Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

The Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලංකා අග්‍රාමාත්‍ය Śrī Laṃkā agrāmāthya; Tamil: இலங்கை பிரதமர் Ilaṅkai piratamar) is the most senior member of parliament in the cabinet of ministers in Sri Lanka which is collectively accountable for their policies and actions to parliament. The President is both head of state and head of government in Sri Lanka. Since 1978, most prime ministers have served as mere deputies to the executive presidency, while at times served as the de facto head of government.

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
ශ්‍රී ලංකා අග්‍රාමාත්‍ය
இலங்கை பிரதமர்
Mahinda Rajapaksa

since 21 November 2019
Member of
Reports toParliament
ResidenceTemple Trees
SeatSri Jayawardenapura Kotte
NominatorParliament of Sri Lanka
AppointerPresident of Sri Lanka
Term lengthFive years
Constituting instrumentConstitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
PrecursorLeader of the House, State Council of Ceylon
Inaugural holderDon Stephen Senanayake
Formation14 October 1947 (1947-10-14)
SuccessionFirst in the
presidential line of succession
SalaryLKR 858,000 annually (2016)[1][2]
WebsitePrime Minister's Office
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On 21 November 2019, Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the Prime Minister for the 3rd time, following the resignation of Ranil Wickremesinghe, upon the election victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President of Sri Lanka.


The President will appoint a member of parliament as Prime Minister, who in the President's opinion, "is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament". The prime minister will continue to hold office throughout the period during which the cabinet of ministers continues to function under the provisions of the constitution unless he/she resigns from the post or ceases to be a member of parliament.[3]

Powers and role

Under the Soulbury Constitution the post of Prime Minister was created in 1947 as the head of government in the Westminster system. In 1978, under the second amendment to the Republican Constitution of 1972 much of the powers of the premiership was transferred to the executive presidency as head of government and head of the cabinet of ministers in addition to being the head of state. As a result, the Prime Minister became a senior most member cabinet of ministers and successor to the President. The prime minister would serve as the deputy to the president if both are from the same political party. In certain occasions, when the president is not from the majority party in parliament or a national government is formed, the prime minister would be appointed from a party different from the president's. In such a situations the prime minister would serve as the de facto head of government.[3] In 2015, the nineteenth amendment restored certain degree of powers to the premiership.

The prime minister is the second in the order of precedence after the president and head of the cabinet of ministers. The prime minister would be a member of the constitutional council, national security council and the most senior member of the cabinet of ministers.

Head of the cabinet of ministers

As head of the cabinet of ministers, the Prime Minister has the power to:

  • Determine the number of Cabinet Ministers and Ministries and assignment of subjects.
  • Determine the number of Non-cabinet Ministers and Ministries and assignment of subjects.

Principal adviser to the president

By the constitution, the Prime Minister holds formal power to advise the president on:

  • Appoint, dismiss, or accept the resignation of cabinet and non-cabinet ministers.[3]
  • Change of subjects assigned to cabinet ministers.[3]

Presidential succession

As per the constitution, if the office of president becomes vacant, the prime minister would "act in the office of President during the period between the occurrence of such vacancy and the assumption of office by the new President and shall appoint one of the other Ministers of the Cabinet to act in the office of Prime Minister". In such as situation, the office of Prime Minister is vacant or the prime minister is unable to act, the Speaker shall act in the office of President.[3]

The president may appoint the prime minister to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office of President for a period during the president is unable to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of his office due to illness, absence from Sri Lanka or any other cause.[3]

Privileges of office


The Prime Minister would receive a salary (as of 2016) of LKR 800,000 annually paid from the Prime Minister's Office.

Official residence and office

The official residence of the prime minister is the Prime Minister's House most commonly referred to as Temple Trees. The prime minister has the use of the Prime Minister's Cottage as a vacationing residence in the holiday-town of Nuwara Eliya. The Prime Minister's Office is located in the Sirimathipaya on Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha (formerly known as Flower Road) in Colombo.

In recent years from time to time, Temple Trees has been by some presidents such as Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa. While certain Prime Ministers such as Wickremesinghe have chosen to stay at his personal residence.


For ground travel, the prime minister uses the prime ministerial 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.


Traditionally security for the prime minister has been provided by the Sri Lanka Police. During emergencies military units have been allocated to bolster security. At present the Prime Minister's Security Division is in charge of security of the Prime Minister.

Order of precedence

In the Sri Lankan order of precedence, the prime minister is placed after the President, but before the Speaker of the Parliament.


The post of Prime Minister of Ceylon was created in 1947 prior to independence from Britain and the formation of the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948. United National Party leader D. S. Senanayake became the first Prime Minister of Then Ceylon in 1947 after independence. In 1972 when Sri Lanka became a republic the name of the post changed to Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. With a Westminster-based political system established the Prime Minister was the head of government therefore held the most powerful political office of the country at the time. This changed with a constitutional change in 1978, when the Executive Presidency was created, making the President both head of state and head of government. Until 1978 the Prime minister was also the Minister of Defence and External Affairs. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President as a member of the cabinet of ministers. In the event the post president is vacant, the Prime Minister becomes the acting president until Parliament convenes to elect a successor or new elections could be held to elect a new president. This was the case with H.E. President Dingiri Banda Wijetunge. United National Party leaders Dudley Senanayake and Ranil Wickramasinghe together with Sri Lanka Freedom Party leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike was appointed three times to the position. With the passing of the 19th amendment to the constitution in 2015, the prime minister was granted more powers when appointing ministers and leading the cabinet.

2018 Sri Lankan constitutional crisis

On the 26th October 2018, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed by Maithripala Sirisena as the Prime Minister dismissing incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Wickremasinghe refused to accept the dismissal stating that it was unconstitutional, resulting in a constitutional crisis.

On the 3rd December 2018, a court issued an interim order preventing Mahinda Rajapaksha from functioning in the position.[4] On December 16, 2018 Ranil Wickramasinghe was re-appointed as Prime Minister ending the crisis.[5]

Last election

 Summary of the 2015 Sri Lankan parliamentary election[6][7]
Alliances and partiesVotes%Seats
 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna543,9444.87%426
 Sri Lanka Muslim Congress[lower-roman 3]44,1930.40%101
 Eelam People's Democratic Party33,4810.30%101
 All Ceylon Makkal Congress[lower-roman 2]33,1020.30%000
 Democratic Party28,5870.26%000
 Ceylon Workers' Congress[lower-roman 4]17,1070.15%000
 Frontline Socialist Party7,3490.07%000
United People's Party5,3530.05%000
Valid Votes11,166,975100.00%19629225
Rejected Votes517,1234.43%
Total Polled11,684,09877.66%
Registered Electors15,044,490

See also




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