Independence trajectory | Daily News

Independence trajectory

1505 – 1658-Portuguese period

The Portuguese visit Sri Lanka as the first Europeans. Lourenço de Almeida invades the island and divides it into seven warring kingdoms.

1594–1815-Kandyan period

Following the invasion of the Portuguese, Konappu Bandara (King Vimaladharmasuriya) intelligently wins the battle and became the first king of the kingdom of Kandy. He builds the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The monarch ends with the death of the last king, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha in 1832.

1658 – 1796-Dutch period

The Dutch captures Colombo in 1656 and the last Portuguese strongholds near Jaffnapatnam in 1658. By 1660 they control the whole island except the land-locked kingdom of Kandy.

1803–1805-First Kandyan war

The British invaded the Kingdom of Kandy in this war but were repulsed. The first Kandyan war is precipitated by the intrigues of a minister of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, Pilimatalawe, who defects to the British and offered to show them the way through central Sri Lanka's winding mountain passes to the capital city. Enraged, the King of Kandy has the minister's family executed.

1805–1815-Second Kandyan war
Events in the ten years between the end of the First Kandyan War and the Second are such that the complexion of the second conflict is quite different from the first. Whereas in 1805 the British had been forced to contend with a largely hostile native nobility, in 1815 it is this same nobility who essentially invited the British into Kandy and supported their overthrow of Sri Vikrama Rajasingha.

1815 – 1948-British period

The British succeed in invading the country in the second Kandyan War.

1817 – 1818-Third Kandyan war

The Uwa Wellassa Great Rebellion is the third Kandyan war that took place in Uva, which was then a province of the Kingdom of Kandy, against the British colonial government under Governor Robert Brownrigg, which had been controlling the formerly independent Up-Country.

1833 - 1931-Colebrooke-Cameron Constitution

The Colebrooke-Cameron Commission creates the Legislative Council of Ceylon, along with the Executive Council of Ceylon, on the recommendations of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission. It was the first form of representative government on the island. The Legislative Council was reformed in 1910 by the McCallum Reforms.

1931 - 1947-Donoughmore Constitution
Created by the Donoughmore Commission, the Donoughmore Constitution replaces the Legislative Council with the State Council of Ceylon. It also introduces Universal suffrage over the protests of the Sinhalese, Tamil and Burgher elite who objected to the common people being allowed to vote.

1947 – 1972-Soulbury Constitution
The Soulbury Constitution consists of The Ceylon Independence Act, 1947. Sri Lanka was then known as Ceylon. The Soulbury Constitution provides a parliamentary form of Government for Ceylon and a Judicial Service Commission and a Public Service Commission.

1948 February 4-Red Letter Day

The British-ruled Colony of Ceylon achieves independence with an amended constitution taking effect on February 4, 1948.

First Prime Minister

Don Stephen Senanayake becomes the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon.

1952 March 26

Dudley Senanayake appointed as Prime Minister following the death of his father, DS Senanayake. His party won at the general elections held in June 1952, and he continued in the office without a re-appointment.

1953 October 12

Sir John Kotelawala succeeds Dudley Senanayake who resigns from the premiership. Sri Lanka joined the United Nations under the leadership of Kotelawala.

1956 April 12

As the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon, SWRD Bandaranaike changes the official language of the country from English to Sinhalese. He was assassinated before his term of office ended.

1959 September 26

Wijeyananda Dahanayake is appointed Prime Minister following the assassination of Bandaranaike. He was forced to dissolve the parliament later.

1960 March 21
Dudley Senanayake assumes premiership but his government is defeated after one month.

1960 July 21

Sirimavo Bandaranaike comes to power as the world's first female prime minister. She is appointed to the Senate on 2 August 1960.

1965 March 25
Dudley Senanayake elected Prime Minister for the third time. The agriculture sector was given high priority during his term of office.

1970 May 29
Sirimavo Bandaranaike is elected Prime Minister for the second time.

1972 May 22

Ceylon becomes a republic under the Bandaranaike government. Between 1948 and 1972, Ceylon was an independent country in the Commonwealth of Nations. Ceylon becomes the independent socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in a colourful ceremony that breaks a 157‐year‐link between the island and the British crown.

Republican Constitution
The Bandaranaike Government introduces a new Republican Constitution. This Constitution provides for a unicameral legislature named the National State Assembly with a term of office of 6 years and Sovereignty entirely vested in it. A nominal President with a term of office of four years is appointed as the Head of State by the Prime Minister, Head of the Cabinet of Ministers responsible to the National State assembly.

First non-executive President

William Gopallawa was the last Governor-General of Ceylon from 1962 to 1972 and became the first and only Non-Executive President of Sri Lanka when Ceylon declared itself a republic in 1972 and changed its name to Sri Lanka.

1977 July 23


Junius Richard Jayewardene becomes Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

1978 September 7: The 1978 Constitution

The Jayewardene government introduces the current constitution with a unicameral parliament and an Executive President. The term of office of the president and the duration of parliament are set at six years. The Constitution has undergone 19 amendments with a 20th proposed.

1978 February 4
Junius Richard Jayewardene introduces the Executive Presidency and assumes the position as the first Executive President of Sri Lanka.

1978 February 6
Ranasinghe Premadasa becomes the first Prime Minister to be appointed after the constitutional changes of 1978, with powers of the position reduced drastically.

1989 January 2
Ranasinghe Premadasa becomes the second Executive President of Sri Lanka.

1993 May 7

Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who served as the acting President following the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa on May 1, 1993, is appointed as the Executive President of Sri Lanka with Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed as the Prime Minister.

1994 November 12

Chandrika Kumaratunga becomes the country’s first female president. She served as the Prime Minister for a short period, before contesting in the presidential elections in 1994. She appointed her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, to succeed her as prime minister.

2005 November 19

Mahinda Rajapaksa who served as Prime Minister and Opposition Leader in two occasions under the Kumaratunga presidency is elected to succeed her as Executive President of Sri Lanka.

2009 May 18
The Mahinda Rajapaksa government declares an end to its civil war with the Tamil Tigers, ending almost 26 years of fighting. The government announced that the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is over after the death of all the leaders of the separatist guerrillas, including its chief Prabhakaran Velupillai.

2015 January 9

Maithripala Sirisena is elected as Executive President. He is instrumental in introducing the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which diluted the powers of the executive presidency.

2019 November 18

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is elected as Executive President of Sri Lanka. He appoints former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister.

2020 October 22
The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, which reverses most reforms introduced in the Nineteenth Amendment, is passed by Parliament. The Amendment restores the previously diluted constitutional powers of the Executive President, which he is entitled to as the singular person elected to office by over 50 percent of the registered electors in the country.