Sri Lanka

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ශ්‍රී ලංකා ප්‍රජාතාන්ත්‍රික සමාජවාදී ජනරජය
Sri Lankā Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya
இலங்கை சனநாயக சோஷலிசக் குடியரசு
Illankai Chananaayaka Chosalisa Kudiyarasu
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Flag of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: None
Official languages Sinhala, Tamil
Other languages English
Capitals Sri Jayewardenepura (Kotte)
Largest city Colombo
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse
Government Democratic Socialist Republic
Constitution Second Republic 1978
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 119th
65,610 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 51st
 - Total (2003)
 - Per capita

Rs. 1,748,774
USD. 4,000;
Independence February 4, 1948
Currency Sri Lankan Rupee
Time zone UTC +6
National anthem Sri Lanka Matha
Internet TLD .lk
Calling Code 94

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (ශ්‍රී ලංකා in Sinhala / இலங்கை in Tamil) (known as Ceylon before 1972) is a tropical island nation off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent.

The island was known in ancient times as Sinhale, Lanka, Lankadeepa (Sanskrit for "resplendent land"), Simoundou, Taprobane (from the Sanskrit Tāmaraparnī), Serendib (from the Sanskrit Sinhala-dweepa), and Selan. During colonization, the island became known as Ceylon (from Selon through the Portuguese Ceilão), a name still used on occasion. Its unique shape and proximity to the Indian mainland have led some to refer to the island as India's Teardrop.



Main article: History of Sri Lanka

Most historians believe that the prince Vijaya came to Sri Lanka from Orissa, in north-eastern India, during the 6th century BC (some historians trace the origins back some 25,000 years) and started to rule the native people in Sri Lanka, who were known as the Veddas. A nearly continuous written history exists in the book "Mahavamsa" from this point on and it describes the Sinhalese kingdom started from king Vijaya and his followers. It also describes a minister of Vijaya, Anuradha, who establishes the village of Anuradhagamma which later becomes Anuradhapura and becomes the capital of Sri Lanka a few centuries later. Archeological evidence is somewhat contradictory to this account, showing continuous settlement in the Anuradhapura area from the 10th century BC onwards with people living in the area having knowledge of agriculture, metallurgy, and livestock breeding.

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy

Buddhism arrived from the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC at the hands of Arahath Mahinda Thero, missionary of Indian Emperor Ashoka and spread rapidly. Buddhism and a sophisticated system of irrigation became the pillars of classical Sinhalese civilization (200 BC-1200 AD) that flourished in the north-central part of the island, with capitals at Anuradhapura (from c. 200 BC to c. 1000 AD) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200). After the Polonnaruwa era, the capital moved frequently, with the entire island being rarely unified. Parakramabahu IV, who ruled from Kotte, was the last Sri Lankan king to rule over the entire island.

The origins of Tamil presence on the island are unclear. Given the island's close proximity to the South India, it is very likely that people have traveled back and forth throughout human history.

South Indian rulers attacked Sri Lanka on a number of occasions. Occasionally, such invasions resulted in Tamil rule of the island for extended periods. Several Sinhala kings are noted for driving back the Tamil invasions and retaking the capital.

When the Portuguese first arrived, the Island consisted of three independent kingdoms namely Yarlpanam(Tamil) kingdom, Kotte (Sinhala) kingdom and the Kandy (Sinhala) kingdom. In 1517, the Portuguese established the fort and trading post of Colombo. Portuguese successfully defeated both the coastal kingdoms (Yarlpanam and Kotte) in the 16th century. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch in the 17th century. During both Portuguese and Dutch rule of the coastal areas, the interior, hilly region of the island remained independent, with its capital, the city of Kandy. Great Britain replaced the Dutch in 1796, and the coastal areas became a crown colony in 1802. After the fall of Kandy kingdom in 1815, the British decided to unify the three kingdoms under one rule for administrative purposes in 1818.

During World War II the Japanese forces bombed Sri Lanka, but there were few casualties. The British used Sri Lanka as a base of operations in the Pacific.

As Ceylon [1], it became independent in 1948. In 1972, its name was changed to Sri Lanka, and in 1978 the legislative and judicial capital was moved from Colombo to nearby Sri Jayewardanapura Kotte. The flag was also changed as orange and green vertical bars were added, representing the Tamil and Muslim minority populations.

Post independence governments implemented a series of pro-Sinhalese measures in order to support the majority community who were disadvantaged compared to the minorities due to the policies of European colonialists. This was seen as discriminatory by the Tamils and led to tensions between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil politial/military groups, which erupted in violence in 1983 following the killing of 13 soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army in Jaffna. This led to communal riots throughout the country and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Tamils over a three-day period; many more became refugees. Sinhalese were driven away from the North by militants and the Tamils in the South continue to face severe difficulties in their daily lives. Tens of thousands have died on both sides in the subsequent ethnic war that continues to fester.

After two decades of fighting, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government began a ceasefire in December 2001. Norway is mediating the peace process. The international anti-terrorism focus may have influenced the main Tamil rebel group to seek the ceasefire, as the LTTE was declared a terrorist organization by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, and Sri Lanka.

On December 26, 2004, one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history, the Indian Ocean earthquake, struck off the western coast of Sumatra. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis reportedly killed over 280,000 people around the rim of the Indian Ocean. The impact on Sri Lanka was severe. The south and east coasts were devastated by the 10-metre high tsunami, and tens of thousands died.

On June 24, 2005, Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) - the aid sharing legal instrument, has been signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam with the backing of E.U, U.S.A, U.K and Norway. The agreement supposed to help administrate the Tsunami relief efforts in the Tamil Tiger controlled area of North and East of Sri Lanka. The agreement has been challenged by the JVP and JHU in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and the verdict is still pending.


Main article: Politics of Sri Lanka

The president of the republic, who is directly elected for a six-year term, serves as head of state, head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president is responsible to parliament for the exercise of duties in accordance with the constitution and laws. The incumbent may be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of parliament, with the concurrence of the Supreme Court. The president appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers responsible to parliament. The president's deputy is the prime minister, who leads the ruling party in parliament.

The Sri Lankan Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature. Members are elected by universal (adult) suffrage on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to a six-year term. The primary modification is a unique "bonus seat" provision, where the party that receives the largest number of valid votes in each constituency gains an additional or "bonus" seat (see Hickman, 1999). The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve parliament any time after it has served for one year. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. Since its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Parliament was dissolved on February 7, 2004 by President Chandrika Kumaratunga. New elections were held on April 2 and the new parliament convened on April 23 and elected Mahinda Rajapakse as the prime minister.

In August 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that presidential elections would be held in November 2005, resolving a long-running dispute on the length of President Kumaratunga's term. Mahinda Rajapakse was nominated as the SLFP candidate and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was nominated as the UNP candidate.

See also: Sri Lankan parliamentary election, 2004


Main article: Provinces of Sri Lanka
Hindu temple, Colombo
Hindu temple, Colombo

Sri Lanka consists of 8 provinces:


Map of Sri Lanka
Map of Sri Lanka
Main article: Geography of Sri Lanka

The island of Sri Lanka, lies within the Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to the northeast. It is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge to the Indian mainland, known as Adam's Bridge, was constructed during the rule of Rama. It is now mostly submerged, with only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. According to temple records this natural causeway was formerly complete, but was breached by a violent storm (probably a cyclone) in 1480.

The pear-shaped island consists mostly of flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south central part of the island. Amongst these, are Adam's Peak and Pidurutalagala, the latter being the highest point at 2,524 m.

Mosque in Galle
Mosque in Galle

The Sri Lankan climate is tropical, characterized by monsoons: the northeast monsoon lasting from December to March, and the southwest monsoon from June to October. The lowest gravitational field on Earth lies just off the coast of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is considered the 8th wonder of the world.

The commercial capital is Colombo, but the administrative and legislative capital is located in nearby Sri Jayewardanapura (Kotte). Other major cities include Jaffna, Galle, and Kandy.


Sri Lanka is one of the world's bio-diversity hot-spots. Its forests are amongs the most floristically rich in Asia and for some faunal groups, it has the highest density of species diversity in the world. The southwest portion of the island, where the influence of the moisture-bearing southwest monsoon is strongest, is home to the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests. At higher elevations they transition to the Sri Lanka montane rain forests. Both these tropical moist forest ecoregions bear strong affinities to those of India's Western Ghats.

The northern and eastern portions of the island are considerably drier, lying in the rain shadow of the central highlands. The Sri Lanka dry-zone dry evergreen forests are a tropical dry broadleaf forest ecoregion, which, like the neighboring East Deccan dry evergreen forests of India's Coromandel Coast, is characterized by evergreen trees, rather than the dry-season deciduous trees that predominate in most other tropical dry broadleaf forests.

These forests have been largely cleared for agriculture, timber or grazing, and many of the dry evergreen forests have been degraded to thorn scrub, savanna, or thickets. Several preserves have been established to protect some of Sri Lanka's remaining natural areas. The island has three biosphere reserves, Hurulu (established 1977), Sinharaja (established 1978), and Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) (established 2004).

Sri Lanka is a centre of bird endemism. See Endemic Birds of the Indian Subcontinent for further information.


Main article: Economy of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is historically famous for its cinnamon and tea (introduced by the British in the 19th century). From independence, till 1977, it was a strongly socialist economy but since then it has been increasingly pursuing privatization, market-oriented policies and export-oriented trade. While tea and rubber are still important, the most dynamic sectors are now food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, telecommunications, insurance, and banking. By 1996, plantation crops made up only 20 percent of exports (compared with 93 percent in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for 63 percent.

The GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent during the early 1990s, until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8 percent in 1996. The economy rebounded in 1997-2000, with average growth of 5.3 percent. 2001 saw the first economic contraction in the country's history, due to a combination of power shortages, budgetary problems, the global slowdown, and continuing civil strife. Signs of recovery appeared after the government and the LTTE signed the 2002 ceasefire. The Colombo stock exchange reported the highest growth in Asia for 2003, and today Sri Lanka has the highest per capita income in South Asia.

In April 2004, there was a sharp reversal in economic policy after the government headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe from the United National Party was defeated by a coalition made up of Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the left-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna called the United People's Freedom Alliance.

The new government stopped the privatization of state enterprises, reforms of state utilities such as power and petroleum and embarked on an unprecedented subsidy program. The main themes of what was called the Rata Perata economic program was to support the rural and suburban SMEs and insulate the domestic economy from external influences, such as oil prices, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

However a policy of directly subsidizing imported commodities like fuel, fertilizer and wheat, soon unravelled the fiscal sector. In 2004 alone Sri Lanka spent approximately US $ 180 mn on a fuel subsidy as fixing fuel prices was an election promise.

To finance the expanded budget deficit arising from a range of subsidies and a public sector recruitment drive the government eventually had to print Rs 65 bn (US $ 65 mn) or around 3 percent of GDP. The expansionary fiscal policy, coupled with loose monetary policy eventually drove inflation up to 18% by January 2005, as measured by the Sri Lanka Consumer Price Index.

By December 2004, the country was heading for a balance of payments crisis, as the currency depreciated and reserves dwindled. The December 26th Tsunami brought aidflows, and support from the IMF helped improve sentiment in the foreign exchange market.

But GDP growth, which had climbed to 6.4% by the first quarter of 2004 had fallen to 4.8% by the first quarter of 2005.

The tsunami helped stabilize the deterioration of macro-economic fundamentals as foreign debt relief and assistance from the International Monetary Fund strengthened both the external sector and fiscal operations.

GDP growth in 2Q 2005 is expected to be higher, but inflation remains in double digits. Continued subsidies on oil (and thermal generated power) are beginning to put pressure on exchange rates again. Loose monetary policy has also been driving credit growth.

The IMF in a report released in September 2005 has called for and end to 'fiscal domination' of monetary policy and more independance for the Central Bank so that inflation could be contained.

The government is now seeking an international credit rating, with S & P, Moody's and Fitch Ratings being appointed to rate the country before the end of 2005.


Main article: Demographics of Sri Lanka
Beach in Welligama, southern Sri Lanka
Beach in Welligama, southern Sri Lanka

About 74 percent of the population belongs to the Sinhalese majority, which is predominantly Buddhist, mostly following the Theravada tradition. The other major group on the island is the Tamils, who constitute 18 percent of the population. They are predominantly Hindu, and live mostly in the north, east and central provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil population comprises two communities, one composed of Native Tamils and another composed of more recent immigrants from India.

Both Sinhala and Tamil languages are official languages. English, the link language in the present constitution, is the mother tongue of roughly 10 percent of the population, and is spoken and understood widely. All three languages are used in education and administration.

Smaller minorities include the (mostly Sunni) Muslims (7%), mostly of Arab and Malay descent , the Burghers of mixed European descent (1%) and the Wanniyala-Aetto or Veddahs, the few remaining descendants of earlier cultures. Buddhism (70%) and Hinduism (15%) are the dominant religions. Christians represent 7% of the population, including 6% Catholics and 1% Protestants.

Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

See Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

Culture of Sri Lanka

See culture of Sri Lanka and music of Sri Lanka.

Miscellaneous Facts about Sri Lanka

See also

Former parliament building, Colombo
Former parliament building, Colombo

External links



Countries in South Asia
Bangladesh | Bhutan | India | Maldives | Nepal | Pakistan | Sri Lanka
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