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The BBC's Alastair Lawson in Colombo
"The Bandaranaike family has become a political dynasty"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Veteran Sri Lankan PM resigns
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Mrs Bandaranaike has spent 40 years in politics
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike has resigned at the age of 84, after four decades in politics.

Mrs Bandaranaike, the world's first woman prime minister, is to be replaced by Home Affairs Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

Colombo has seen demonstrations this week against the new constitution plans
She is the mother of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and her resignation comes amid increasing speculation that the president is planning to dissolve parliament before its term ends on 24 August.

Protests this week forced President Kumaratunga to delay plans to introduce a new constitution intended to end the long-running conflict with Tamil Tiger separatists.

She failed to secure the required two-thirds majority in parliament for her plan to turn the country into a de facto federal state in a bid to end the Tigers separatist campaign.

Under Sri Lanka's political system, the president wields executive control and the prime minister has relatively little power.

Thrust into limelight

Mrs Bandaranaike - who has been ill for some years - first became prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1960.

In all she spent 12 years in the post.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Bandaranaike Thrust into the limelight after husband's assassination
She entered politics after her marriage to Soloman Dias Bandaranaike, who was a leading figure in the United National Party, which held power in what was then Ceylon, as it emerged from British colonial rule.

After breaking away to found the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Mr Bandaranaike became prime minister in 1956, but he was assassinated three years later by a crazed Bhuddist monk.

Forced into the limelight, Mrs Bandaranaike won a landslide victory in the 1960 elections.

Abuse of office

Following her reelection in 1970, her politics moved to the left, thanks to her strong personal ties with China and the then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

She declared the country a republic in 1972, nationalised private companies and banned imports.

However, she lost support from Marxist parties after using the army to crush a popular revolt.

After a period of severe economic austerity, her party lost almost all its seats at the 1977 election, and she was banned from holding public office for seven years for abuses of office.

She later ran unsuccessfully for president, the post to which her daughter was elected in 1994, and has continued to wield great influence among the party faithful.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka to pursue peace effort
08 Aug 00 | South Asia
Setback for Sri Lanka peace hopes
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