List of heads of state of Sri Lanka

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Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Sri Lanka

This is a list of the heads of state of Ceylon and Sri Lanka, from the foundation of the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948 to the present day.

From 1948 to 1972 the head of state under the Ceylon Independence Act 1947 was the Monarch, who was the same person as the Monarch of the United Kingdom and of the other Dominions/Commonwealth realms. The monarch was represented in Ceylon by a Governor-General. Ceylon became a republic under the Constitution of 1972 and the monarch and Governor-General were replaced by a ceremonial President. In 1978, under the current Constitution, the President gained executive powers, becoming head of both state and government.

Monarch (1948–1972)[edit]

The succession to the throne of Ceylon was the same as the succession to the throne of the United Kingdom, governed by the Act of Settlement 1701.

Monarch Reign Royal House Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Reign start Reign end Duration
1 King George VI.jpg King George VI
4 February 1948 6 February 1952 4 years, 2 days House of Windsor Senanayake
2 Queen Elizabeth II - 1953-Dress.JPG Queen Elizabeth II
6 February 1952 22 May 1972 20 years, 106 days House of Windsor Senanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Wijeyananda Dahanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Dudley Senanayake
Sirimavo Bandaranaike


The Governor-General was the representative of the monarch in Ceylon and exercised most of the powers of the monarch. The Governor-General was appointed for an indefinite term, serving at the pleasure of the monarch. After the passage of the Statute of Westminster 1931, the Governor-General was appointed solely on the advice of the Cabinet of Ceylon without the involvement of the British government. In the event of a vacancy the Chief Justice served as Officer Administering the Government.

  Denotes Chief Justice acting as Officer Administering the Government
Governor-General Term of Office Monarch(s) Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Took Office Left Office Duration
1 No image.png Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore
4 February 1948 6 July 1949 1 year, 152 days George VI Senanayake
2 No image.png The Viscount Soulbury
6 July 1949 17 July 1954 5 days, 11 days George VI
Elizabeth II
Dudley Senanayake
3 Sir Oliver Goonetilleke.gif Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke
17 July 1954 2 March 1962 7 years, 228 days Elizabeth II Kotelawala
Wijeyananda Dahanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
4 William Gopallawa.jpg William Gopallawa
2 March 1962 22 May 1972 10 years, 81 days Elizabeth II Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Dudley Senanayake
Sirimavo Bandaranaike

President of Sri Lanka[edit]

Under the 1972 Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka, the President replaced the monarch as ceremonial head of state. The President was elected by the National Assembly for a six-year term. In the event of a vacancy the Prime Minister served as Acting President.

In 1978 the Presidency was modelled on the President of France but the same rules applied as to the vacancy of the President.

  Denotes Prime Minister acting as President


President Term of Office Political party
(at time of election)
Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Took Office Left Office Duration
1 William Gopallawa.jpg William Gopallawa
22 May 1972 4 February 1978 5 years, 258 days Independent Sirimavo Bandaranaike


President Term of office Political party
(at time of election)
# Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
2 Junius Richard Jayawardana (1906-1996).jpg J. R. Jayewardene
4 February 1978 2 January 1989 10 years, 333 days United National Party
3 No image.png Ranasinghe Premadasa
2 January 1989 1 May 1993
(Died in Office)
4 years, 119 days United National Party
4 No image.png Dingiri Banda Wijetunga
1 May 1993 12 November 1994 1 year, 195 days United National Party
5 Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.jpg Chandrika Kumaratunga
12 November 1994 19 November 2005 11 years, 7 days Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(People's Alliance)
6 WEF on the Middle East Arab and foreign Ministers Crop.jpg Mahinda Rajapaksa
19 November 2005 Incumbent 9 years, 254 days
(as of 31 July 2015)
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(United People's Freedom Alliance)

Living former heads of state[edit]

Name Term/Reign Office Date of birth
Elizabeth II 1952–1972 Queen of Ceylon 21 April 1926
Chandrika Kumaratunga 1994–2005 President of Sri Lanka 29 July 1945

External links[edit]