President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will leave office today, after 11 years as President of Sri Lanka.
The Armed Forces and Police will felicitate the outgoing President with a ceremonial Guard of Honour and Parade today on the occasion of the President relinquishing her duties as the fourth Executive President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Members of Parliament, Senior Government officials and members of the Diplomatic Crops will participate.
President Kumaratunga was born to one of Sri Lanka`s most distinguished families on June 29, 1945. Her father, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, was a senior Minister of the Government at the time of her birth. He was later to become the Prime Minister of the country, while her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike was to become the world`s first woman Prime Minister in 1961.
President Kumaratunga had her early education at St. Bridget`s Convent, Colombo and at the Aquinas University College Colombo, where she studied for LLB. From there, she went on to the University of Paris, from which she graduated in Political Science.
She also obtained a Diploma in Group Leadership from the same University. Her studies for the Ph.D in Development Economics at the University of Paris were interrupted by the call to serve her country, where her mother`s Government had launched a wide ranging programme of reform and development.
While in Paris, she also underwent training in political journalism at the prestigious Le Monde. She is fluent in Sinhala, English and French.
With her academic background in Social Sciences and her practical experience in the field, President Kumaratunga has authored several research papers. Her monograph, `The Janawasa Movement: Future Strategies for Development in Sri Lanka,` is an FAO publication.
President Kumaratunga has also published papers on the 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. A monograph on political violence in Sri Lanka is currently in preparation.
President Kumaratunga has been a guest lecturer at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the Bradford University in U.K. She was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London from 1988 to 1991.
The Land Reform Programme in the 1970s under the government of her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike provided the avenue for President Kumaratunga`s entry into active public service. She served as a Director and as the Principal Director of the Land Reforms Commission (1972-1976), subsequently becoming Chairman of the Janawasa Commission (1976-1977).
This Commission was responsible for the settlement of several thousands of educated and under-educated youths under the Janawasa Commission law. During the years from 1976 to 1979, President Kumaratunga also served as one of the FAO`s panel of Expert Consultants.
President Kumaratunga inherited the liberal political philosophy of her father, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. In her student days in Paris, she was also greatly influenced by the radical student movement of the 1960s. The abiding element of that influence in today`s vastly changed world circumstances is her deep commitment to the welfare of the deprived, the underprivileged and the disadvantaged.
Her unshakable commitment to the imperatives of a plural society has been the other consistent strategy in her approach to politics. She has been a full time political activist from her early youth, establishing grassroots contacts far and wide throughout the country.
The Provincial Council Elections held in May 1993 represented President Kumaratunga`s first entry to electoral politics. She was elected to the Western Provincial Council with an unprecedented majority, and was appointed the Chief Minister of the Province, the country`s largest.
In August 1994, she contested the Parliamentary General Elections as a member of the People`s Alliance and as the People`s Alliance`s Prime Ministerial candidate. She was elected to Parliament by an overwhelming majority, and was appointed Prime Minister in the People`s Alliance Government that was formed on August 19, 1994. In the Presidential Elections held shortly thereafter in November 1994, she contested as the People`s Alliance candidate. She was elected President obtaining a record 62 per cent of the votes cast.
President Kumaratunga has had more than her fair share of personal tragedy in life. She was a schoolgirl when her father Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assassinated by political opponents.
Her charismatic film idol cum politician husband Vijaya Kumaratunga whom she married in 1978 was also slain by political opponents in 1988. She herself was targeted for assassination by the LTTE just days before the 1999 Presidential Election. She escaped almost miraculously, but lost an eye.
She won that Presidential Election by a comfortable margin. She initiated the peace process, inviting Norway as facilitator and beginning peace talks with the LTTE. Even after the 1999 attack, she continued her quest for peace. President Kumaratunga is the mother of two children - daughter Yosodhara and son Vimukthi.