A Statue to Commemorate Mrs Bandaranaike, the first woman Prime Minister in the world,
Posted on January 30th, 2021

Sudath Gunasekara
Posted on 30th Jan 2021 (First published on 14th, December 2010 in Lankaweb)

A Statue to Commemorate Mrs Bandaranaike, the first woman Prime Minister in the world, most illustrious Lady and the greatest political leader of our time

What a shame even not to have one such erected to commemorate this great of the nation lady in a suitable place even after 21 years of her  death, in a country where we have hundreds of statues of colonial murderers and plunderers and even indentured labour leaders are  exhibited in front of the Parliament and other important places.

Dr Sudath Gunasekara. One time Permanent Secretary to Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike.. Everyone knows that Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranayaike was the first woman Prime Minister in the world. No one can refute that. In that context she was the greatest and the most illustrious Lady ever born in this resplendent Island. I do not think anyone will disagree or quarrel with me for this statement. On account of that alone she has made history by creating a world record which any one will not be able to break on any day. It is irreversible forever. That alone makes her a national heroine who should be remembered and adored by all Sri Lankans forever irrespective of their politics.

 She became the Prime Minister on 21st July 1960 and carried forward the socio-cultural revolution launched by her husband S.W.R.D in 1956. S.W.R.D’s untimely assassination within three years and five months robed him as well as the country of the historic role he was destined to play for mankind. Although the credit for that turning point in the history of our country goes to him it was Sirimavo who really took off the flight that crash landed with SWRD’s untimely death in September 1959. When she took over the reins of the nation’s leadership in 1960 it was like a wrecked and rudderless ship on high seas. No one thought she could steer it in the correct direction. As D.B. Dhanapala the veteran journalist of our time wrote in his book Among Those Present

No one thought she will do it, but today no one doubts that she had done it” better than any other man or woman.

 I had the rare privilege of reading the Encyclopedia of Social Science at the University of Cambridge when I was doing my post graduate work in 1982 and you will be surprised to hear that in that book she carries the longest and the most colourful account on any contemporary leader of this country. Thenagain when once I attended an International Film Festival in Czechoslovakia in May 1991 and I told the udience that I come from Sri Lanka this was how they reacted

 Oh you come from the Land of Bandaranaike. How is your Queen Sirimavo Bandaranaike”

 Remember at that time she was not even the leader of he opposition and she was at home deprived of her civil rights also in 1980 by the JRJ Government. Furthermore she was the only Sri Lankan leader I think who had a wax statue in the famous Madame Tussauds Art Museum in Landon

I mentioned these three events just to tell my readers how this great Lady was regarded d respected by the outside world

 It is common knowledge how she spearheaded the social revolution that was set in motion in 1956 and how she put this Island in high heavens in the world map in the years that followed.  Everybody knows how she handled the Non-Aligned Conference in 1976. The 1972 Republican Constitution that made this Island nation an Independent Republic, Non-aligned Foreign policy, settling the Sino- Indian war in 1962, taming the Marxist giants like NM, Peter Khenaman, Colvin, Lesli, and Dr Wickramasinha (which even SWRD could not do), handling the 1962 coup and the JVP insurrections of 1971, historic Land reforms that limited private ownership to 50 acres and nationalization of Sterling plantations, laid the foundation for a national economy by introducing import substitution, Sirima- Sastri Pact and how she resolved the Kachchative issuend the Indo-China conflict as a mediator were shining jewels in her crown. Above all her dominating personality and character, simplicity, the captivating smile and the devotion to religion, like Viharamaha Devi, which has made her the ideal ”Symbol of a Sinhala Buddhist Mahopasika’ of our time, has elevated her above all others, both men and women, in contemporary society. Her period of governing also has gone down in history as the best period of Indo-Lanka relationship between India and Sri Lanka after King Devampiyatissa’s reign.

She became the Prime minister thrice in this country by popular vote and dominated and illuminated the political stage for 40 years which no one else had done. She set the rhythm for the emergence women leaders all over the world to be followed by all others like Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meyer, Benazi Bhutto, Corazon Akino and Shia Kalida. Thereby she carved a permanent niche for all women the world over.

  Thus she made history irreversible and created a legend unparalleled and thus became a legendary woman not only in Sri Lanka but in the whole world. The open question I am asking therefore from all politicians and more specifically those in power having come to power under the banner of Bandaranayaka policies  as to why they erect at least one monument of this legendary Sinhala Buddhist uncrowned Queen in a suitable place in this country for the posterity to get inspired.

 But it is unfortunate and shameful too that we as a nation have not been able to recognize her role and show our gratefulness to this most uncommon and Great Lady even though 10 years have now passed after her death in December 2000. What a shame for a nation that boasts of a religious legacy which teaches us even to venerate a tree that helped Gautama Buddha to attain Supreme Enlightenment. Lord Buddha himself set this example for others to follow by paying respect to the Bo tree for seven days with Animisa lochana puja.

 Therefore I call upon the government to erect a statue near the Parliament to commemorate this great personality at least now, without further delay. Even Thondaman, an immigrant south Indian labour leader has a statue made for him, in front of the old Parliament, within few months of his death during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s time.  

 I was happy to listen to the President Rajapaksa the other day when he said that he will carry forward her policies. I hope at least he will erect a statue to remember this Great Mother of Lanka at least before the next death anniversary in the most prominent and appropriate place, in the Kotte Parliamentary complex.

 She is a Daughter of Lanka who should be honoured not only at the Parliament Complex but also in every village and town. As for me I regard her as the greatest Lady this country has ever produced because for me she is simply a Legend. Most women in this world shine on the achievements of their husbands or their children. But Sirimavo made history on her own achievements.

I met her for the first time as the Prime Minister when I was only the Deputy Director of Small Industries in 1976. I organized the Handicrafts Exhibition for the 1976 Non-Aligned Conference and ever since I have had a very intimate relationship with her. Then in 1994 when I was Secretary to the Ministry of Technical education, she called me home and appointed me as her Secretary. That is how she remembered people.

 I am not a political fanatic as many people are in this country. But going by the Buddha’s noble word we must respect the one who is respect worthy, ƒ”¹…”Pujaca Pujaniyanam’ irrespective of their political colour, ethnicity or ideology.

 As I wrote in 1996 in the supplement issued on her 80th birth day, by the Ceylon Daily News (April 17th)

 Chiselled on granite and embossed with golden letters the name of Sirimavo Bandaranaike will remain immortal as the most illustrious and celebrated daughter of mother Lanka as long as the sun and the moon shall last”.

 It is a tragedy that the whole nation has failed in its onerous duty by this great personality up to date. What an ungrateful bunch of people we are to have completely forgotten the mother of the Party and the mother of the Nation as well? Above all the SLFP and all the politicians who enjoy the plums of political power gained under that banner should be ashamed for not doing their duty by this Great Lady for whom they owe so much for all what they enjoy today. Most of these men and women who are in power would have been unheard and unseen if not for her sacrifices.

 If she did not consent to lead the party in 1960 after it had been ruined by people like Dahanayaka there would not have been a SLFP at all for these people to enjoy the luxuries of political office. It is true that it was SWRD with his astute and unsurpassed statesmanship, who founded the SLFP and brought it to power in 1956 under the banner of the MEP. But there would not have been a SLFP today if not for Mrs Bandaranaike who resurrected it in 1960 from the grave and built it up for forty log years under her able, magnetic and charismatic leadership, having lost everything including her husband who was gunned down by an assassin and even her civil rights for seven years robbed by her political rivals who feared her charismatic and populist leadership.

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