Remembering Sirimavo Bandaranaike: A Leader Ahead of Her Time

The legacy of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike serves as a reminder of the kind of leadership Sri Lanka needs today.

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File Photo: Moscow State University professor Olga Oleinik presenting flowers to Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Sirimavo Bandaranaike during her visit to the university. [Photo: Dmitriy Kozlov/Sputnik]

by Our Political Affairs Editor

“Peace is not just the absence of war, it is the presence of justice and harmony.” – Speech delivered at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Colombo, August 1976.

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of our former Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, it is important to reflect on her leadership and the qualities that made her an exemplary leader. She was born on 17 April 1916. Mrs. Bandaranaike was not just the first female Prime Minister in the world, but she was also a leader who prioritized the welfare of her people over personal gain.

The story shared by her daughter, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, about her mother’s simple act of stitching her saree, despite being the Prime Minister, highlights her humility and dedication towards her country. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s response to her daughter’s question also reflects her commitment to public service and her understanding of the responsibilities that come with being a leader.

In the story, Mrs. Bandaranaike was seen stitching her saree one day in the evening, which surprised her young daughter CBK. CBK asked her mother why she didn’t simply use a new saree, especially since she was the Prime Minister and was scheduled to leave on a foreign visit the next day.

In response, Mrs. Bandaranaike explained to her daughter that she was not in politics to live a lavish life, but rather to put the nation on the right track. She emphasized the importance of being responsible with resources and prioritizing the needs of the country over personal luxury.

This simple act of stitching a saree may seem insignificant, but it speaks volumes about Mrs. Bandaranaike’s leadership style and priorities. She was a leader who valued humility, dedication, and service to her people, and her actions reflected this.

The story also serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible leadership, particularly in times of crisis. As we face various challenges, it is critical that our leaders prioritize the needs of the country over personal gain, and lead by example in demonstrating the values of dedication, humility, and service to others.

Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was not only a trailblazing female leader, but also an influential figure in the global political arena. As a key figure in the Non-Aligned Movement, Mrs. Bandaranaike played an important role in promoting peace and stability in the world, advocating for cooperation and dialogue among nations.

Her commitment to peace was further demonstrated by her declaration of the Indian Ocean as a peace zone, a visionary move that helped to reduce tensions in the region and promote cooperation among neighbouring nations.

Moreover, Mrs. Bandaranaike firmly believed in the importance of a production-based economy, recognizing the need for Sri Lanka to develop its own industries and reduce its dependence on foreign imports. Her economic policies were geared towards promoting domestic industries, creating jobs, and driving economic growth through investment in infrastructure and human capital.

Despite facing a polarized political situation and attempts by opponents to humiliate and undermine her, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike remained steadfast in her dedication to serving the people of Sri Lanka. She did her best to steer the nation towards a production-based economy, recognizing the need for responsible economic management and sustainability.

Unfortunately, subsequent governments did not follow in her footsteps, and instead, the nation’s economy became characterized by undisciplined economic management and overconsumption, resulting in an unsustainable debt burden. Today, Sri Lanka faces the consequences of these decisions, with the nation grappling with a severe economic crisis.

However, what is perhaps even more concerning is the lack of accountability and responsibility taken by those responsible for this economic meltdown. Politicians and their family members who have been directly involved in the mismanagement of the nation’s finances have not taken responsibility or worked towards correcting the situation. This lack of accountability is unacceptable and undermines the very principles of responsible leadership and governance.

As we remember the legacy of Mrs. Bandaranaike on her birth anniversary, it is important that we reflect not only on her leadership qualities but also on the challenges facing our nation today. We must hold our leaders accountable for their actions and demand that they work towards responsible economic management and sustainable development.

It is essential that we learn from the mistakes of the past and work towards building a more sustainable and equitable future for Sri Lanka. This requires leaders who are committed to serving the people, promoting accountability and transparency, and prioritizing the needs of the country over personal gain. In this way, we can honor the legacy of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and work towards a brighter future for all Sri Lankans.

As we pay tribute to Mrs. Bandaranaike’s leadership, we must also recognize that we need leaders who can bring people together, bridge differences, and promote reconciliation.  Today, as Sri Lanka faces a multitude of challenges, including an economic crisis and, political instability, the need for visionary and dedicated leadership has never been greater. We need leaders who, like Mrs. Bandaranaike, are committed to promoting peace, stability, and cooperation both domestically and globally. We need leaders who prioritize the needs of the country over personal gain and who are committed to promoting sustainable economic growth through responsible economic management and investment in domestic industries.

The legacy of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike serves as a reminder of the kind of leadership Sri Lanka needs today. We need leaders who are committed to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity, both for the present and for future generations. By honoring her legacy and learning from her example, we can work towards building a brighter future for all Sri Lankans. But, do we have any politicians who will stand with the public, rather than scheming and plotting to maintain or gain power? It’s disheartening to see how shameless groups of people have manipulated our country.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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