List of heads of state 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, under the Ceylon Independence Act of 1947, the head of state was the Monarch of the United Kingdom who 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. Since 1978, under the current constitution, the President has executive powers, becoming both head of state and government.

Monarch (1948–1972)Edit

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

Portrait Reign Royal House Prime Minister
Reign start Reign end
1 King George VI
  4 February 1948 6 February 1952 Windsor D. S. Senanayake
2 Queen Elizabeth II
  6 February 1952 22 May 1972 Windsor D. S. Senanayake
Dudley Senanayake
John Kotelawala
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
Wijeyananda Dahanayake
Dudley Senanayake
Sirimavo Bandaranaike
D. 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. The Governor-General was appointed 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
Took office Left office
1 Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore
  4 February 1948 29 June 1949 George VI D. S. Senanayake
Sir Arthur Wijewardena
  29 June 1949 6 July 1949 George VI D. S. Senanayake
2 The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Soulbury
  6 July 1949 17 July 1954 George VI
Elizabeth II
D. S. Senanayake
D. Senanayake
3 Sir Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke
  17 July 1954 2 March 1962 Elizabeth II Kotelawala
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. Bandaranaike
4 William Gopallawa
  2 March 1962 22 May 1972 Elizabeth II S. Bandaranaike
D. Senanayake
S. Bandaranaike

President of Sri LankaEdit

Under the 1972 Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka, the president replaced the Monarch as the 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 the 1978 Constitution the presidency became an executive post, the rules were the same as the 1972 Constitution.

List of presidentsEdit


  United National Party   Sri Lanka Freedom Party   Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna   Independent

No. Portrait Name
Home province
Term of office
Electoral mandates
Time in office
Other ministerial offices
held while president
Political party
of president
Government Refs
President (non-executive) (1972-1978)
1   William Gopallawa
විලියම් ගොපල්ලව
வில்லியம் கோபள்ளவா
22 May
4 February
Independent Sirimavo Bandaranaike II 10th [1]
5 years, 8 months and 13 days
Served as the last Governor-General of Ceylon and the first (non-executive) President when Ceylon declared itself a republic in 1972, and changed its name to Sri Lanka.
Executive President (1978–present)
2   Junius Richard Jayewardene
ජුනියස් රිචඩ් ජයවර්ධන
ஜூனியஸ் ரிச்சட் ஜயவர்தனா
4 February
2 January
Minister of Defence
Minister of Planning & Economic Affairs
Minister of Plan Implementation
& Minister of Higher Education
United National Party Jayewardene 11th
10 years, 11 months and 29 days
Introduced the Executive Presidency in 1978, and assumed the position of president of Sri Lanka.[2]
3   Sri Lankabhimanya
Ranasinghe Premadasa
රණසිංහ ප්‍රේමදාස
ரணசிங்க பிரேமதாசா
2 January
1 May
Minister of Defence
Minister of Buddha Sasana
& Minister of Minister of Policy Planning & Implementation
United National Party Premadasa 13th [1]
4 years and 4 months
Was assassinated during a May Day rally, by an LTTE suicide bomber.
4 Sri Lankabhimanya
Dingiri Banda Wijetunga
ඩිංගිරි බණ්ඩා විජේතුංග
டிங்கிரி பண்ட விஜேதுங்க
1 May
12 November
United National Party Wijetunga 13th [1]
 — 14th
1 year, 6 months and 10 days
Prime Minister at the time of Ranasinghe Premadasa's assassination by LTTE. Appointed as acting president and continued in that capacity until 7 May 1993 when he was elected by Parliament to the office of president under Article 40 of the Constitution.
5   Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
චන්ද්‍රිකා බණ්ඩාරනායක කුමාරතුංග
சந்திரிகா பண்டாரநாயக்கே குமாரதுங்கா
12 November
19 November
Sri Lanka Freedom Party Kumaratunga 14th
1994, 1999 16th
11 years and 7 days 17th
The first non UNP president of the country. Appointed her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, to succeed her as prime minister. Victim of multiple assassination attempts by LTTE, which were all unsuccessful.


  Mahinda Rajapaksa
මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ
மகிந்த ராசபக்ச
19 November
9 January
Minister of Defence
Minister of Finance
Minister of Law & Order
& Minister of Highways, Ports & Shipping
Sri Lanka Freedom Party Mahinda Rajapaksa 17th
2005, 2010
9 years, 1 month and 21 days
Ended the 25-year-long Sri Lankan Civil War and LTTE insurgency in the country. Alleged war crimes during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Infrastructure Development, Feud with Sarath Fonseka, Eighteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, Impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake, Defeated in 2015 elections.
7   Maithripala Sirisena
මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන
மைத்திரிபால சிறிசேன
North Central
9 January
18 November
Minister of Defence
Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment
Sri Lanka Freedom Party[N 1] Sirisena
(UNP backed coalition)
18th [1]
2015 19th
4 years, 10 months and 9 days
Defeated Rajapaksa in his bid for unprecedented third term. Mainly backed by United National Party and other opposition parties nominated under New Democratic Front (Sri Lanka). Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.100-day reform program. Reinstated Shirani Bandaranayake as Chief Justice. Promoted Sarath Fonseka to the rank of Field Marshal. Reset foreign relations with India and the United States.
8   Gotabaya Rajapaksa
ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ
கோட்டாபய ராஜபக்ச
18 November
Incumbent Minister of Defence Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Gotabaya Rajapaksa I 19th [1]
2019 Gotabaya Rajapaksa II 20th
2 years, 7 months and 16 days
Appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister after the resignation of Ranil Wickremasinghe. Responsibls for completely destroying the Sri Lankan economy along with his entire family.


Gotabaya RajapaksaMaithripala SirisenaMahinda RajapaksaChandrika KumaratungaDingiri Banda WijetungaRanasinghe PremadasaJunius Richard JayewardeneWilliam Gopallawa



  1. ^ Elected as a New Democratic Front candidate.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Heads of State". Parliament of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Former Sri Lanka president dies, leaves mixed legacy". CNN. 1 November 1996. Retrieved 4 October 2008.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Presidential candidates cast their votes". News First. Retrieved 2019-12-02.

External linksEdit