Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected Executive President from 1994-2005, becoming Sri Lanka's first and only female Executive President.
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.
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.
Chandrika temporarily retired from active politics in 2005, after serving two terms as Executive President. In 2015, Kumaratunga was appointed as the Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation.
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.
Image via APB Speakers