Hon. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was born to one of Sri Lankas most distinguished families
on 29th June 1945. Her father, SWRD Bandaranaike, was a senior Minister of the Government
at the time of her birth. He was later to become the Prime Minister of the country, while
her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was to become the worlds first woman Prime
Minister in 1961.
Hon. Dingiri Banda Wijetunga (1993-1994)
- Mr D B Wijetunga, who was Prime Minister
at the time of President Premadasa's assassination, was elected by Parliament to succeed
the slain leader as President in 1993. He thus became the first Executive President to be
elected by Parliament.
- Although President Wijetunga took up the
mantle of leadership at a time of catastrophe, he brought about a peaceful transition of
power and returned stability to the nation. During his short tenure as President, he
oversaw the removal of several irritants that had earlier divided various sections of the
- During his first six months in office,
President Wijetunga instituted measures to consolidate and carry forward the economic
development programmes that had re-oriented the country towards a market economy since
1977. He also moved to modify certain programmes so as to make them more productive and
- President Wijetunga gave a high priority
to programmes for poverty alleviation, education, employment generation, and a new impetus
to agricultural development. He also took measures to attract foreign investment and
advance technology with the goal of making Sri Lanka a Newly Industrialised Nation by the
turn of the Twenty First Century.
- Certain of the welfare measures curtailed
earlier were reintroduced during this period by President Wijetunga.
At the general elections held in
1989, the UNP was returned to power, but with a smaller majority. Mr. R. Premadasa won the
presidential elections and became the President. Mr. D.B. Wijetunga was appointed Prime
Minister. The major issues raised at these elections were the presence of the Indian Peace
Keeping Force in the country and the provision of greater relief to the poor. Within a
short period of assumption of office, by the new President, the Indian Peace Keeping Force
was asked to leave the country.
A state sponsored poverty alleviation
programme, the Janasaviya, was introduced in 1989 in a phased manner among the districts.
School children were also provided with free school uniforms in 1993.
The housing development programme of the
Government was enhanced and pursued vigorously.
An accelerated programme to divest public
sector ventures to the private sector was launched, and came to be called
The garments industry, which had become a
leading export oriented activity, was further expanded with the implementation of the Two
Hundred Garment Factories Programme, whereby special incentives were given to location of
garment factories in rural areas.
A section of government and opposition
members of Parliament attempted to impeach the President, but failed.
President Premadasa was assassinated in
Colombo on May 1, 1993.
Hon. Junius R. Jayawardena (1978-1988)
J.R. Jayewardene becomes Prime Minister; subsequently becomes Sri Lanka's first Executive
The UNP gained a landslide victory,
winning 140 seats out of 168. Mr. J.R. Jayewardene became the Prime Minister in 1977. The
heavy defeat of the SLFP paved the way for the leader of the Tamil United Liberation
Front, with 17 seats in Parliament, to become the Leader of the Opposition.
The new government introduced a new
constitution in 1978. Mr. J.R. Jayewardene became the first Executive President of Sri
Lanka, with wide executive powers. Mr. R. Premadasa was appointed Prime Minister.
The proportional representation system,
which was introduced with the new constitution, led to a situation where no party was
likely to gain a two thirds majority in the future, which would prevent a change in the
At the presidential election held in 1982,
President J.R. Jayewardene won a second term, while the Leader of the SLFP Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike was kept out of the contest by the deprivation of her civic rights by the
In 1982, the Government extended the life
of the existing Parliament for another six years by holding a Referendum.
Civil riots broke out in 1983, immediately
after the killing of 13 soldiers by terrorists in Jaffna and several businesses owned by
the Tamil community were affected. The ethnic conflict which had complicated the problems
of governance since independence, took a serious turn.
Militant took over the cause of the Tamil
speaking people from more moderate Tamil leaders. The resulting armed conflict and acts of
terrorism became a serious threat to maintaining peace and stability in the country.
The Government signed an Indo-Sri Lanka
Accord in 1987 to solve the ethnic conflict. The Indian Army arrived as a Peace Keeping
Force to enforce the accord in the North and the East.
There was a complete turnaround in
economic policy in 1977 as the previous policies had led to economic stagnation. Open and
liberalised economic policies were introduced. Private sector led development was
emphasised. Several policy changes were made to create an environment conducive to foreign
and local investment, with the objective of promoting export led growth. Government
activity was largely limited to development of economic and social infrastructure and
maintaining social welfare.
Trade and exchange controls and licensing
were removed progressively. Efficient markets were promoted. Privatisation of government
enterprises commenced. There was a shift from import substitution to export led growth.
The Greater Colombo Economic Commission,
was established to facilitate export oriented enterprises and to administer Export
an extensive housing development programme
was initiated to meet housing shortages in urban and rural areas.
Food subsidies were curtailed and targeted
through a Food Stamps Scheme extended to the poor. The system of rice rationing was
abolished. The Floor Price Scheme and the Fertiliser Subsidy Scheme were withdrawn.
New welfare schemes, such as free school
books and the Mahapola Scholarship Programme, were introduced.
The rural credit programme expanded with
the introduction of the New Comprehensive Rural Credit Scheme and several other medium and
long-term credit schemes aimed at small farmers and the self-employed.
Measures were taken to improve
infrastructure facilities. The Mahaweli River Diversion Scheme was accelerated. new
reservoirs and power stations were created at Kotmale, Victoria, Randenigala, Rantembe and
Ulhitiya. Several Trans Basin Canals diverted water to the Dry Zone.
In 1981, Sri Lanka pioneered the Indian
Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC) to promote the possibility of economic,
scientific and technical co-operation in the Indian Ocean. It was also intended to be a
forum for sharing scientific and technological capabilities between the developed and
The South Asian Association for Regional
Co-operation (SAARC) formed in 1985, is the first group for regional co-operation among
South Asian countries. It included Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal,
Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Economic co-operation is stressed in the
SAARC and the emergence of the South Asian Preferential Tariff Agreement (SAPTA) and the
South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) are major outcomes. Sri Lanka showed keen interest int
he areas of free trade, technology and provision of services.
A civil insurrection took place in
1988/89, led by the JVP which had gone underground since its proscription in July 1983.
The Government was able to control the insurgent activities. The 1988 general elections
and presidential elections were held at the height of the JVP activities. Mr. R. Premadasa
won the Presidential Election.
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