Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Executive President of Sri Lanka [1994 – 2005]
Former Executive President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was born on June 29, 1945 into a family with a long history of public service. Her father, Solomon Bandaranaike, an oxford educated barrister was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1956. He was assassinated in 1959, when Chandrika was 14 years old. Following the death of her husband, Chandrika's mother, Sirimavo, entered politics and became the world's first female Prime Minister when she was elected into office in 1960. She served a total of three terms and 18 years as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
Chandrika completed her secondary education in Sri Lanka, after which she traveled to Paris to study at the prestigious Political Science Institute (Science Po) of the University of Paris. In 1970, she graduated with a degree in Political Science and entered a Ph.D. Program in Development Economics at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, University of Paris, where she studied from 1970-1973.
Upon returning home to Sri Lanka, Chandrika served as the Principal Director of the Land Reforms Commission, as the chairperson to the Janawasa Commission, which established cooperative farms and eventually as an expert consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
In 1978, she married prominent film actor and politician Vikaya Kumaratunga, who along with Chandrika championed a political solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict. The couple have two children.
Shortly after the assassination of her husband by extremists in 1988, Chandrika entered politics. In 1993, she was elected Chief Minister of the Western Province in a landslide victory. Then in August 1994, she followed in the footsteps of her parents and was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
In November 1994, she made history when she was elected Executive President, becoming Sri Lanka's first and only female Executive President to date. She survived an assassination attempt on December 18, 1999 by separatist militants, but sustained permanent damage to her right eye. Nonetheless, three days later she was reelected for a second term by massive popular vote.
As President, Chandrika inherited a nation plagued with violent politics—a civil war between the government and separatist groups and a State guilty of massive human rights violations. Chandrika and her government strove to re-establish democracy and respect for human rights through curbing government corruption, protecting minority rights, speaking out against extremism, and seeking a diplomatic solution to the country's prolonged ethnic conflict.
Chandrika retired from active politics in 2005, after serving two terms as Executive President.
She continues to work, however, towards her vision of a more inclusive and democratic Sri Lanka through the CBK Foundation for Democracy and Justice (FDJ) and the South Asian Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI), two non-profit, non-political bodies Chandrika established shortly after leaving office.