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World > Asia > Sri Lanka > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Sri Lanka - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT
Under the 1978 constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Responsible to Parliament for the exercise of duties under the constitution and laws, the president may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of Parliament with the concurrence of the Supreme Court.

The president appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers responsible to Parliament. The president's deputy is the prime minister, who leads the ruling party in Parliament. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.

Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation to a 6-year term. The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws.

The 1978 constitution clearly envisaged a system where the president and the prime minister were from the same party. Following the December 2001 parliamentary elections, the president and the prime minister were from different parties. This led to serious cohabitation strains. In November 2003, for example, President Kumaratunga suddenly took over three key ministries (Defense, Interior, and Mass Communications), precipitating a serious cohabitation crisis between the two sides. In February of 2004, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. The UPFA, while receiving enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government, fell short of the 113 seats necessary for a majority in Parliament. Mahinda Rajapaksa of the SLFP became Prime Minister and former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe became Leader of the Opposition. Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister.

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987--and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution--the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.

Principal Government Officials
President--Mahinda Rajapaksa
Prime Minister--Ratnasiri Wickramanayake
Ambassador to the United States--Bernard Goonetilleke
Ambassador to the United Nations--Prasad Kariyawasam

Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-4834025).


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Sri Lanka Rupee Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Sri Lanka Rupee Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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