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 independence 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 of Ceylon, who was the same person as the Monarch of the United Kingdom and 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 state and government.

Monarch (1948–1972)[edit]

The succession to the throne of Ceylon was the same as the succession to the British throne.

Portrait Reign Royal House Prime Minister(s)
Reign start Reign end
1 King George VI
King George VI.jpg 4 February 1948 6 February 1952 Windsor D. S. Senanayake
2 Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II - 1953-Dress.JPG 6 February 1952 22 May 1972 Windsor D. S. Senanayake
D. Senanayake
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. 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
Portrait Tenure Monarch Prime Minister(s)
Took office Left office
1 Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore
No image.png 4 February 1948 6 July 1949 George VI D. S. Senanayake
2 The Viscount Soulbury
No image.png 6 July 1949 17 July 1954 George VI
Elizabeth II
D. S. Senanayake
D. Senanayake
3 Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke
Sir Oliver Goonetilleke.gif 17 July 1954 2 March 1962 Elizabeth II Kotelawala
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. Bandaranaike
4 William Gopallawa
William Gopallawa.jpg 2 March 1962 22 May 1972 Elizabeth II S. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. 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 Constitution the Presidency became an executive post, the rules was the same as the 1972 Constitution.

  Denotes Prime Minister acting as President
Portrait Tenure Elected Political affiliation
(at time of appointment)
Prime Minister(s)
Took office Left office
Ceremonial President
1 William Gopallawa
William Gopallawa.jpg 22 May 1972 4 February 1978 Independent Bandaranaike
Executive President
2 J. R. Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayawardana (1906-1996).jpg 4 February 1978 2 January 1989 1982 United National Party Premadasa
3 Ranasinghe Premadasa
No image.png 2 January 1989 1 May 1993
(died in office.)
1988 United National Party Wijetunga
4 Dingiri Banda Wijetunga
No image.png 1 May 1993 7 May 1993 United National Party Wickremesinghe
7 May 1993 12 November 1994
5 Chandrika Kumaratunga
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.jpg 12 November 1994 19 November 2005 1994, 1999 Sri Lanka Freedom Party
6 Mahinda Rajapaksa
WEF on the Middle East Arab and foreign Ministers Crop.jpg 19 November 2005 9 January 2015 2005, 2010 Sri Lanka Freedom Party
7 Maithripala Sirisena
Maithripala Sirisena (cropped).jpg 9 January 2015 2015 Sri Lanka Freedom Party


Living former heads of state[edit]

There are three living former Sri Lankan Heads of State:

Image Name Term/Reign Office Date of birth
Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg Elizabeth II 1952–1972 Queen of Ceylon (1926-04-21) 21 April 1926 (age 90)
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.jpg Chandrika Kumaratunga 1994–2005 President of Sri Lanka (1945-07-29) 29 July 1945 (age 71)
WEF on the Middle East Arab and foreign Ministers Crop.jpg Mahinda Rajapaksa 2005–2015 President of Sri Lanka (1945-11-11) 11 November 1945 (age 70)

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Elected as a New Democratic Front candidate.