Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

Born:June 29, 1945 (age 78)
Career:President of Sri Lanka, 1994-2005
Prime minister of Sri Lanka, 1994
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, 1994-2005
Chief minister of Western Province, 1993-1994
Party:Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Education:University of Paris

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was elected prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1994 and then president later that same year. She was re-elected to a second term in 1999 and survived an assassination attempt in 2000.

Kumaratunga was born June 29, 1945. Her father, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, was a senior minister of the government at the time of her birth and later became prime minister. Her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became the world's first woman prime minister in 1961.

Kumaratunga graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in political science. She also obtained a diploma in group leadership from the same university. Her studies for the PhD 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 program 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.

The Land Reform Program in the 1970s under the government of her mother provided the avenue for 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 the chairwoman 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. From 1976 to 1979, Kumaratunga also served as one of the Food and Agriculture Organization's panel of expert consultants.

The provincial council elections, held in May 1993, represented Kumaratunga's first entry to electoral politics. She was elected to the Western Provincial Council with an unprecedented majority, and was appointed chief minister of the province. In August 1994, she contested the parliamentary general elections as a member of the People's Alliance party, and as the party'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 ran as the People's Alliance candidate. She was elected as president by obtaining a record 62 percent of the votes cast. In 1999, she was re-elected for a second term, during which she struggled with an opposition prime minister. Her term ended in 2005.

Kumaratunga is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development. In November 2009, Kumaratunga was appointed to the 12-member board of directors of the Club de Madrid. She is a frequent panelist and member of the Clinton Global Initiative and advisor to its annual meeting held every September. She is also a member of the Global Leadership Foundation.


Club de Madrid (n.d.). “Chandrika Kumaratunga” Club de Madrid. Retrieved December 5, 2022.

Council of Women World Leaders (n.d.). “CHANDRIKA KUMARATUNGA” Council of Women World Leaders. Retrieved December 5, 2022.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2000, November 1). “Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga” Britannica. Retrieved December 5, 2022.