Legislative Council of Ceylon

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Legislative Council of Ceylon
British Ceylon
Established13 March 1833
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byState Council of Ceylon
Seats16 (1833-1889)
18 (1889-1910)
21 (1910-1920)
37 (1920-1923)
49 (1923-1931)
Last election
1924 Ceylonese Legislative Council election
Meeting place
Repub building.jpg
The Legislative Council building in Colombo Fort. The building was used by the Senate of Ceylon between 1947 and 1971. Today it is known as the Republic Building and houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Legislative Council of Ceylon was the legislative body of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) established in 1833, along with the Executive Council of Ceylon, on the recommendations of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission. It was the first form of representative government in the island. The 1931 Donoughmore Constitution replaced the Legislative Council with the State Council of Ceylon.

Members of the Legislative Council, used the post-nominal letters, MLC.[1]



In 1833 the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission created the Legislative Council of Ceylon, the first step in representative government in British Ceylon. Initially the Legislative Council consisted of 16 members: the British Governor, the five appointed members of the Executive Council of Ceylon (the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Auditor-General, the Treasurer and the General Officer Commanding), four other government officials (including the Government Agents of the Western and Central provinces) and six appointed unofficial members (three Europeans, one Sinhalese, one Tamil and one Burgher). The unofficial members had no right to initiate legislation; they could only contribute to discussion. This was the first step towards giving the people of the country a voice in its administration. However, in 1860 the member of the Legislative Council were given the right to introduce legislation which did not deal with the financial matters.[2]

In 1889 the number of appointed unofficial members was increased to eight (three Europeans, one Low Country Sinhalese, one Kandyan Sinhalese, one Tamil, one Muslim and one Burgher).

McCallum Reforms[edit]

The Legislative Council was reformed in 1910 by the McCallum Reforms. Membership was increased from 18 to 21, of which 11 were official and 10 were unofficial. Of the non-official members, six were appointed by the governor (two Low Country Sinhalese, two Tamils, one Kandyan Sinhalese and one Muslim) and the remaining four were elected (two Europeans, one Burgher and one educated Ceylonese).

The most notable aspect of the McCallum Reforms was the introduction of elected members. However, fewer than 3,000 people could vote, as the right to vote was based on education and assets held. One of the four elected non-official members was Ponnambalam Ramanathan. The financial committee was also established to control the revenue. It included the Colonial Secretary, Colonial Treasurer, Revenue Controller and all the non-official elected members. These changes did not satisfy the Ceylonese, and the movement for constitutional reforms grew.

First Manning Reforms[edit]

Further reforms were enacted in 1920 by the First Manning Reforms. Membership was increased from 21 to 37, of which 14 were official and 23 were unofficial. Of the non-official members, four were appointed by the governor (two Kandyan Sinhalese, one Muslim and one Indian Tamil) and the remaining 19 were elected (11 on a territorial basis, five Europeans, two Burghers and one Chamber of Commerce).

A notable change was the introduction of territorial constituencies. Of the 11 territorial constituencies, three were from the Western Province and one each from the other eight provinces. Three non-official members were elected to the Executive Council. Yet again the Ceylonese were not satisfied and requested more change.

Second Manning Reforms[edit]

The Second Manning Reforms of 1923 increased membership from 37 to 49, of which 12 were official and 37 were unofficial. Of the non-official members, eight were appointed by the governor (three Muslim, two Indian Tamils and three others) and the remaining 29 were elected (23 on a territorial basis, three Europeans, two Burghers, one Ceylon Tamil for the Western Province). The 23 territorial constituencies were distributed as follows:

The head of the Legislative Council had been the Governor, but the new reforms created the post of President of the Legislative Council, which was held by the Governor on a nominal basis, and the Vice President of the Legislative Council was elected, who was James Peiris. Four non-official members were also selected to be part of the Executive Council.


Due to the shortcomings of the Second Manning Reforms the Donoughmore Commission was sent to Ceylon. The Commission gained its name from the royal commission under the Earl of Donoughmore that came to Ceylon in 1927. Its recommendations led to Ceylon gaining limited self-government and the replacement of the Legislative Council with the State Council of Ceylon in 1931.

Members of the Legislative Council[edit]

Official members[edit]

Unofficial members[edit]


  • Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 2: Beginning of British Rule". SRI LANKA: THE UNTOLD STORY. Archived from the original on 2001-08-27.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  • "First taste of representative government". Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 18 March 2007.
  1. ^ Did Donoughmore make a serious mistake?
  2. ^ Cyrene Siriwardhana, Sri Lanka Law College Entrance Examination Course Book,(The Incorporated Council of Legal Education/Sri Lanka Law College, 1998), 26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "D. S. Senanayake". The Island, Sri Lanka. 22 October 2000.
  4. ^ "No. 27172". The London Gazette. 9 March 1900. p. 1629.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g WIJESINHA, Sam (26 June 2009). "Felix in Parliament and at Parliamentary Conferences". Daily News, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on June 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Gunawardena, Charles A. (2005). Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 1. ISBN 9781932705485.
  7. ^ "Sri Lankan Malays Fight For Parliament Representation". Colombo Telegraph. 1 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  8. ^ Wenzlhuemer, Roland (23 January 2008). From Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon, 1880-1900. ISBN 9789047432173. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  9. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (26981): 3858. 24 June 1898.
  10. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (27578): 4589. 21 July 1903.
  11. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (27894): 1793. 13 March 1906.
  12. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (28587): 1659. 15 March 1912.
  13. ^ CEYLON'S BATTLE, The Straits Times (13 November 1929) Retrieved 2 November 2015
  14. ^ Traversed new paths making History, Ananda E. Goonesinha (The Island) Retrieved 2 November 2015

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