|President of Sri Lanka |
ශ්රී ලංකා ජනාධිපති
|Member of|| Cabinet |
National Security Council
|Term length||Five years, renewable once|
|Constituting instrument||Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka|
|Precursor||Queen of Ceylon|
|Inaugural holder|| William Gopallawa |
as the first President under
the 1972 Constitution
J. R. Jayewardene
as the first executive President under
the 1978 Constitution
|Formation||22 May 1972|
4 February 1978
|Salary||LKR 1,170,000 annually (2016) (≈ $ 7,640)|
|Website|| President |
The president of Sri Lanka (Sinhala : ශ්රී ලංකා ජනාධිපතිŚrī Laṃkā Janādhipathi; Tamil : இலங்கை சனாதிபதிIlankai janātipati) is the head of state and head of government of Sri Lanka. The president is the chief executive of the union government and the commander-in-chief of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.
The office was created in 1972 as a ceremonial head of state. Until 1972, Ceylon was a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state and Queen of Ceylon. It became an executive post in 1978, and since then has been the single most dominant political office in the country. The current president is Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
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politics and government of
Under the Soulbury Constitution which consisted of the Ceylon Independence Act, 1947 and The Ceylon (Constitution and Independence) Orders in Council 1947, Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known then) became a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The monarch of Ceylon, served as head of state, represented by the governor-general with the prime minister serving as the head of government. The governor-general replaced the position of the British governor of Ceylon who excised executive control over the entire island since 1815. In 1972, the new Republican Constitution, declared Sri Lanka a republic and the monarchy was abolished. Thereby the office of the governor-general was replaced by that of president as head of state and the prime minister continued to serve as the head of government.
In 1978, the second amendment to the Constitution moved from a westminster system into a presidential system with the president serving as both head of state and head of government. An elected presidency with a longer term and independence from Parliament was thus created. The President would be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, head of the cabinet of ministers and could dissolve parliament (after one year has passed since the convening of parliament after a parliamentary election)[ citation needed ]. The prime minister would serve as the deputy to the president and successor.
Sri Lankan presidents are involved with every aspect of the government and are able to hold cabinet portfolios, or can bypass the cabinet posts by delegating decisions to the Presidential Secretariat.
The seventeenth constitutional amendment of 2001 reduced certain powers of the president in particular in regard to the appointment of the upper judiciary and independent commissions such as the election commission or the bribery and corruption commission.
In 2010, the eighteenth amendment to the constitution removed the limited number of terms an incumbent president can stand for re-election. This removed the two-term limit that existed allowing the incumbent president to serve multiple terms as well as increasing his power by replacing the broader constitutional council with a limited parliamentary council.
The nineteenth constitutional amendment implemented restrictions on the powers of the presidency by removing much of the changes made by the eighteenth amendment. It limited the presidency to two five-year terms. The amendment mandates that the president has to consult the prime minister on ministerial appointments. It curtails any president’s immunity by making him liable to fundamental rights litigation on any official act.
Under the constitution a president would be selected in a Presidential election.
The Constitution sets the following qualifications for holding the presidency:
The president is elected to office in a presidential election held nationwide for a term of maximum of five years. An elected president can serve a maximum of two terms, with each term taking effect from the date of taking a public oath of the office for the elected term.
Succession to or vacancies in the office of president may arise under several possible circumstances: death or incapacity, resignation and removal from office. In the case when the president is unable to perform his/her duties, his/her powers are temporarily transferred to the prime minister until confirmed by Parliament.
Duties of the president as described in the constitution are;
Presidents have little constraints on their power. The president shall be responsible to Parliament, and can be impeached by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The president may declare war and peace. He can place the country or any part under a state of emergency, under which they can override any law passed and promulgate any regulation without needing legislative approval. However, to prolong the state of emergency for more than a month parliamentary approval is needed.
The president has the right to attend Parliament once in every three months with all the privileges, immunities and powers of a member of Parliament, other than the entitlement to vote, and shall not be liable for any breach of the privileges of Parliament or of its members. He/she has the right to address or send messages to Parliament. He/she has the power to make the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament at the commencement of each session of Parliament (Speech from the Throne), to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament.
The president is the head of the executive, as such to keep the Public Seal of the Republic, and make and execute under the public seal numerous appointments which includes the prime minister, cabinet and non-cabinet ministers, provincial governors, public officers, ambassadors and commissioned officers of the armed forces. The president may also appoint secretaries, officers and staff to carry out the duties of the office of the president. Grants and dispositions of lands and other immovable property vested in the Republic.
The president would have the power to appoint and remove, the chief justice, justices of the Supreme Court, justices of the Court of Appeal and judges of the High Court. The president may grant a pardon, respite or substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed to any offender convicted of any offence in any court within the Republic of Sri Lanka. The president has immunity from both civil or criminal proceedings. The president has the power to commission public inquires by appointing a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate any issue.
The president would have the power to receive and recognize, and to appoint and accredit ambassadors, high commissioners, plenipotentiaries and other diplomatic agents.
The president as an important ceremonial role in terms of state ceremonies, functions and in awarding state awards. Most notable would be the traditional throne speech delivered by the president to the parliament outlining the official policy statement of the new government to the parliament.The president would lead the independence day celebrations as well as other national ceremonies such as remembrance day, Wap Magul (ceremonial ploughing) and receive the Perahera Sandeshaya. National honors would be awarded by the president on behalf the Government of Sri Lanka. The president would receive letter of credence from foreign ambassadors.
The president may appoint provincial governors to head the provincial council and serve as his/her representative in the province. He/she may appoint any number of advisers as presidential advisers and coordinating secretaries to assist him/her.
The president has the power to appoint senior attorneys-at-laws to the position of President's Counsel. The president may appoint officers from the armed forces to serve as his aide-de-camp as well as extra-aide-de-camp. Additionally, the president may appoint medical officers of the armed forces as Honorary Physician to the President and Honorary Surgeon to the President.
The president would receive a monthly salary (as of 2016) of LKR 97,500 (≈ $ 636.7) paid from the consolidated fund.It was increased from LKR 25,000 (≈ $ 163.25) to LKR 97,500 in 2006.
By tradition the president and past presidents are not subjected to income tax. This practice dates back from pre-republic era when the crown was not subject to tax. In 2018, this practice was changed with the Inland Revenue Bill which removed the tax exception given to the President.
The president has immunity from both civil or criminal proceedings, during the tenure of office and acts carried out during this period.
The official residence of the president in Colombo is the President's House (formerly the Queen's House as the residences of the governor-general). The government pays for meals and staff. Other presidential residences include:
In recent years from time to time Prime Minister's House, commonly referred to as Temple Trees, which has been the traditional residence of the prime minister since 1948, has been used by some presidents such as Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa. While other presidents such as Jayewardene and Sirisena have refuse to use the President's House, with the former preferring to stay at his personal residence Braemar and the latter at his former ministerial residence at Wijayarama Mawatha.
For ground travel, the president uses the presidential state car, which is an armored black Mercedes-Benz S-Class (S600) Pullman Guard. For domestic air travel, helicopters from the No. 4 (VVIP/VIP) Helicopter Squadron of the Sri Lanka Air Force are used while for long distance travel, regular flights of the Sri Lankan Airlines are used. During ceremonial occasions, ships and boats of the Sri Lanka Navy have been commissioned as the Presidential yacht.
President's Security Division (PSD) is the main unit of the charged with the close protection of the President of Sri Lanka. During President Mahinda Rajapakse's time in office the specialized Army unit the 'President's Guard' was formed for Presidential Security. Prior to the formation of the President's Guard, army personnel served as a squadron under the President's Security Division since 1996 and focused on key tasks including the perimeter security of presidential residence, Temple Trees. 5th Regiment Sri Lanka Armoured Corps was the first army unit chosen to be in the dedicated security of the president of Sri Lanka during the presidency of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. However, in April 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the President's Guard.Currently the president's security is provided by the elite Special Task Force (STF) of the Sri Lanka Police.
After the oath of office has been taken by the elected president, a Presidential Standard is adopted by the president as the insignia his/her office. Each president has a unique standard, incorporating traditional symbols associated with the president or his or her home region. While there is no formal uniform for the president, traditionally male presidents would wear the national dress, while the only female president wore saris.
The Presidential Secretariat is the government ministry that functions as the office and staff of the president, supporting the administrative functions of the presidency and other ministerial portfolios that are held by president. Initially located at President's House, the staff of the office of the president grew with the establishment of the executive presidency and moved into the former Parliament building in Colombo in the 1980s which now hosts the Presidential Secretariat. The Presidential Secretariat is headed by the secretary to the president (also known as the president's secretary), who is the most senior civil servant country.
The president has the ability to appoint any number of advisers as presidential advisers . The highest-ranking of which are known as senior advisers . President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure had appointed 38 advisers.
The president may appoint any number of coordinating secretaries to assist him/her.
The president is the chair of the Board of Governors of the President's Fund which was established under the President’s Fund Act No. 7 of 1978 to provide funds for relief of poverty, access to special healthcare, advancement of education or knowledge, advancement of the religion and culture, providing awards to persons who have served the nation and for any other purposes beneficial or of interest to the public. It is administrated by the Presidential Secretariat.
Under the Constitutions of Sri Lanka, holders of the office of president are granted a pension equal to the last pay drawn while in office and privileges equivalent to a serving cabinet minister. This would include the order of precedence, an official residence, an office, staff, transport and security. The pension will be in addition to any other pension which he/she would be entitled to due to prior service. A widow of a former president would receive a pension of two thirds which would have been entitled to their spouse and the privileges entitled to their late spouse such as an official residence, transport and the order of precedence.
Politics of Sri Lanka takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Sri Lanka is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament. For decades, the party system was dominated by the socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the conservative United National Party. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Politics of Sri Lanka reflect the historical and political differences between the three main ethnic groups, the majority Sinhala and the minorities Tamils and Muslims, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is a semi-presidential system determined by the Sri Lankan Constitution. It administers the island from both its commercial capital of Colombo and the administrative capital of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.
The United National Party, often abbreviated as UNP, is a political party in Sri Lanka. The UNP had previously been the governing party or in the governing coalition from 1947 to 1956, from 1965 to 1970, from 1977 to 1994, 2001 to 2004 and 2015 to 2019. In total, the UNP governed Sri Lanka for 38 of 69 years of its independent history. The UNP also had control of the executive presidency from the presidency's formation in 1978 to 1994. The UNP is a conservative party to the right of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, favouring a more neo-liberal market-oriented economy. The UNP is also a member of the International Democrat Union.
The Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the supreme legislative body of Sri Lanka. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the island. It is modeled after the British Parliament.
Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa, commonly known as Mahinda Rajapaksa, is the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Minister of Finance since 2019, and previously from 2004 to 2005. He served as President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015 and as Leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2004 and 2018 to 2019. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kurunegala since 2015.
The Governor-general of Ceylon was the representative of the monarch in the Dominion of Ceylon from the country's independence from the United Kingdom in 1948 until it became the republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.
The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has been the constitution of the island nation of Sri Lanka since its original promulgation by the National State Assembly on 7 September 1978. As of May 2015 it has been formally amended 19 times.
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The Senate was the upper chamber of the parliament of Ceylon established in 1947 by the Soulbury Commission. The Senate was appointed and indirectly elected rather than directly elected. It was housed in the old Legislative Council building in Colombo Fort and met for the first time on 12 November 1947. The Senate was abolished on 2 October 1971 by the eighth amendment to the Soulbury Constitution, prior to the adoption of the new Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka on 22 May 1972. In 2010 there were proposals to reintroduce the Senate.
The Chief Justice of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the head of the judiciary of Sri Lanka and the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. Established in 1801, the Chief Justice is one of ten Supreme Court justices; the other nine are the Puisne Justices of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The post was created in 1801. The Chief Justice is nominated by the Constitutional Council, and appointed by the President. The first Chief Justice was Codrington Edmund Carrington. The 47th and current Chief Justice is Jayantha Jayasuriya.
Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena is a Sri Lankan politician, who served as the seventh President of Sri Lanka from 9 January 2015 to 18 November 2019. Sirisena is Sri Lanka's first president from the North Central Province of the country and does not belong to the traditional Sri Lankan political elite. He is currently a member of parliament from Polonnaruwa.
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The Government of the Northern Province refers to the provincial government of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Under the Sri Lankan constitution the nine provincial governments of the country have power over a variety of matters including agriculture, education, health, housing, local government, planning, road transport and social services. The constitution also gives them powers over police and land but successive central governments have refused to devolve these powers to the provinces. Legislative power rests with the Northern Provincial Council whilst executive power rests with the Governor and Board of Ministers.
Presidential elections were held in Sri Lanka on 8 January 2015, two years ahead of schedule. The incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the United People's Freedom Alliance's candidate, seeking a third term in office. The United National Party (UNP)-led opposition coalition chose to field Maithripala Sirisena, the former Minister of Health in Rajapaksa's government and general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) – the main constituent party of the UPFA – as its common candidate.
The 19th Amendment (19A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka was passed by the 225-member Sri Lankan Parliament with 215 voting in favor, one against, one abstained and seven were absent, on 28 April 2015. The amendment envisages the dilution of many powers of Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978. It is the most revolutionary reform ever applied to the Constitution of Sri Lanka since JR Jayawardhane became the first Executive President of Sri Lanka in 1978.
The Constitutional Council (CC) is a 10-member constitutional authority in Sri Lanka tasked with maintaining independent commissions and monitoring its affairs. The Constitutional Council is aimed at depoliticizing the public service.
A constitutional crisis began in Sri Lanka when President Maithripala Sirisena appointed former president and member of parliament Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister on 26 October 2018 before formally dismissing the incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe, resulting in two concurrent Prime Ministers. Wickremesinghe and the United National Party (UNP) viewed the appointment as illegal, and he refused to resign.
The 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka was passed by the 225-member Sri Lankan Parliament with 156 voting in favor, 65 against and four abstained on 22 October 2020. The 20th amendment became a subject of political controversy as political activists, civil societies, international community expressed concerns over its bias towards Rajapaksa family. Critics called it as a constitutional bombshell as it was deemed as in violation to the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The proposed amendment reverses most of the reforms and amendments which were introduced in the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka in 2015. 20th amendment brought back most of the constitutional powers to the President which was previously abolished in the 19th amendment. The 19th amendment was the first instance in Sri Lanka where the executive powers were equally shared by the President along with the cabinet. The 20th amendment was often a political objective of ruling party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration which recorded landslide victories in both 2019 Sri Lankan presidential election as well as 2020 Sri Lankan parliamentary election. On 22 October 2020, the amendment was successfully passed in the parliament with a ⅔ majority in the parliament.