Today, Sri Lanka commemorates the 104th birth anniversary of the world’s first female Prime Minister, the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike whose ideologies changed Sri Lankan politics and whose political teachings are still being practiced to this day.
I remember Mrs. Bandaranaike so fondly, that today she has not only become a role model to me and many others, but I also have very fond memories of her throughout my childhood, when I visited her with my father often at her home in Rosmead Place.
Mrs. Bandaranaike, even back then was a very strong figure in my life. As a child when I used to visit her with my father, she always took the time out of her busy schedule to speak to me and I would listen to the advise she always gave my father. To me, my political training started back then and I would look forward to my visits to her home, just to see her discuss politics with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Her knowledge in politics was immense and her dedication to serve the country was commendable. Her passion, her knowledge and her love towards this nation finally led her to lead this country as the prime minister as the executive presidential system was not introduced back then.
Mrs. Bandaranaike laid out many political policies during her career which included reforming the former British Colony of Ceylon into a socialist republic. Her nationalist agenda looked at protecting the sovereign rights of this island country and promoting local businesses and industries. She believed in maintaining a ‘Sri Lanka first policy’ so that we would emerge as a strong and stable nation with the power to enter the global economy with our local goods and services.
Infact today, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has implemented a similar policy with his ‘India first’ project which has reaped the benefits in the domestic market as well as the global economy.
Today, as the world fights the global COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled economies, Mrs. Bandaranaike’s “Country First” policy, is more valuable than ever. In 1962, she encouraged local production which has today helped us sustain ourselves when the world markets have almost collapsed due to the deadly virus. Even my #HomeGradenChallenge which I launched throughout the country recently, is in line in encouraging local production, even in homes, so that we can have a sustainable future and our children will learn the value of it.
When the SLPP was being formed, the party included many policies of Mrs. Bandaranaike as this will not only help us strengthen our local sectors but it will also transform us into an independent nation. Sri Lanka has many assets to be proud of already, its world famous tea, agriculture, apparel, sea food, coconut, rubber, etc which has created a demand in the domestic market as well as global market. The government will continue this policy of maintaining a ‘nation first policy’.
Mrs. Bandaranaike’s role in politics changed the role of women in global politics altogether. She will always be remembered for the strong role she played in shaping the future of this country, especially at a time when women political leaders and role models were minimal. Sri Lanka made history by swearing in the world’s first woman Prime Minister fifty-nine years ago and today that leader still remains in the hearts of many.