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Sri Lanka
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Sri Lanka

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon before 1972) is a tropical island nation off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known in ancient times as Lanka, Lankadweepa (meaning "Resplendent Land" in Sanskrit), Taprobane and Serendib (derived from the Sanskrit name Sinhala-dweepa) and Selan, the island became known as Ceylon in colonial times, a name still used on occasion. Its current name is Sri Lanka. 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 there was agreement on a ceasefire.

Sri Lankā Prajathanthrika
Samajavadi Janarajaya    
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official languages Sinhala, Tamil, English
Capitals Colombo, Kotte¹
Largest City Colombo
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 119th
65,610 km²
1.3%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 51st
19,607,519
298/km²
Independence
 - Date
From the UK
February 4, 1948
Currency Sri Lankan Rupee
Time zone UTC +6
National anthem Sri Lanka Matha
Internet TLD.LK
Calling Code94
(1) Legislative capital is Kotte

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links

History

Main article: History of Sri Lanka

The pre-historical human inhabitants were the Wanniyala-Aetto, more commonly known as Veddahs. 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). Tamils from southern India also came to the island, exactly how many and when is a matter of dispute, but by the 13th century there was a substantial Tamil society in the north, and many fishing communities elsewhere along the island's coastline. Tamils in Sri Lanka developed a somewhat distinct culture and polity from their mainland cousins. Relations between Tamils (of India and Sri Lanka) and Sinhalese were complex - sometimes peaceful and sometimes warlike, including invasions in both directions and substantial intermixing.

However, it can also be argued that the Tamils might have arrived earlier than the Sinhalese as Sri Lanka is only 20km from the shores of South India. Since the South Indian were sea faring before the North India, it can safely be assumed that fishermen from South India would have visited Sri Lanka.

After the Polonnaruwa kingdom, the Sinhalese capital moved through several cities over the next few centuries. It had settled in Kotte when coastal regions were occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch in the 17th century. The entire island was ceded to the British in 1796 and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; in 1972 its name was changed to Sri Lanka and the capital was moved to Kotte. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an 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, and Norway is mediating the peace process.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Sri Lanka

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 (adult) suffrage on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to a 6-year term. The primary modification is a unique "bonus seats" provision under which the party receiving the largest number of valid votes in each constituency receives an additional or bonus seat. (For a more detailed description of the effects of the bonus seat provision, see "Explaining the Two-Party System in Sri Lanka's National Assembly" by John Hickman in Contemporary South Asia, Volume 8, Number 1, March 1999, pp. 29-40.) The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve parliament any time after it has been in place for one year. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws. 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.

See also: Sri Lankan parliamentary election, 2004

Provinces

Main article: Provinces of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka consists of 9 provinces:

Geography

]] Main article:
Geography of Sri Lanka

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.

Economy

]] Main article: Economy of Sri Lanka

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. While tea and rubber are still important in the economy, 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. However, it is now showing signs of recovery after the Government and the LTTE signed a ceasefire in 2002. Colombo stock exchange reported the highest growth in Asia for 2003. Today, Sri Lanka has the highest per capita income in South Asia.

Demographics

Main article: 
Demographics of Sri Lanka

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 Tamilss which constitute some 18% of the population. They are predominantly Hindu and live mostly in the north and east of the country. Both Sinhala and Tamil languages have enjoyed the "official" status since the Indo-Lanka accord in 1989. English, the national language, is the mother tongue of roughly 10% of the population and is spoken and understood widely. All three languages are used for purposes of education and administration.

Smaller minorities include the (Tamil-speaking) Muslims (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 religions, with Christianity (8%) (7% Catholic and 1% Protestant) and Islam (mostly Sunni) (7%) forming sizable religious minorities.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Sri Lanka

Miscellaneous topics

External links

GOSL - Official governmental site of Sri Lanka
  • Parliament - Official parliamentary site
  • [1] - Sri Lankan High Commissions/Embassies - Overseas
  • [1] - Foreign Diplomatic Missions in Sri Lanka
  • [1] - Sri Lanka Tourist Information


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