Country Listing

Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Sri Lanka


Government: Constitution of September 7, 1978, guarantees fundamental rights of thought, conscience, and worship and established unitary state with strong executive power. President, elected directly for six-year term, serves as chief of state and government and appoints cabinet of ministers; October 1982 presidential election won by incumbent Junius R. ("J.R.") Jayewardene of United National Party (UNP), who received 52.9 percent of vote. Legislature consists of 196-member unicameral Parliament having power to pass laws by simple majority and amend Constitution by two-thirds majority. Parliamentary members, chosen by universal suffrage from electoral constituencies corresponding generally to administrative districts, serve sixyear terms. Below national level, popularly elected provincial councils established in seven of nine provinces in 1988. Until provincial councils fully operational, basic administrative subdivision remains district governed by council of elected and appointed members, presided over by district minister, who serves concurrently in Parliament. At lowest governmental echelon, administrative functions carried out by popularly elected urban, municipal, town, and village councils. In rural areas, village councils exercise governance over 90 percent of nation's territory.

Politics: UNP headed by President Jayewardene, in power since 1977, retained over two-thirds majority in Parliament and won provincial council elections in 1988. Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), left-of-center, alternated in power with UNP since independence, but boycotted 1988 provincial council elections, and surrendered place as principal opposition group to newly formed United Socialist Alliance (USA), which finished second in elections. USA consisted of four left-of-center parties: Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL), Ceylon Equal Society Party (Lanka Sama Samaja Party--LSSP), New Equal Society Party (Nava Sama Samaja Party--NSSP), and Sri Lanka People's Party (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya--SLMP). Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) only minor party to gain seats in provincial council elections. Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) principal Tamil party, advocates separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, but not represented in Parliament since 1983. People's Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna--JVP), formally proscribed, in armed opposition to government.

Administrative Divisions: Nine provinces (Northern and Eastern provinces may be combined into a single province in 1989); twenty-four administrative districts.

Legal System: 1978 Constitution guarantees independence of judiciary. Legal system based on British common law, RomanDutch (Napoleonic) law, and customary practices of Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims. Supreme Court, highest court in nation, has chief justice and between six and ten associate justices appointed by president. Country divided into five judicial circuits, subdivided into districts with district courts and divisions with magistrates' courts. Lowest courts are conciliation boards with responsibility for minor criminal and civil cases.

International Memberships: Asian Development Bank, Colombo Plan, Commonwealth of Nations, Group of 77, Intelsat, Interpol, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Nonaligned Movement, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and specialized agencies, World Federation of Trade Unions.

Data as of October 1988