(b. 17 Sept. 1906, d. 1 Nov. 1996).
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka 1977–8; President 1978–89 Born in Colombo, he became politically active during the 1940s, and joined Senanayake's United National Party (UNP) upon its foundation in 1946. In the following governments of Senanayake and his son respectively, he served as Minister of Finance (1947–53), Agriculture (1953–6), and as Minister of State (1965–70). He became chairman of the parliamentary party in 1970, and became leader of the UNP after the death of the younger Senanayake in 1973. He guided the UNP to a landslide electoral victory, and stabilized its power through winning a further victory in 1982, and an extension of his term in office to six years through a referendum. In 1978, he changed the Constitution towards a presidential system, and the electoral system to proportional representation, to give greater weight to the country's troubled ethnic minorities. He was firmly committed to the West, and reversed most of Sirimavo Bandaranaike's socialist policies. However, he was unable to prevent Tamil unrest from developing into civil war in 1983, nor could he stop Indian interference through occupation of the Tamil areas in 1987.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).