Southern Province

The Southern Province is located on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka. It is composed of three coastal districts: Galle, Matara and Hambantota. Its capital is Galle. The Provincial Council recognizes Sinhalese, Tamil and English as its official languages.


In 2016, 1,102,000 (528,000 men and 574,000 women) people lived in Galle, 845,000 (405,000 men and 440,000 women) lived in Matara and 637,000 (313,000 men and 324,000 women) lived in Hambantota. A total of 2,584,000 people lived in the Southern province.  

Galle and Matara have a similar population density with 658 and 641 inhabitants per square kilometre respectively, and 12 percent of their population live in urban areas. Hambantota is less densely populated with 240 inhabitants per square kilometre. 5.3 percent of its inhabitants live in cities.

The Census of Population and Housing conducted in 2012 provides detailed information on the Southern province and its districts:

95 percent of the people living in the province are of Sinhalese origin while 1.7 percent are of Tamil descent, and 2.9 percent are of Moor descent.  

94.7 percent of the people are Buddhist, 1.3 percent are Hindu, and 3.2 percent are Muslim.  

The literacy rate is 95.3 percent and 22.4 percent of the population is computer literate.


The Southern Province is an important tea producer. Its farmers also grow minor export crops (spices) that are exported throughout the world. The fishing industry and tourism are other sources of income for the province.

In 2015, the provincial GDP amounted to 1,159,693 million Sri Lanka Rupees and contributed to 10.4 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP.

The agricultural sector made Rs 153,354 million, industries- Rs 277,532 million and services- Rs 646,286 million in 2015.

The agricultural sector employs 33.5 percent of the working population, while 25.5 percent works in the industry sector and 41 percent in services sector.

The mean income per household per month is Rs 41,834 and the mean income per capita per month is Rs 10,973.

The unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.8 percent.

The poverty rate in 2013 was 7.7 percent.


The Governor of the Southern Province is Hemakumara Nanayakkara. He was an MP for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party but left the party in 1994. He then joined the United National Party and became a member of the Southern Provincial Council in 1999. In 2006, he joined the United People’s Freedom Alliance which he left in 2010 to create his own political party, the Maubima Janatha Party. He was appointed Governor of the province in January 2015.

The Chief Minister since 2004 is Shan Wijayalal de Silva. He is affiliated to the United People’s Freedom Alliance and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He won the last election in 2014 by a landslide.

Like the Western Province Chief Minister, Shan Wijayalal de Silva complained about the Urban Development Authority taking over power from the provincial councils. The Government had granted the Urban Development Authority the power to approve the construction of buildings of national importance.

Political life in the Southern Province mirrors the national context. Some members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party formed a left-wing coalition, the Joint Opposition, to express their discontent with their party and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), which formed a unity government with the right-wing United National Party (UNP) in 2015. Some members of the Southern Provincial Council are said to change their affiliation to sit as independent in the Council, which would change the political balance. As of today, in a total of fifty-five seats, the UPFA holds thirty-three seats, the UNP holds fourteen seats, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna holds five seats and the Democratic Party holds three seats.

 Further readings:

Provincial politics in Sri Lanka: an analysis of the southern provincial election, 1994 (1997) W. A. Wiswa Warnapala, University of Michigan

Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (2006) Nira Wickramasinghe, University of Hawaii Press

Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka (2015) Patrick Peebles, Rowman & Littlefield