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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

Eighty ninth birth anniversary of a former Prime Minister falls on April 17

Sirimavo R. D. Bandaranaike : She embodied the national heritage

The name of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandarnaike, who was born on April 17, 1916 at Mahawalathenna Walauwa, Pussaliyadda, Bulugahagedara, Balangoda, in the Ratnapura District, is a name which is internationally acclaimed. She was the loving daughter of former Senator, Barns Ratwatte Disave and Mrs. R. M. K. Kumarihami, a reputed Ayurvedic physician.

The Sinhala term 'Methiniya' was a household word so much so that even a child of the country by the mere mention of that word would know that it refers to Mrs. Bandaranaike. That was the image she had created among us. I take great pleasure in issuing a message of felicitation on the 89th birth anniversary of such an extraordinary mother of our nation.

Having been born in a remote area of an innocent and rustic populace, she received her primary education at Fuguson Girls' High School in Ratnapura and her secondary eduction at St. Bridget's Convent in Colombo. Following her marriage with Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who was the then Minister of Local Government and Health in the United National Party, she came to reside at Horagolla Walauwa on October 10, 1940.

Mr. Bandaranaike founded the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951 and with a resounding victory was elected as the Prime Minister in the 1956 general election. After his death in 1959 at the hand of an assassin, this prestigious national leader achieved the zenith of her political career through sheer perseverance and dedication.

Being fortunate to become the world's first lady Prime Minister on July 21, 1960, she steered the progressive socialistic policies pioneered by her late husband. She was the Leader of the Opposition during the period 1965-70. She became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka twice in the period 1970-1977 and 1994-2000. In 1941 she became a member of the Mahila Samithi Movement and held office as its Chief Treasurer too in 1946.

Deriving a great deal of satisfaction by working with rural women in the Mahila Samithis, she trained herself to be a skilful orator. In 1959 Mrs. Bandaranaike became the president of the Lanka Mahila Samithiya after Dr. Mary Ratnam. We should appreciate the way she cherished the great heritages of a Sinhala Buddhist mother throughout her life.

She brought fame to the entire women folk of Sri Lanka.

It is with great pleasure I mention here that Mrs. Bandaranaike's well-balanced experience, far-sighted vision and courage was appreciated and respected by the people of Sri Lanka on many an occasion, such as the taking over of all denominational schools under government control; nationalization of oil companies and life insurance companies; repatriation of illegal Tamil immigrants to India under the Sirima-Shasthri agreement initiated in 1963; obtaining the ownership of the Kachchativu Island for Sri Lanka in July 1974; extending the boundaries of Sri Lankan territorial waters and the nationalization of tea, rubber and coconut estates owned by foreign companies.

Mrs. Bandaranaike delivered a moving speech for the last time in Parliament on 16th November 1995. With a broken voice she referred to the conduct of MPs in Parliament bemoaning the very sad deterioration of decorum and decency in the House.

My admiration of that speech, made by our Head of the State, the Prime Minister giving expression to the feelings she had kept in her heart, was so great that, as the present speaker, I took steps to quote and publish that speech in newspapers.

When I was the Minister of Indigenous Medicine, I received special instructions from her which I recall even today with such happiness. She used to teach me about the indigenous herbal gardens and Ayurvedic physicians of the Mahawalatenna Walauwa, like a mother teaching her child.

Her great love for the protection of all that is indigenous was amply demonstrated when she explained to me how the very rare herbs should be preserved.

When I consider the manner in which Mrs. Bandaranaike laboured for the uplift of indigenous medicine and crafts, I can truly call her the model to be followed by anyone who cherishes things of one's own.



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