Ceylon Civil Service

The Ceylon Civil Service, popularly known by its acronym CCS, was the premier civil service of the Government of Ceylon under British colonial rule and in the immediate post-independence period. Established in 1833, it functioned as part of the executive administration of the country to various degrees until Ceylon gained self-rule in 1948. Until it was abolished on 1 May 1963 it functioned as the permanent bureaucracy or secretariat of Crown employees that supported the Government of Ceylon.[1]

Much of the duties of the CCS was taken over by the much larger Ceylon Administrative Service (CAS) which was created absorbing all executive management groups such as the CCS officers and the Divisional Revenue Officers' Service, was to be established with five grades. It was renamed following the declaration of the republic in 1972 as the Sri Lankan Administrative Service which is now the key administrative service of the Government.


The origins of the service dates back to 1798, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies appointed several officers to assist the British Governor of Ceylon in the administration of the coastal areas. After Ceylon became a crown colony in 1802, an advisory council was formed to assist the Governor, made up of the Colonial Secretary, Chief Justice, Commander of Troops and two other members. Colonial Secretary and the other two members where civil servants. Once the Kingdom of Kandy was taken over by the British in 1815, a British Resident Sir John D'Oyly was appointed along with a Board of Commissioners who were civil servants.

Following the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission recommendations administration of the coastal provinces and the former Kingdom of Kandy were merged and administration formed into one. Thus a central civil service, known as the Ceylon Civil Service was formed in 1833 to handle the administration of the island under the directive of the Governor. As per the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission, the Executive Council of Ceylon and the Legislative Council of Ceylon was formed. Each had members of the Ceylon Civil Service as officials. Most of these were CCS officers including Colonial Secretary and Colonial Treasure. Government Agents were appointed from senior CCS officers to administrate each province.

The Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, replaced the Legislative Council and the Executive Council with the State Council of Ceylon and its Board of Ministers. Three of the Secretaries of the Board where the Chief Secretary, Treasury Secretary and the Legal Secretary. The Chief Secretary, as did his predecessor the Colonial Secretary had complete control over the public services. By this time, Ceylonese were admitted to the service which had previously been limited to Europeans.

The Soulbury Constitution in 1947, brought about self-rule with full power being vested in the legislator and making the Ceylon Civil Service answerable to Parliament.


The civil service was made up of several grades;

The Permanent Secretary to the Treasury functioned as the head of the CCS. Senior appointments such as Permanent Secretaries, department heads and government agents where mead from members of the Class I.

Admission to the service was made from Class III and Cadet. At the early days the CCS was staffed by Europeans, members of the British Civil Service and only later were Ceylonese admitted. Only six to eight (or in some years only one) out of a very large number of applicants were selected for the Cadet by open competitive examination from graduates with first class honours degrees, between the ages of 22 and 24 with the exception made for those with war time service. The selected were classed as cadets and trained on public administration. They would receive job experience with rotation, serving in the districts, in public corporations, ministries and being part of ministerial delegations travelling abroad. After completion of their cadet-ship, they would face an efficiency bar exam and interview and made permanent as officers of Class II taking up posts such as assistant secretary, assistant commissioner or assistant government agent. Their training included a certain degree of practical legal training as most Cadets and Class IV officers used to function as Police Magistrates or Magistrates. To maintain seniority in the Class II, junior officers had to under take a second efficiency bar exam and interview.

This ensured that the top non-elected government positions were held by the best available candidates who were well trained and experienced. This was very important since the appointments were permanent. The officers of the CCS therefore commanded a high level of respect and considered themselves elite, a situation which has continued into the early 21st century. Officers of the General Clerical Service with about twenty years of service were selected to be appointed to the Class III. They would serve as Personal Assistants or Office Assistants.

When the CCS was abolished its officers were taken in to the Ceylon Administrative Service, the successor to the Ceylon Civil Service.

CCS members who entered politics

Notable members of the CCS

People who refused to join the CCS

See also


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