The monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appointed a Governor-General to be his/her representative in Ceylon. Neither the monarch nor the Governor-General had any real authority in conducting the administration of the country (however, both possessed reserve powers under the constitution which would allow them full control of the nation's governance whenever in their opinion a case of emergency requiring such action arises). Real legislative and executive responsibilities rested with the elected representatives of the people. During several periods when a state of emergency was declared the Governor-General used his reserved powers.
The Governor-General represented the Monarch on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament, the presentation of honours and military parades. Under the Constitution, he was given authority to act in some matters, for example in appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing Parliament and so on, but only in a few cases was he empowered to act entirely on his own discretion. When the Monarch was present in Ceylon on official visits, the post of Governor-General ceased to exist during the said period. On the absence of the Governor-General, the Chief Justice of Ceylon became acting Governor-General.