Solomon Bandaranaike was a politician from what was then Ceylon
whose legacy to the world is rather overshadowed by that of his wife and children. He was born in 1899
, when Ceylon was a British
colony, attended Oxford
, and became a lawyer
. He was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council in 1927
, and then in 1931
when the British introduced a new constitution
with universal voting, became part of the State Councils. He also, instead of merely absorbing European culture, started the "Great Sinhala
Council" which worked to revive the culture of the Sinhalese
majority population. This appeal to the "common man" made him very popular. In 1940
, he married Sirimavo Ratwatte
, who was seventeen years younger than he was.
After World War II, independence movements in India worked their way over to Ceylon. When the country became independent in 1948, the British put a Westernized group of leaders in charge to avoid giving power to the Leninist movements popular among lower classes. Solomon was Leader of the House of Parliament, but was aware that his government did not have much popular support. He worked to gain support from middle and lower classes and formed the socialist, nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951. However, the new party was very pro-Sinhalese and pro-Buddhist, with the intention of removing the power of the Christian English-speakers, but they alienated the Tamil, Hindu minority of Ceylon.
In 1956, Solomon was elected Prime Minister and put these pro-Sinhalese policies into place. Three years later, he was assassinated by a Sinhalese Buddhist monk. Perhaps the monk was hoping for fairer treatment for other ethnicities, but as Solomon's widow pledged to keep her late husband's policies when she was elected Prime Minister in 1960, it did not work out. These policies led eventually to the civil war that has occupied the country now called Sri Lanka for almost two decades. Several of Solomon and Sirimavo's children have also entered politics, including their second daughter, current Prime Minister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.