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About Parliament

History of Parliament

The Executive Council and the Legislative Council met in the building opposite the picturesque Gordon Gardens, now occupied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, until the scene was shifted to the Parliament Building fronting the ocean at Galle Face.

This building, declared open on 29th January 1930 by Governor Sir Herbert Stanley, housed the Legislature till April 1982. Consequent to constitutional reforms, the name of the Legislature changed several times as follows : the Legislative Council (1833-1931), the State Council (1931 - 1947), the House of Representatives (1947 - 1972), the National State Assembly (1972 - 1978) and the Parliament (1978-). At the time this building was declared open as the Legislative Council the seating accommodation in its Chamber was for 49 Members.

In 1947 the membership of the House was increased to 101 with the introduction of the Soulbury Constitution. It was further increased from 101 to 157 as recommended by the Delimitation Commission of 1959 and continued to be so until 1972. With the adoption of the Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka in 1972 the membership increased to 168. On each of these occasions structural alterations were made to accommodate the increased membership.

Unlike in the House of Commons of Great Britain, where tradition takes a tenacious hold on practice, and where every member is not provided with a seat in the Chamber, in Sri Lanka every Member of Parliament is provided with a seat in the Chamber.

This building, which had seen constitutional reforms over the years, had without any extension provided accommodation for the offices of the Prime Minister, the Chief Government Whip and the Leader of the Opposition and a room for the exclusive use of Lady Members.

The increase in the membership and the consequent work-load of Parliament created an awareness of the need for a new Parliament Building with adequate accommodation and attendant facilities.

After the General Election of 1977 a decision was taken by the Government for the construction of a new House of Parliament at Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte. On 4th July, 1979 Parliamentary sanction was given to construct it.

The business of Parliament is conducted according to the Standing Orders of the Parliament in the following order:

Official Oath or Affirmation by new Member. (This is administered by the Hon. Speaker of Parliament).
Messages from the President
Announcements by the Hon. Speaker.
Presentation of Papers (This can be done only by the Speaker, a Minister or a Deputy Minister).
Presentation of Reports from Committees.
Votes of Condolence
Motions of Leave of Absence
Ministerial Statements
Personal Explanations
Questions of Privilege (An urgent motion concerning the privileges of Parliament takes Precedence over all other motions and Orders of the Day and proceedings may be interrupted at any time for this purpose).
Motions at the commencement of Public Business not requiring notice.
Motions at the commencement of Public Business of which notice is required.
Public Business

Parliamentary Sittings

Under the Standing Orders, Parliament meets on two alternate weeks after the first and third Sunday of each month on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The National Flag is flown at full mast on the Second Floor of the Parliament Building facing the Ceremonial Drive to signify that Parliament is sitting. It the meeting goes on beyond 6 p.m. (which s considered standards sunset time after which the National Flag is not allowed to remain hoisted), a lantern, amber in colour, atop the flagstaff shines in place of the National Flag to indicate that Parliament is still at work.

Parliament Secretariat

The secretarial and staff services necessary for the performance of the functions of the Parliament under the Constitution are provided by the Office of the Secretary-General of Parliament. It functions mainly under five departments, viz., the Department of the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Administration Department, the Hansard Department, the Co-ordinating Engineer's Department and the Catering Department. The Secretary-General of Parliament, who is the head of the permanent staff of Parliament, is appointed by the President and he (SGP) recruits his staff with the approval of the Speaker. The Secretary-General is assisted by a Deputy and an Assistant. The total permanent staff of Parliament is 730 as at 1997. There are another 220 personnel servicing Parliament in ancillary services including Electricity, Telecommunications, Television, Water Supply, Postal, Banking etc.

The security of Parliament is determined by the Security Council consisting of the Speaker as Chairman and top officials of Parliament, the Armed Forces and the Police. Parliament has a Police Division headed by a Senior Superintendent of Police.

The Library

Parliament has a well-equipped Library which is exclusively used by Members of Parliament. The stock held by the Library includes books, periodicals and newspapers of a general nature and reference material in subject areas such as legal, political, economic, history and social sciences. The monograph collection is nearly 12,000. Parliamentary Debates, Legal Enactment, Acts & Bills of Sri Lanka, Government Gazettes, Parliamentary Series, Sessional Papers, Administrative Reports and Annual Reports are some of the documents in the preserved collection. It also has a good collection of very valuable rare books and documents on Sri Lanka such as oaths/affirmations by Members of Parliament, special commission reports, etc. Thus the overall collection of the Library is about 30,000 volumes. The Library is automated. The Main computer Server of the Local Area Network (LAN) for the Parliament Complex is installed in the Library. The Library has access to INTERNET with an E-mail facility. Members of Parliament collect their daily mail from the Library.


Hansard is the official printed verbatim record of the Parliamentary proceedings including messages from the President, the Speaker's Announcements, Questions, etc. The speeches of Members of Parliament are recorded in Hansard in the language in which they are made.

Simultaneous Interpretation

In accordance with the Standing Orders, the Sitting of Parliament may be conducted in all three languages, viz., Sinhala, Tamil and English. To facilitate Members who do not understand a particular language, a speech made in that language is simultaneously interpreted into the other two languages. Thus Members enjoy the privilege of listening to Parliamentary speeches in the language of their choice.