The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known in ancient times as Taprobane and Serendip, the island was formerly known as Ceylon, a name still used on occasion, with the current name Sri Lanka meaning "Resplendent Land" in Sanskrit. Life on the island has been marred by nearly two decades of ethnic conflict, mainly between the national government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgency; in early 2002 a ceasfire was declared.
|National motto: None|
- % water
|Ranked 119th |
- Total (2002)
|From the United Kingdom
February 4, 1948
|Currency||Sri Lankan rupee|
|Time zone||UTC +6|
|National anthem||Sri Lanka Matha[?]|
|(1) Legislative capital is Kotte[?]|
The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century BC, probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced beginning in about the mid-3rd century BC and a great civilisation developed at such cities as Anuradhapura[?] (kingdom from c. 200 BC to c. 1000 AD) and Polonnaruwa[?] (c. 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty seized power in the north and established a Tamil kingdom.
Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796 and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the 1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that remains unresolved, though peace talks are in progress.
The president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, serves as both head of state and head of government, as well as commander in chief of the armed forces. Responsible to parliament for the exercise of duties under the constitution and laws, the president 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 elected by universal suffrage on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to a 6-year term. The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve parliament. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. Sri Lanka has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Sri Lanka consists of 9 provinces:
The island of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, lies within the Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to the northeast, separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar[?] and the Palk Strait[?]. Adam's Bridge, a land connection to the Indian mainland that according to Hindu mythology was constructed during the rule of Rama, is now mostly submerged with only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level.
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 which are Adam's Peak and the Pidurutalagala[?], the highest point at 2,524 m.
The Sri Lankan climate is tropical and characterised by monsoons; the northeast monsoon which lasts from December to March and the southwest monsoon from June to October. The administrative and commercial capital is Colombo, but parliament is located in nearby Kotte[?]. Other major cities include Jaffna[?], Galle[?], and Kandy[?].
Famous historically for its cinnamon and tea and moderately socialist after independence, Sri Lanka has in the last 20 years increasingly engaged in privatisation and moved towards market-oriented policies and export-oriented trade. The most dynamic sectors now are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, telecommunications, and insurance and banking. By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of exports (compared with 93% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for 63%.
GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.5% throughout the 1990s until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8% in 1996. The economy rebounded in 1997-2000 with average growth of 5.3%. But 2001 saw the first contraction in the country's history, due to a combination of power shortages, severe budgetary problems, the global slowdown, and continuing civil strife.
Around 75% of the Sri Lankan population belongs to the Sinhalese majority, which is predominantly Buddhist and in particular of the Theravada tradition. The other major group on the island are the Tamils which constitute some 18% of the population. They are predominantly Hindu and live mostly in the north and east of the country. The national Sinhala language is the only official state language, though the Tamil language also enjoys national status. English is spoken by roughly 10% of the population, and is used in many governmental and educational institutions.
Other smaller minorities include the Muslim Moors[?] (7%), 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 religion, with Christianity (8%) and Islam (7%) forming sizable religious minorities.