lanka

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga served as the first woman president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka during from 1994 to 2005. Born into one of Sri Lanka's most distinguished families, her father, SWRD Bandaranaike, was a senior Minister of the Government and later became the Prime Minister, while her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became the world's first woman Prime Minister in 1961.

Renowned for her energy and intellect, President Kumaratunga inherited the liberal political philosophy of her father. A political activist from her early youth, she established grass root contacts far and wide throughout the country. Greatly influenced by the radical student movement of the 1960s, she has always been deeply committed to the welfare of the deprived, the underprivileged and the disadvantaged. Her unshakable commitment to the imperatives of a plural society is the other consistent strategy in her approach to politics. During her 1994 election campaign and while in power, President Kumaratunga moved rapidly to accelerate the process of economic liberalization in Sri Lanka and worked to find a solution to the long and bloody war with the Tamils.

Educated at the University of Paris, she graduated with a degree in Political Science, and obtained a diploma in Group Leadership. While studying for a PhD in Development Economics, she was called on to serve her country, where her mother's government had launched a wide ranging program of reform and development.

In her foray into electoral politics, President Kumaratunga was elected to the Western Provincial Council with an unprecedented majority, and was appointed the Chief Minister of the Province, the country's largest. As a member of the People's Alliance party, she was elected to Parliament by an overwhelming majority, and was appointed Prime Minister in the newly formed People's Alliance government in 1994, ending 17 years of rule by the United National Party. She was then elected President of Sri Lanka with a record 62% of the vote. Despite her groundbreaking success in life, she experienced many personal tragedies, including the assassination of her father, and of her charismatic husband Wijaya Kumaratunga by political opponents. In 1999 she was injured in a suicide bombing during a campaign rally before her she won a second term. She went on to serve as President until 2005.

As an economist, President Kumaratunga has authored research papers, including "The Janawasa Movement: Future Strategies for Development in Sri Lanka.” She has also published “Co-Operative Movement in Sri Lanka,” “Land and Agrarian Reforms in Sri Lanka,” “Food Policies and Strategies in Sri Lanka from 1948 to Date,” and “The State and Social Structures in Sri Lanka.”

President Kumaratunga has been a guest lecturer at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and Bradford University in U.K. She was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London from 1988 to 1991.


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