WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Political History of Sri Lanka

A Chronological Presentation Dating from the Colonial Period

(Source: @Ministry of Constitutional Affairs)




The coastal areas of Sri Lanka falls into the hands the Portuguese

1521 – 1594

The rise and fall of the Sitawaka Kingdom The Kingdom totally collapsed after the death of King Rajasingha (1593). Sitawaka, during its existance presented one of the most vigorous oppositions to Imperialist rule in Sri Lankan history. 1597, the Portuguese emissary, the captain-general, took formal possession of the kingdom.


Don Juan Dharmapla, the Sri Lankan Prince who was a puppet in the hands of the Portuguese, makes out a deed donating his dominions to the King of Portugal


Dharmapala dies The Portuguese Emissary, the captain General takes formal possession of the Kingdom During this period the Portuguese Missionaries have been successfully working on converting a large number of Sinhalese Buddhists and also Jaffna Tamils into Christianity


The Jaffna Peninsula is added to the Portuguese territory


Yet another attempt by the Portuguese to annex the Kandyan kingdom to their territory, which would have assured total control over the island fails, as the Kandyans ambush and massacre an ambitious Portuguese force


The Dutch begin negotiations with King Rajasinha II of Kandy In a treaty between the King and the Dutch, the King is assured assistance in his war against the Portuguese in exchange for a monopoly of the major trade goods, particularly cinnamon. The King also promises the Dutch's war-related expenses.


The Dutch captures the Eastern ports of Trincomalee and Batticaloa in and restores them to the Sinhalese King


The Dutuch capture Galle and Negombo They refuse to hand them over to the Kandyan king, fraudulently claiming that the king is due to reimburse a vast amount of their military expenditure


The Portuguese surrender Colombo to the Dutch


The Portuguese surrender Jaffna to the Dutch The Dutch were able to gain political control over the country, now that the Kandyan kingdom was trapped in the highlands and they took effective control over trade. Their contribution to the judicial system of the country is still significant. They were able to leave an impact on the administrative system too


Britain gains control over the Dutch


London decides to retain Ceylon as a British possession. The British East India Company shares in the administration of the island The Governor – responsible for law and order The Director of East India Company – Responsible for financial and commercial matters


The Dutch formally hands over the control to the British (Peace of Amiens) Sri Lanka becomes the “first crown colony” of the British


The first Kandyan War


The British and the Kandyan chieftains sign the Kandyan Convention


British Colonial Office sends a Royal Commission of Eastern Inquiry--the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission--to assess the administration of the island.


Adoption and enforcement of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission Proposals under the Charter of Justice


A small electorate of Sri Lankans gains permission to send one of their members to the Legislative Council. Other seats held by Sri Lankans retained the old practice of communal representation.


A royal commission under the Earl of Donoughmore visits Sri Lanka to ascertain why representative government as chartered by the 1924 constitution had not succeeded and to suggest constitutional changes necessary for the island's eventual self-rule.


The Donoughmore Constitution Universal adult franchise and an experimental system of government to be run by executive committees is established


Lord Soulbury is appointed head of a commission charged with the task of examining a new constitutional draft that the Sri Lankan ministers had proposed. The commission makes recommendations that lead to a new constitution. The constitution was amended to incorporate a provision giving Sri Lanka dominion status at the end of World War II


The Ceylon Independence Act sees daylight after negotiations with the Sri Lankan leaders The First Election in the History of the Island, D S Senanayake elected as the First Prime Minister

February 4th 1948

Ceylon gains freedom


Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was created by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike


The Second Election. United National Party (UNP) wins


The Third Election. UNP win again. Sir John Kotelawala elected as Prime Minister.


Fourth Election.  SLFP wins. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike becomes the prime minister


Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike is assassinated on the 25th of September


Fifth Election. The Fourth Parliament of Sri Lanka lasts for only thirty days as the newly elected Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake is defeated by a motion of no-confidence.


Sixth Election. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of the SLFP becomes the prime minister and the world's first woman prime minister. SLFP formes a coalition government with small parties.


UNP wins in the Election and Dudley Senanayake becomes the prime minister.


SLFP-led coalition wins at the election and Sirimavo Bandaranaike is the Prime Minister.


The new Republican Constitution is introduced. Lanka is re-named ‘Sri Lanka’


UNP wins the election and J.R. Jayawardene is the prime minister.


A new constitution introduced creating the powerful Executive Presidency. R Premadasa becomes the Prime Minister of President J R  Jayawardene’s Cabinet


Repeated victory for J R Jayawardene at the Presidential election


The UNP majority Parliament is extended until 1989 at the referendum


Presidential election.  R Premadasa of the UNP is the new President


Parliament election: UNP wins the majority seats. D.B.Wijetunge becomes the new Prime Minister


President R Premadasa falls victim to a suicide bomber marking another death in a line of political assassinations.  D B Wijetunge assumes office as the new President and  Ranil Wickramasinghe is his Prime Minister.


Presidential election: Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of the SLFP led coalition People's Alliance (PA) gains victory


Parliament election: Sirimavo Bandaranaike becomes the Prime Minister as PA gets the majority seats.


Ratnasiri Wickramanayake becomes the Prime Minister


Presidential election: Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of the SLFP led coalition People's Alliance (PA) win the election


Parliament election: UNP-led coalition United National Front (UNF) win majority seats.

(Source: @Ministry of Constitutional Affairs)

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