Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected president of Sri Lanka in 1994. Behind her she had two heirlooms; politics and death. Her prime minister father was assassinated when she was 14, after which her mother took the same position. Chandrika married the political leader Vijaya Kumaratunga who was gunned down in 1988.

Despite all the blood, she was drawn to politics from an early age. Born in 1945, she studied in Paris for five years and is reported to have taken part in the 1968 student uprising there. Her socialist beliefs of that time have changed, and ever since becoming president Mrs Kumaratunga has promoted economic liberalisation in Sri Lanka.

Her Peoples' Alliance coalition threw the United National Party out of power after 17 years of rule. There was widespread hope that she would be able to make peace with the Tamil Tigers, but after many futile peace talks the Tigers resumed arms and the country was again subject to terror. Her government then adopted a dual strategy in fighting the guerrilla groups while at the same time giving Tamil areas more autonomy.

In December 1999, on the final day of her campaign before the 2000 presidential election, Kumaratunga was attacked by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber who blew herself up at a rally in Colombo, killing more than 20 people. The president merely suffered injuries to her right eye, and went on to be elected for another 6 years.

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