Husbands and Fathers
Let’s start with a quick quiz! What do the following men have in common: Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, Benigno Simeon Aquino, and Dr. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro? If you can think about this question for a minute or two, you might come up with some connections. Firstly, their portraits appear on banknotes. Secondly, they are all dead. Thirdly, and most importantly, their widows became leaders of the countries in which they lived. Their wives were respectively, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Corazon Aquino, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
What can be seen in the examples of the men mentioned above, is that the widows of these men have become leaders of their country following the death of their husbands. It can thus be deduced that if you are a female leader who has lost your husband, then you can put his portrait on a banknote to commemorate his good deeds. In all three cases illustrated here, the deceased husbands had some claim to be remembered, but were they worthy of being immortalized on their country’s banknotes?
The first of the three men to be memorialized was Solomon West Ridegeway Dias Bandaranaike (1899 – 1959), who was the Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 1956 until his assassination in 1959. Bandaranaike was an Oxford-educated lawyer who became involved in the politics of his country from an early age. He was elected to the State Council in 1931 and to the House of Representatives in 1947 when Ceylon became independent. In 1952 he founded the Sri Lanka Freedom party and in 1956 he swept to power in a coalition of nationalist and socialist parties. His socialist government was notable for establishing relationships with communist countries and for instigating the departure of the British from their military bases in Ceylon. He also raised the profile of Buddhism in the nation’s affairs and replaced English as the official language with Sinhalese. Solomon Bandaranaike was shot by a disillusioned Buddhist monk on 25 September 1959 and died the following day.
In the elections held the following year, Bandaranaike’s widow, Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, was elected Prime Minister. In 1962 Ceylon introduced a new series of banknotes, Nos. 62 to 66 in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money (SCWPM), and on the front of each denomination appeared a portrait of Solomon Bandaranaike. Undoubtedly, the appearance of the assassinated leader on the new banknotes was due to the intervention of his widow, or at least the acquiescence of his widow if the move was instigated by her supporters.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike lost the elections of 1965 and was thrown into opposition. Not surprisingly, a new series of banknotes was quickly introduced, without the portrait of Solomon Bandaranaike. However, Sirimavo Bandaranaike proved to be a dedicated politician and remained in the political arena to fight another day. Her day came in 1970 when she was once again elected Prime Minister. It will astound no-one to learn that in the same year a new series of banknotes was issued (SCWPM Nos. 77 to 80) that once again carried portraits of Solomon Bandaranaike. Modified notes bearing his portrait were issued in 1971 and 1972. In 1977 Sirimavo Bandaranaike was thrown out of office for the second time, following an electoral defeat, and shortly after her defeat a new series of banknotes was introduced without the portrait of Solomon Bandaranaike.
Benigno Simeon Aquino (1932 – 1983) was the leading opponent to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in the early 1970s. He had a solid political career, moving from the Mayor of Concepción in 1955, to Vice-Governor of the province of Tarlac, then Governor of the province, and ultimately to the Senate of the Philippines. Finally, in 1968, he became leader of the Liberal Party. Aquino planned to run in the presidential elections of 1973, but in 1972 President Marcos declared martial law. As an opposition leader, Aquino was imprisoned for eight years and in 1977 he was sentenced to death. In 1980 the sentence was commuted and Aquino was permitted to go to the United States for heart surgery. In August 1983, two years after martial law was lifted, Aquino returned to the Philippines but was shot in the head and killed on his arrival at Manila Airport (while under security guard).
In 1986 President Marcos held presidential elections and his main opponent was the widow of Benigno Aquino, Corazon Aquino, who had been swept into the political arena following the assassination of her husband. The result of the election was announced by the Government as a victory for President Marcos, but it was generally agreed that the result had been manipulated. In the ensuing weeks the defence forces threatened action if Corazon Aquino did not assume the presidency. In late February 1986 Marcos fled to exile in Hawaii, where he died in 1989, and Corazon Aquino was acknowledged as President.
In 1987 the Philippines introduced the new denomination of 500 pisos (SCWPM No.173) to complement the new series of notes that had been released from 1985. On the front of this note is a portrait of Benigno Aquino and on the back are a series of scenes depicting his life. The note was later modified in 1998 (SCWPM No. 185), along with other notes in the series, and again in 2001 (SCWPM No. 195). Corazon Aquino, through her influence as President, had managed to place her husband in a position where many Filipinos could see him, although perhaps not all Filipinos get to possess a 500-piso note. Following Corazon Aquino’s exit from office in 1992, Benigno Aquino remained ensconced on the 500-piso notes.
Dr. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal (1924 – 1978) was a leading opponent of the Somoza regime of Nicaragua. His family owned a newspaper in Nicaragua called La Prensa, which was often critical of the government of General Anastasio Somoza García. Chamorro was frequently in trouble for his personal attacks on the regime. In 1944 he was gaoled for criticizing the General. La Prensa was closed in the same year and the family moved to Mexico. In 1948 he returned to Nicaragua, following his father’s death, and re-established La Prensa. Chamorro was imprisoned in 1954 and again in 1956 following the assassination of Somoza.
After fleeing to Costa Rica, he returned to Nicaragua in 1959 with a force that planned to overthrow Somoza’s son, Luis Somoza Debayle. However, he and many others in the expedition were caught and tried for treason. After nine years in gaol, he resumed editorship of his newspaper. In the ensuing years La Prensa became the leading platform for opposition to the government, even though it was censored. In the 1970s Chamorro led the Democratic Union of Liberation in opposition to the government, campaigning for human rights and the restoration of democracy. In January 1978 Chamorro was assassinated by a hit squad, presumably sponsored by the president.
Following Chamorro’s death, his wife, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, continued to edit La Prensa and she also supported the new opposition to the government, the Sandinista National Liberation Front. After the overthrow of the government by the Sandinistas, her backing of the new government faltered due to their Marxist ideologies and she was soon attacking them through her newspaper. When the war between the Sandinistas and the ‘Contras’ was finally brought to an end, elections were held in Nicaragua. Violeta Chamorro was elected president in April 1990, defeating Daniel Ortega at the poll.
In Nicaragua’s currency reform of the 1990s, a new series of banknotes was issued. Included in the new series was a 50-Córdoba note (SCWPM No. 177) that carried the portrait of Violeta Chamorro’s husband, Dr. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. The back of the note includes a scene at a polling station and a depiction of people toppling a statue of Somoza. To the victor go the spoils! The 50-Córdoba note issued in 1991 was printed by the Canadian Banknote Company. In 1995 a similar note printed by François-Charles Oberthur (SCWPM No. 183) was introduced. In 1996 Violeta Chamorro chose not to run for a second term and was succeeded by Arnoldo Aleman (who defeated Daniel Ortega).
It is worth noting that the portraits of Dr. Pedro Chamorro and Benigno Aquino remain on the notes of Nicaragua and the Philippines, now that their wives have lost office. While the inclusion of their husbands’ images on the banknotes smacks of a type of nepotism, it appears that the women’s successors have respected the roles of their husbands. Interestingly, the decision of women leaders to place their loved ones on the banknotes of their country is not limited to wives, as daughters have also played the game. If you had trouble in identifying the association between the first three gentlemen at the beginning of this article, try the association between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ahmed Sukarno.
All three men were leaders of their country, which were respectively Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia. All three men appear on the notes of their nation due to the efforts of their daughters who have become political leaders. In the case of Macapagal, his daughter’s efforts meant that this was his first appearance on the banknotes of the Philippines. In the cases of Sukarno and Rahman, both were rehabilitated to the notes of Indonesia and Bangladesh by their daughters after their disappearance for a number of years.
Diosdado Macapagal (1910 – 1997) was a lawyer who took to politics. In 1949 he was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives and from 1957 to 1961 he was vice-president of the Philippines to Carlos Garcia. In 1961 he opposed Garcia in a crusade against political corruption and was elected president. Considered a reformist president, he introduced land reform, encouraged exports and tried to modify tax collection to ensure that the rich families of the Philippines would pay tax. However, many of his changes were contested by his opponents in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Macapagal was defeated in the 1965 presidential poll by Ferdinand Marcos, but he retained his interest in politics through the Marcos presidency and the period of martial law. With growing opposition to Ferdinand Marcos, in 1979 he formed an opposition party called the National Union for Liberation. He died in 1997.
Macapagal’s daughter, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been president of the Philippines since January 2001. An academic who had studied in the United States, Arroyo was a university professor when Corazon Aquino appointed her Undersecretary for Trade and Industry in 1986. From this time she had a stellar rise in politics, finally being elected as vice-president to Joseph Estrada in 1998. Following a crisis, in which a scandal enveloped Estrada, Arroyo resigned as vice-president to oppose Estrada, who was eventually impeached. Following violent demonstrations, Estrada was driven from office and Arroyo assumed the presidency. Several years after her elevation, in 2002, a new 200-piso note was issued (SCWPM No.195). The note carries the portrait of Arroyo’s father Diosdado Macapagal. Surely, no greater love hath a daughter, than to put her father’s image on a banknote!
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920 – 1975) was a co-founder of the Awami League, a political party in East Pakistan that sought independence from West Pakistan. The Awami League slowly built its support until it swept to an electoral victory in 1970, which should have seen the party take power in Pakistan. However, the military in West Pakistan did not wish to see Pakistan ruled by a party from East Pakistan and so they refused to recognize the results of the election. This led to civil disturbances and ultimately to a nine-month civil war, in which three million East Pakistanis lost their lives. Following the intervention of India, East Pakistan was victorious in the war and ceded from Pakistan to form Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib was the first President of Bangladesh and the first three series of notes issued by the Bangladesh Bank (SCWPM Nos. 7 to 14) carry portraits of the President.
In 1975 Sheikh Mujib and most of his family were killed by army officers. One of his family who survived was his daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who later took over the leadership of the Awami League and who was ultimately elected Prime Minister of Bangladesh in June 1996. On being elected Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina immediately began to rehabilitate her father’s memory. She commenced a trial of the men who were suspected of murdering her father, over twenty years earlier, and she ensured that her father’s portrait returned to the banknotes. Sheikh Mujib subsequently appeared on a number of banknotes issued during the term of Sheikh Hasina’s presidency (SCWPM Nos. 32, 34, 37, and 38). Inevitably, on the defeat of Sheikh Hasina at the polls in July 2001, the banknotes of the Bangladesh Bank were re-issued without Sheikh Mujib’s portrait. As Sheikh Hasina remains in opposition, there is always the chance that she will return to office and, if that occurs, then surely Sheikh Mujib will return to the banknotes.
Ahmed, or Koesnosoro, Sukarno (1901 – 1970) was the first president of Indonesia. He co-founded the Indonesian Nationalist Party in 1927 and fought against the colonial rule of the Dutch. Imprisoned in 1930-31, he was ultimately exiled to remote islands from 1933 to 1942. When the Japanese invaded Indonesia during World War II, he co-operated with them and was made president of the Java central council. On Japan’s surrender he declared Indonesia independent, but independence was not recognized by the Dutch until 1949, after which he became president of the nation. Sukarno was also prime minister of Indonesia from 1959 to 1966 and proclaimed president for life in 1963. In March 1967 he surrendered power to General Soeharto. Sukarno is generally agreed to have been a poor administrator, for while he engendered great patriotism and nationalism amongst his people, the country suffered economically and socially during his administration.
Sukarno appeared on banknotes issued in Indonesia from 1961 to 1964 (SCWPM Nos. 79A to 88). After this period Sukarno did not appear on any banknote until 1999. In this year a 100,000-rupiah note (SCWPM No. 140) was issued that carried portraits of Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta, who was prime minister and vice-president to Sukarno from 1948 to 1956. The reappearance of Sukarno on an Indonesian banknote was no accident. In 1999 Abdurrahman Wahid was elected president of Indonesia and he chose Megawati Sukarnoputri as his vice-president. Megawati is the daughter of Sukarno and it appears that she was able to rehabilitate her father’s memory from the vice-presidency. In July 2002 Megawati Sukarnoputri replaced Abdurrahman Wahid as President, following the latter’s fall from grace. Having already fulfilled her filial obligations during her vice-presidency, there was no need for her to include her father’s image on yet another banknote—but her term in office is not yet complete.
Although it is easy to believe that Sukarno’s image was introduced to the banknote through the intercession of his daughter, it is also possible that his image was introduced at the direction of the political party she represents, which includes supporters of the former president. In fact, this could easily be the case for many of the examples presented above. Perhaps it wasn’t always the widow or daughter who were responsible for implementing the changes to the banknotes, perhaps the action was instigated by supporters who had an association with both the widow and her husband or the daughter and father. However, it is difficult to accept that the widow or daughter did not acquiesce to the action.
Should it be perceived that the activities of female presidents and prime ministers includes placing the portraits of their husbands and fathers on the banknotes of the nation they lead, it is worth looking at some women who have not done so. Mireya Elisa Moscoso de Arias was sworn in as president of Panama in September 1999 and will hold office to 2004. She is the widow of former president Arnulfo Arias Madrid. While she may want to put her husband’s portrait on the notes of Panama, she has the serious problem that Panama does not use its own banknotes, using instead the notes of the United States Federal Reserve. (Maybe she’s written to someone about the possibility!)
Janet Jagan succeeded her husband, Cheddi Jagan, as president of Guyana from 1997 to 1999, following the death of her husband. During that time she rejected any urge to place his portrait on Guyana’s banknotes. Similarly, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan did not place the image of her father, Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, on the banknotes of Pakistan during her presidency from 1988 to 1990. Her father had been president of Pakistan and had been executed by a military regime following his overthrow. Khaleda Zia has been Prime Minister of Bangladesh on two occasions and is yet to immortalize her late husband and former dictator of Bangladesh, General Zia ul-Huq, on the banknotes of Bangladesh. This is particularly admirable considering the determination that her political opponent, Sheikh Hasina, has shown in placing the image of her father on the notes of Bangladesh when she has had the opportunity.
Indira Gandhi is another who resisted the temptation. During her two terms as Prime Minister of India, from 1966 to 1977 and 1980 to 1984, she did not place the image of her famous father, Jawaharlal Nehru, on the notes of India, although his colleague Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi has appeared on many Indian banknotes. When Sühbaataryn Yanjmaa was acting Chairman of the Presidium of the People’s Great Khural of Mongolia, from 23 Sep 1953 to 7 Jul 1954, she had no need to put the portrait of her husband on the notes of Mongolia. Her deceased husband, Damdiny Sühbaatar, had appeared on the notes of Mongolia since 1939.
It remains to be seen whether Chandrika Kumaratunga, president of Sri Lanka since 1994, will take any action on the banknotes of Sri Lanka. Of all female leaders she has the most relatives who could appear on a banknote. Her father was Solomon Bandaranaike (already immortalized on the banknotes of Ceylon), her mother was Sirimavo Bandaranaike (a former prime minister of Ceylon), and her husband was Vijaya Kumaratunga. Her husband was assassinated in 1988 after they had established the Sri Lanka People’s Party. However, as Kumaratunga has been in office for such a long period, without taking any action on the banknotes, it is unlikely that we will see her relatives appear, or reappear, on the banknotes of Sri Lanka.
So, what do you do if you are a woman and the leader of a nation, but you don’t have any relatives to memorialize on the banknotes of your country. Simple! You can always put your own image on the notes! This is exactly what Agatha Barbara did while she was president of Malta from 1982 to 1987. Her portrait appears on notes issued in 1986 (SCWPM Nos. 37 to 40). Predictably, when she left office in 1987, a new series of notes was issued without her portrait.
This article was completed in January 2004
© Peter Symes