Northern Province, Sri Lanka

Northern Province, Sri Lanka
Northern Province
வட மாகாணம்
උතුරු පළාත
—  Province  —


Location within Sri Lanka
Coordinates: 09°12′N 80°25′E / 9.2°N 80.417°E / 9.2; 80.417Coordinates: 09°12′N 80°25′E / 9.2°N 80.417°E / 9.2; 80.417
Country  Sri Lanka
Created 1 October 1833
Provincial Council 14 November 1987
Capital Jaffna
Largest City Jaffna
 - Governor G. A. Chandrasiri
 - Chief Minister Not elected
 - Total 8,884 km2 (3,430.1 sq mi)
 - Land 8,290 km2 (3,200.8 sq mi)
Area rank 3rd (13.54% of total area)
Population (2007)[2]
 - Total 1,311,776
 - Rank 9th (6.15% of total pop.)
 - Density 147.7/km2 (382.4/sq mi)
 - Tamil 1,277,567 (97.39%)
 - Muslim 20,583 (1.57%)
 - Sinhalese 13,626 (1.04%)
 - Other 0 (0.00%)
 - Hindu 860,281 (77.54%)
 - Catholic 157,474 (14.19%)
 - Muslim 54,534 (4.92%)
 - Buddhist 25,281 (2.28%)
 - Other 11,834 (1.07%)
Time zone Sri Lanka (UTC+05:30)
Post Codes 40000-45999
Telephone Codes 021, 023, 024
ISO 3166 code LK-4
Vehicle registration NP
Official Languages Tamil, Sinhala
Flower Kaanthal
Tree Maruthu
Bird Seven sisters
Animal Male deer
Website Northern Provincial Council

The Northern Province (Tamil: வட மாகாணம் Vaṭakku mākāṇam, Sinhala: උතුරු පළාත Uturu paḷāta) is one of the 9 provinces of Sri Lanka. The provinces have existed since the 19th century but did not have any legal status until 1987 when the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils[4][5]. Between 1988 and 2006 the province was temporarily merged with the Eastern Province to form the North-East Province. The capital of the province is Jaffna. The Sri Lankan Civil War had its roots in this province. It is also known as Sri Lanka's Tamil country.[6]



Northern province is located in the north of Sri Lanka and is just 22 miles (35 km) from India. It is connected with Indian mainland by mythical Adam's Bridge (also known as Sethu Paalam or Rama's Bridge). It has an area of 8,884 square kilometres (3,430 sq mi)[1].

The province is surrounded by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay to the west, Palk Strait to the north, the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Eastern, North Central and North Western provinces to the south.

The province is divided into two distinct geographic areas: Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni. Jaffna peninsula is irrigated by underground aquifers fed by wells whereas the Vanni has irrigation tanks fed by perennial rivers. Major rivers include: Akkarayan Aru, Aruvi Aru, Kanakarayan Aru, Kodalikkallu Aru, Mandekal Aru, Nay Aru, Netheli Aru, Pali Aru, Pallavarayankaddu Aru, Parangi Aru, Per Aru, Piramenthal Aru, Theravil Aru.[7]

The province has a number of lagoons, the largest being Jaffna Lagoon, Nanthi Kadal, Chundikkulam Lagoon, Vadamarachchi Lagoon, Uppu Aru Lagoon, Kokkilai lagoon, Nai Aru Lagoon and Chalai Lagoon.

Most of the islands around Sri Lanka are to be found to the west of the Northern Province. The largest islands are: Kayts, Neduntivu, Karaitivu, Pungudutivu and Mandativu.

Northern Province is covered in tropical forests, with numerous rivers flowing through them. The northwest coast is part of the deep Cauvery (Kaveri) River Basin of southeast India, which has been collecting sediments from the highlands of India and Sri Lanka since the breakup of Gondwanaland.Most of the island's surface consists of plains between 30 and 200 meters above sea level. A coastal belt about thirty meters above sea level surrounds the island. Much of the coast consists of sandy beaches.

Climate and weather

Seashores Inlands
Max. 28 °C (82 °F) 30 °C (86 °F)
Min. 24 °C (75 °F) 22 °C (72 °F)

Sri Lanka enjoys a typical tropical monsoonal climate. The Northern Province tends to be hot and dry in the dry season (February to September), and moderately cool and wet in the wet season (October to January). Province's climate is of the tropical kind and therefore during monsoons there is always the chance of a deluge. In the lowlands the climate is typically tropical with the average temperature is around 28º to 30º for the year. However, on the whole, January is the coolest month and May is the hottest month. Relative Humidity varies from 70% during the day to 90% at night. The Dry Zone of the Sri Lanka is the north and east of the island, this region is affected by the north east monsoon(December to March) and southwest monsoon (June to October). It is thought to be dry because most of the rains fall during the northeast monsoon.

Annual rainfall is less than 1250 mm in the north west and south east of the Inland. It has two rainy seasons South West Monsoon- May to August, North East Monsoon- November to February[8].

Administrative units

The Northern Province is divided into 5 administrative districts, 33 Divisional Secretary's (DS) Divisions and 912 Grama Niladhari (GN) Divisions (villages).

Population (2007 Estimate)[2] Population
Density (/km2)
Tamils1 Muslims2 Sinhalese Other Total
Jaffna 15 435 1,025 608,587 299 33 0 608,919 594.07
Kilinochchi 4 95 1,279 195,386 424 2 0 195,812 153.10
Mannar 5 153 1,996 95,560 8,073 55 0 103,688 51.95
Mullaitivu 5 127 2,617 220,117 193 1 0 220,311 84.18
Vavuniya 4 102 1,967 157,917 11,594 13,535 0 183,046 93.06
Total 33 912 8,884 1,277,567 20,583 13,626 0 1,311,776 147.66

1 Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils. 2 Sri Lankan Moors and Sri Lankan Malays.

Major cities and towns

Rank City/town District Population
(2010 est)[9]
1 Vavuniya Vavuniya 108,834
2 Jaffna Jaffna 84,416
3 Chavakacheri Jaffna 54,517
4 Point Pedro Jaffna 39,962
5 Mannar Mannar 36,442
6 Valvettithurai Jaffna 34,701
7 Kilinochchi Kilinochchi 15,194



The Northern province's population was 1,311,776 in 2007[2]. The majority of the population are Sri Lankan Tamils, with a minority Sri Lankan Moor and Sinhalese population.

The population of the province, like that of the Eastern Province, has been heavily affected by the civil war. The war has killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people.[10] Several hundred thousand Sri Lankan Tamils, possibly as much as 1,000,000[11], have emigrated to the West since the start of the war. There are a further 300,000 internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka living in refugee camps in the North and East and depending on aid provided by NGOs.[12] There are approximately 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees is India[13]. Many Sri Lankan Tamils have also moved to the relative safety of Colombo. The war has also caused most of the Sri Lankan Moors and Sinhalese who lived in the province to flee to other parts of Sri Lanka.


Ethnicity in Northern Province(2001)
Population Percent
Sri Lankan Tamils
Sri Lankan Moors
Population of Northern Province by ethnic group 1881 to 2007
Year Tamils1 Muslims2 Sinhalese Others Total
No. % No. % No. % No. %
1881 Census 289,481 95.70% 10,416 3.44% 1,379 0.46% 1,224 0.41% 302,500
1891 Census 304,355 95.32% 11,831 3.71% 1,922 0.60% 1,188 0.37% 319,296
1901 Census 326,379 95.73% 11,862 3.48% 1,555 0.46% 1,140 0.33% 340,936
1911 Census 352,698 95.41% 12,818 3.47% 2,890 0.78% 1,245 0.34% 369,651
1921 Census 356,801 95.19% 13,095 3.49% 3,795 1.01% 1,138 0.30% 374,829
1946 Census 449,958 93.82% 18,183 3.79% 9,602 2.00% 1,829 0.38% 479,572
1963 Census 689,470 92.93% 30,760 4.15% 20,270 2.73% 1,410 0.19% 741,910
1971 Census 799,406 91.07% 37,855 4.31% 39,511 4.50% 996 0.11% 877,768
1981 Census 1,112,425 92.46% 54,205 4.51% 33,890 2.82% 2,589 0.22% 1,203,109
2001 Census3
2007 Estimate 1,277,567 97.39% 20,583 1.57% 13,626 1.04% 0 0.00% 1,311,776

1 Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils. 2 Sri Lankan Moors and Sri Lankan Malays. 3 2001 Census was only carried out partially in the Northern province.


Population of Northern Province by religion 1981 census
Hindu Roman
Muslim Buddhist Other
Others Total
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
Jaffna 705,705 84.97% 95,613 11.51% 14,844 1.79% 5,104 0.61% 9,153 1.10% 133 0.02% 830,552
Mannar 28,885 27.19% 43,633 41.07% 29,161 27.45% 3,363 3.17% 1,056 0.99% 137 0.13% 106,235
Mullaitivu 60,117 77.88% 11,735 15.20% 3,789 4.91% 1,060 1.37% 476 0.62% 12 0.02% 77,189
Vavuniya 65,574 68.72% 6,493 6.80% 6,740 7.06% 15,754 16.51% 845 0.89% 22 0.02% 95,428
Total 860,281 77.54% 157,474 14.19% 54,534 4.92% 25,281 2.28% 11,530 1.04% 304 0.03% 1,109,404


Languages (2008)
Languages Percentage
Tamil 98.96
Sinhala 1
Others 0.04
Total 100

Sri Lankan Tamil is the major language spoken in the province by the vast majority of the population. The other language spoken is Sinhala by 1 percent of the population. English is widely spoken and understood in the cities. Tamil and Sinhala is official language of the Sri Lanka. Tamil is the official language and administrative language of the Northern Province.

  • Population: 1,311,776 (2007 est.)
  • Official language: Tamil
  • Majority group: Tamil (98.96% native language)
  • Percentage population fluent in Tamil: (99.9%)
  • Minority group: Sinhala (1%)


Majority of the people earn their livelihood as farmers, fishers and professionals in the civil and business sectors. Small scale industry such as chemical, light manufacturing and textiles were present before the civil war.

Gross State Domestic Product in Rs. Crores and Current Prices[14]

Year GSDP Change Share of Sri Lanka
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Green Arrow Up.svg 2.37%
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Green Arrow Up.svg 2.67%
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Green Arrow Up.svg 2.76%
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Green Arrow Up.svg 2.94%
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Green Arrow Up.svg 3.05%
Green Arrow Up.svg %
Red Arrow Down.svg 2.93%

Northern Province being an agricultural dominant province, where agricultural sector is 25.9% and trade sector comes next to it is 19.3%. Most of the people engaged in service sector covering 31.2% of the total.[14]


Transportation in the Province are poorly developed and it is still hindrance to the development of the Province. Most of the people still using the traditional Bullock carts for transportation. Major roads in Province are divided into two categories such as:

  • A Class roads or National Highways which is maintained and controlled by Central Government.
  • B Calss roads or Provincial Highways which is maintained and controlled by Provincial Government.

There are number of C and D Class roads in the Province, which are under developed.

Sri Lanka Government Railway operates the country’s railway network and the lines to Jaffna, Kankesanthurai and Mannar have been destroyed by the LTTE. Most of the railways were developed during the British colonial period.

Airways and airports are under developed in this province. Palaly Airport, once an international airport had regular passenger flight service between Colombo and Trichirapalli, India is under the control of Sri Lankan Navy now. Daily flights are between Colombo and Jaffna are available. There are few small airports and airstrips in Vavuniya and Iranamadu.

Politics and government

According to the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka, The Governor is the Constitutional head of the province while the Chief Minister is the head of the government and the head of the council of ministers. The Chief Justice of the High Court is the head of the judiciary.

The Parliamentary representatives from the province are elected through

  • Two Electoral District such as Jaffna Electoral District and Vanni Electoral District which elects 15 of the 225 members of the Sri Lankan Parliament.

Provincial Government is not is functioning in Northern Province at present. It is ruled directly from the Central government. Governors are care taker of province. Most of the governors were retired army generals.

  • Major General G.A. Chandrasiri was sworn in as the Governor, Northern Province with effect 12 July 2009. The local political parties are pushing for more autonomy for the provinces, especially the Tamil majority Northern province. The vast executive powers are held by the governors, who are appointed by the President is the drawback of the provincial council. Peoples asking for more powers to the elected council. According to the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka High courts should be made in each provinces, police and land powers should be given to the provincial governments, but it still that were not given by Sri Lankan central government to the provinces are the biggest problems.

Provincial Council

The 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils. The first elections for provincial councils took place on 28 April 1988 in North Central, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, and Uva provinces[15].

Elections in the newly merged North-East Province were scheduled for 19 November 1988. However, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which at that time occupied the North-East Province, rigged the elections in the north so that the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF), two Indian backed paramilitary groups, won all of the 36 seats in the north uncontested[16]. However, elections did take place for the 35 seats in the east. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won 17 seats, EPRLF 12 seats, ENDLF 5 seats and the United National Party 1 seat. On 10 December 1988 Annamalai Varatharajah Perumal of the EPRLF became the first Chief Minister of the North-East Provincial Council[16].

On 1 March 1990, just as the IPKF were preparing to withdraw from Sri Lanka, Permual moved a motion in the North-East Provincial Council declaraing an independent Eelam[17]. President Premadasa reacted to Permual's UDI by dissolving the provincial council and imposing direct rule on the province.

The north-east was ruled directly from Colombo until May 2008 when elections were held in the demerged Eastern Province. However, the Northern Province continues to be ruled from Colombo. More than 20 years after the introduction of provincial councils the people of the Northern Province remain the only ones in Sri Lanka who have never a cast a vote to elect their provincial council. This is despite the fact that the provincial councils were only established to satisfy the demands for autonomy by the Tamils, the majority of whom live in the Northern Province.

Political parties

Major Political parties in the province are Tamil National Alliance or also known as Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi, DTNA, United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party and EPDP.


The Northern Province has one university, the University of Jaffna which became independent in 1979, previously having been a campus of the University of Sri Lanka since 1974[18]. The university has approximately 7,000 students. The province is known for its institutions of education, many of which were established by Christian missionaries.

Total Schools of Northern Province (1981) and (2006)
Districts No. of Schools (1981) No. of Schools (2006)
Jaffna 488 410
Kilinochchi 85 96
Mannar 105 95
Vavuniya 183 188
Mullaitivu 100 103


The first newspaper in Jaffna, Uthayatharakai (Morning Star) was published in 1841 by C.W. Thamotharampillai[19] By the 1940s, daily newspapers had already been started Eelakesari and Virakesari in 1930 and Thinakaran in 1932 and journals committed to the growth of modernistic, socially purposive literature Bharati and Marumalarchi in 1946 had also started coming out.

Few newspapers are published in the province now in the principal language of Tamil. None in English and Sinhala. Before the Civil war commences dozens of newspapers and magazines were published. Press freedom is limited and mostly censored by Government and Pro-government paramilitaries.[20] Now most of the Tamil, English, Sinhala magazines come from Colombo and Chennai, India.

North-East Province

The Indo-Lanka Accord signed on 29 July 1987 required the Sri Lankan government to devolve powers to the provinces and, in the interim, to merge the Northern and Eastern provinces into one administrative unit. The accord required a referendum to be held by 31 December 1988 in the Eastern Province to decide whether the merger should be permanent. Crucially, the accord allowed the Sri Lankan president to postpone the referendum at his discretion[21].

On 14 November 1987 the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka and the Provincial Councils Act No 42 of 1987, establishing provincial councils[5][22]. On September 2 and 8 1988 President Jayewardene issued proclamations enabling the Northern and Eastern provinces to be one administrative unit administered by one elected Council[23]. The North-East Province was born.

The proclamations were only meant to be a temporary measure until a referendum was held in the Eastern Province on a permanent merger between the two provinces. However, the referendum was never held and successive Sri Lankan presidents have issued proclamations annually extending the life of the "temporary" entity[24].

The merger was bitterly opposed by Sri Lankan nationalists. The combined North-East Province occupied one fourth of Sri Lanka. The thought of the Tamil Tigers controlling this province, directly or indirectly, alarmed them greatly. On 14 July 2006, after a long campaign against the merger, the JVP filed three separate petitions with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka requesting a separate Provincial Council for the East[23]. On 16 October 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the proclamations issued by President Jayewardene were null and void and had no legal effect[23]. The North-East Province was formally demerged into the Northern and Eastern provinces on 1 January 2007.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Department of Census & Statistics Statistical Abstract 2007 (Area & Climate)
  2. ^ a b c d e Northern Provincial Council Statistical Handbook 2008 (Population)
  3. ^ a b Census 2001 - Department of Census & Statistics Statistical Abstract 2007 (Population)
  4. ^ Provinces of Sri Lanka, Statoids
  5. ^ a b Provincial Councils, The Official Website of the Government of Sri Lanka
  6. ^ "A trip to Sri Lanka's Tamil country". BBC News. 22 August 2009. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Sri Lanka: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population". World Gazetteer. 
  10. ^ "Up to 100,000 killed in Sri Lanka's civil war: UN". ABC News (Australia). 20 May 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Harrison, Frances (23 July 2003). "Twenty years on - riots that led to war". BBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Sri Lanka displacement update". UNHCR. 6 June 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  13. ^ Acharya, Arunkumar (2007). "Ethnic conflict and refugees in Sri Lanka". Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Ethnic Conflict of Sri Lanka: Time Line - From Independence to 1999, ICES
  16. ^ a b Sri Lanka" The Untold Story by K T Rajasingham (via Asia Times)
  17. ^ I'm no traitor, says Perumal, Sunday Island 10 September 2000
  18. ^ University of Jaffna, About Us
  19. ^ The Hindu : The first Madras graduate
  20. ^ Wholesale attack on Tamil newspapers, Journalist kidnapped
  21. ^ Indo Sri Lanka Agreement, 1987, TamiNation
  22. ^ The Constitution, The Official Website of the Government of Sri Lanka
  23. ^ a b c North-East merger illegal: SC, 17 October 2006
  24. ^ Sri Lanka's North-East to remain united for another year, The Hindu 14 November 2003

External links

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