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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Major Cities:
Colombo, Kandy

Other Cities:
Anuradhapura, Galle, Jaffna, Matara, Negombo, Ratnapura, Trincomalee

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Sri Lanka. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

SRI LANKA has often been described as a tropical paradise. The vegetation of the coastal belt is lush and dramatic, and the mountainous areas of the interior are spectacular. Pleasant sea breezes temper the coast's tropical climate through most of the year; the hills and mountains in the island's center are cool at night. Arab traders of long ago knew the island as Serendib, which is the origin of the word serendipity, reflecting the unexpected pleasures of the land.

Sri Lanka, once known as the British Crown Colony of Ceylon, became independent in 1948, although it remained under dominion status. Its 1972 constitution proclaimed it an independent republic, and changed the country's name. Finally, in 1978, a new constitution officially declared the island the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

MAJOR CITIES

Colombo

Colombo, the capital city, lies on a flat coastal plain on the southwestern side of the island. It grew up around the harbor, which has been expanded by a breakwater. The main business section is near the port in what is known as the Fort (the old fort walls no longer remain). The buildings in this area are typically British and Dutch colonial, and the streets are generally congested. Parking is a problem. The Pettah, or traditional bazaar, adjoins the main business area. It consists of narrow, crowded streets and small shops and stalls.

The original Sinhalese name, Kalantotla (meaning Kelani ferry) was corrupted to Kolambu by Arab traders, and was changed to Colombo by the Portuguese.

Main residential sections of the city are south and southeast of the business area and are generally pleasant. Flowering trees line the streets, and old mansions with lovely gardens lend an exotic tropical air. Cinnamon Gardens is a wealthy residential and recreational area.

The country's first free trade zone is near Colombo International Airport, Katunayake. Its success prompted the establishment of additional zones at Biyagama, 15 miles from the capital, and near the southern port of Galle.

Colombo's port is one of the world's largest man-made harbors. It is a popular port of call for passenger ships and has become a major cargo transshipment hub.

The population of Sri Lanka's capital was estimated at 645,000 in 2000.

Colombo is known for its gem cutting and ivory carving. Other industries include food and tobacco processing, metal fabrication, engineering, and the manufacture of chemicals, textiles, glass, cement, leather goods, clothing, jewelry, and furniture. An oil refinery is located nearby.

Historically, Colombo has been known for over two thousand years, in its early days as an open anchorage for oceangoing ships of Greco-Roman, Arab, and Chinese traders. Muslims settled here in the eighth century, and the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, building a fort to protect their spice trade. The Dutch, also interested in the spice trade, gained control of the city in the 17th century. Colombo passed to the British in 1796, and it became capital of the Crown Colony of Ceylon in 1802. Colombo replaced Galle (Point de Galle) as the country's chief port in the 1880s, becoming a major refueling and supply center for merchant ships on the Europe-Far East route. During World War II, Colombo served as an Allied naval base, and became the capital of independent Ceylon in 1948.

Clothing

Clothing worn in Washington, DC, during the hottest summer weeks is suitable year round in Colombo, although men's office attire is more casual than that in Washington, DC. A short-sleeved shirt, with or without a tie, or a bush suit are most frequently worn by expatriate men here. A sports jacket or suit are suitable for business calls.

For up-country wear, light wool suits, wool slacks, sweaters, and flannel shirts may be needed. In Nuwara Eliya, the privately owned Hill Club requires men to wear jackets and ties to dinner and will provide these items for a small rental fee for those who arrive without.

Locally made shirts, shorts, ties, and socks are generally unsatisfactory, and should be brought from the U.S. Local tailoring of bush shirts, suits, and trousers is good, but fabric is generally not as satisfactory as that available in the U.S.

Women's office attire is the same as that worn in a southern American city during the summer months. As in the U.S., many of the air-conditioned offices can be cool. Women are not expected to wear hosiery at any functions, but this is a matter of personal choice and comfort. Casual clothing for women can be made locally either with imported or local batik material.

Sewing fabrics, with the exception of some batiks and polyesters, are limited. A good supply of wash-and-wear fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, trim, elastic, etc., should be brought from home.

Children's clothing needs are simple but, whenever possible, should be brought or ordered from the U.S. The fit of shoes is a particular problem, except for sandals.

Garment bags are useful for clothing protection. Extreme dampness during the monsoon season can cause clothes and shoes to mildew unless kept in air-conditioned rooms. Lightweight shoes and sandals are particularly desirable here. Sports shoes should be brought from home.

Clothing will not last as long here as in the U.S. The tropical climate and frequent laundering shortens the useful life of most items. Underwear, particularly with elastic, tends to wear out quickly.

Food

A variety of seasonal, fresh tropical fruits and vegetables is available at reasonable prices. Some vegetables are similar to those in temperate climates but may not have a familiar flavor. All raw or unpeeled vegetables and fruits must be soaked in disinfectant to reduce the danger of amoeba or other parasite infestation. Milton, a satisfactory brand-name disinfectant, is sometimes available. Clorox also may be used.

Because the local market is unpredictable, and food quality is not usually up to U.S. standards, most families prefer to have a stock of imported foods and frozen meats on hand, particularly basic cooking items.

Supplies & Services

In general, local dry cleaning is mediocre, although some Colombo hotels offer fairly good service. Because of the limited dry cleaning services and the warm climate, lightweight washable clothing (including men's suits and ties) is preferable.

Dressmakers are available at reasonable fees for making women's and children's clothing and men's shirts. Normally, dressmakers prefer to work in their customers' homes and do not supply their own sewing machines or notions. Shoe repair is done by hand and is adequate and inexpensive. Shoes, particularly sandals, also can be made inexpensively.

In Colombo, many beauticians are familiar with Western styling. European or Australian products are generally used.

Religious Activities

English is spoken in many of the larger Colombo churches: Roman Catholic, Church of Sri Lanka (Episcopalian), Scots (Presbyterian), Baptist, Methodist, Christian Science, Mormon, and Dutch Reformed. No Orthodox churches are available. Sri Lanka has no synagogue. In Kandy, English services are held in Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, and other churches. Most have Sunday school programs. Many churches also have services in Sinhala and Tamil.

Footwear and headgear should be removed before entering Buddhist shrines. Photographing statues of the Buddha is acceptable, but posing beside them is not. Discreet dress in public places is appreciated.

Domestic Help

Most Americans here employ domestic help, usually a combination cook-houseperson, or a cook and a houseperson and a part-time gardener. Total wages for these domestics average about $100-$150 a month. Uniforms and medical bills are added expenses. A nurse-maid (nanny) charges about $60 a month. Occasionally, a driver also is hired (about $50 monthly).

A single person ordinarily would have a combination cook-houseperson and a part-time gardener. Some singles employ sewing nannies and laundry people on a weekly basis at an added cost of $10 to $20 a month.

Education

Younger children of most foreigners resident in Colombo attend the Overseas Childrens School (OCS). At present, the school has an enrollment of over 450, representing more than 40 nations. Americans represent eight to 12% of the student. Originally established to cater to the needs of the British business community, this school has strong Western orientation, with most of the textbooks in the primary and middle school now coming from the United Kingdom and the United States. OCS, offering classes from nursery through 12th grade, has 75 teachers, of whom more than one-third are expatriates, with most being British and American.

The school, which at one time operated on an extremely limited budget, has made remarkable academic and financial strides since 1981. The school is self-funding from fees. In addition, it receives grants from the U.S. State Department's Office of Overseas Schools. It is located on a five-acre campus; more expatriate teachers are being recruited; teacher evaluations and training and curriculum development receive priority attention; and the supply of books, computers, and other teaching aids is expanding. The school is an active member of the Near East/South Asia Council of Overseas Schools and also of the European Council of International Schools and the Association for Advancement of International Education.

Students completing school at OCS can be expected to compete favorably with their peers for entrance into college, with International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma graduates likely to have access to the top colleges. Transfer students are generally not accepted into grade 12 unless they have successfully completed grade 11 in an IB program elsewhere.

The school offers French, Spanish, and Sinhala as the main foreign languages in grades seven through 10, and students are able to follow mother-tongue courses for the IB diploma in grades 11 and 12. OCS also offers an extensive English course as a second-language program for nonnative speakers. OCS follows a two-semester school year starting at the beginning of September and ending in June. Parents should bring as detailed records as possible from their children's previous school (s), and a health record is required at the time of admission. Placement at grade level is based on an internally administered test.

Although the school provides guidance by learning and disability specialists, the physical layout of the campus makes it impossible for the school to accept children whose physical handicaps confine them to a wheel chair. Although the school does not require a specific uniform attire, a dress code exists, and students should look presentable. For physical education, white shorts and a T-shirt (available from the school) are required.

OSC has a good sports program and numerous other extracurricular activities.

Overseas Children's School's address is: Pelawatte, P.O. Box 9, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka.

A few American children attend the Colombo International School (CIS), a private British curriculum school with over 800 students. CIS was founded in 1982 and offers classes for students ages two to 18. The teacher student ratio is 1 to 9.

CIS offers the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and achievement test classes to prepare students for admission to U.S. universities.

Extracurricular activities are an important part of school life, and sports, music, and drama are included in the school program.

The address of the Colombo International School is 28, Gregory's Road, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.

Universities in Sri Lanka offer courses leading to bachelor's and master's degrees in Buddhism, Oriental studies, arts, science, law, engineering, agriculture, and medicine. Instructions are in Sinhala, Tamil, or English, depending on student demand. Courses are based on the British university system, which concentrates on a major subject and allows few outside studies. Although foreigners are officially welcomed, few if any Americans have attended in recent years.

Recreation

Colombo is the only large city in Sri Lanka. Bombay and Madras, the closest large cities abroad, are about one to two hours away by air. New Delhi can be reached by air via Madras or Bombay. Plane service is not available directly between Colombo and New Delhi. The Maldive Islands are easily accessible by air and offer many resorts.

Sri Lanka has many interesting places for weekend outings or longer holiday trips. The principal spots in the hill country are Kandy, about 70 miles away (two-and-a-half hours by car, altitude 1,674 feet); Nuwara Eliya, about 110 miles away (five hours by car, altitude 6,185 feet); and Bandarawela, about 125 miles away (five hours by car, altitude 4,017 feet).

The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka's ancient cities is well worth seeing. Sigiriya (three-and-a-half hours from Colombo by car) is a rock fortress with famous frescoes. Sightseers also will enjoy the ancient ruins at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (five to six hours by car) and the Yala and Wilpatu wild-life sanctuaries (seven and three hours respectively, by car).

Perhaps the most awesome and forbidding region of Sri Lanka is Horton Plains, hard to reach but well worth the effort. Located about an hour's drive from Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains is part of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. One of the major attractions here is World's End, considered by many the finest view in all of Sri Lanka. For those who enjoy trout fishing and hiking, this is the place. Also, the Sinharaja Forest is one of the few tropical rain forests left in the world.

Hotel accommodations at tourist destinations outside Colombo are excellent. The government operates a large number of rest houses and, in certain areas (notably Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains, and the game parks), bungalows are available for rent. The rest houses vary widely in quality; all are reasonably priced.

The Colombo Zoological Gardens has a fine and large collection of animals, birds, and reptiles housed in a beautiful setting. A special feature of the zoo is an exhibition of trained elephants every evening.

Sri Lanka has beaches on both east and west coasts; but the east coast beaches may not be accessible due to ethnic conflict. Swimming is unsafe at certain times of the year because of the strong currents generated by the monsoons. Scuba diving is good during the season. The most popular beaches on the west coast, which are safe from about November to May, are Mt. Lavinia (20 minutes from the city) and Bentota (about a one-hour drive). Hikkaduwa, near Bentota, features a coral garden.

Sports commonly found in other tropical areas are also found in Sri Lanka. The most popular sports available to foreign residents are tennis, golf, and swimming. Others are snorkeling, scuba diving, soccer, cricket, rugby, badminton, squash, fishing, and sailing. Instruction in karate is also available. Many of the sports require club membership.

Some of the clubs open to membership are the Royal Colombo Golf Club, Nuwara Eliya Golf Club (rated among the best in South Asia, in the mountains at 6,200 feet), Royal Colombo Yacht Club, Colombo Rowing Club, Otter Aquatic Club, Colombo Motor Yacht Club, Gymkana Club, and the Colombo Swimming Club. In addition, the hotels offer yearly pool memberships. The Galle Face Hotel has a saltwater pool, and the Intercontinental, Lanka Oberoi, Hilton, Ramada Renaissance, and the Taj Samudra offer memberships in their sport centers.

Entertainment

A few movie theaters show Western movies, but most films are Indian or Sinhalese. Amateur dramatic groups and symphony, chamber, and choral groups give regular performances. Occasionally, entertainers from foreign countries (including the U.S.) also perform. Indian movie and dance concerts are fairly frequent.

Colombo has a few nightclubs, a range of restaurants serving ethnic foods (Italian, Chinese, French, Korean, German, Japanese, and Indian), and several hotels. Menu selection, culinary expertise, and musical entertainment are limited. Both Eastern and Western menus are available at major hotels.

The American Women's Association conducts charitable and social activities, and introduces new arrivals to other Americans and to local customs and shopping. All resident American women may join the association. Branches of the YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army are also active. Some American women join the International Women's Club, which has tennis courts as well as social activities.

The national tourist agencyCeylon Tourist Boardis located at 78, Steuart Place, P.O. Box 1504, Colombo 3.

Kandy

Kandy is the capital of the hill country. It is 1,674 feet above sea level, and 72 miles from Colombo. The average temperature here is 77°F, with pleasantly warm days and cool nights. Kandy is a mountain resort and the market center for an area producing tea, rubber, rice and cacao. The main part of the city overlooks a scenic artificial lake built by Kandy's last king in 1806.

Kandy is noted for local handicrafts such as reed and lacquer work and silver and brassware. The population here is over 100,000.

Clothing

Although Kandy is cooler than Colombo, the same type of clothing is generally appropriate for both. A sweater may be necessary in the evening, especially in December and January. Ready-made clothing, except for batiks, is not readily available in Kandy. Tailoring is good, but some fabrics are available.

Food

Staples are generally available here. The local beef is quite good. Chicken, ham, pork, and baconavailable at Cargills, Elephant House, and almost all grocery storesare also good. The imported food generally is expensive.

Supplies & Services

Some foreign and local toiletries, cosmetics, perfumes, etc., are available. A limited supply of medicines can be found at Cargills and at Lanka Medicals. Shoes, as well as most mechanical and electrical items, can be repaired. Beauty shops and dry cleaning facilities offer adequate services. Domestic help is available and is well trained. Salaries for domestic help are generally lower than in Colombo.

Kandy has a general hospital, seldom used by Americans, and the Lakeside Medical Center (a Seventh Day Adventist institution), which has acceptable facilities. Local specialists may be called in for consultation at the center or seen at the Channeled Practice Services, a facility permitting government physicians to have private patients. The Japanese have built and equipped a teaching hospital on the campus of the School of Medicine at Peradeniya. This provides additional services and facilities. For major medical and hospitalization problems, facilities are better in Colombo.

Recreation

The Temple of the Tooth, visited by Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world, is in Kandy. The sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is said to have been brought to Sri Lanka early in the fourth century, hidden in the hair of an Indian princess. The temple, which is Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist shrine, was bombed in early 1998. The government accused the Tamil Tigers of committing the bombing.

Kandy, the island's chief city in medieval times, was the final stronghold of the Sinhala kings and the last place to fall under foreign rule. Things to see include the kings' audience hall, the four devales (temples), the artificial lake constructed by Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe (last king of Kandy) in 1806, the elephants' bathing place in Katugastota, the botanical gardens and university at Peradeniya, and the Kandyan Art Association.

The most spectacular religious festival, the Esala Perahera, generally takes place in July or August, depending on the astrologically auspicious moment, and ends on the day following the night of the full moon. By the last night, as many as 80 to 100 elephants, caparisoned in velvet, satin, and silk with silver ornaments, move in the procession. Chief of all elephants is the Maligawa (district where Kandy is located) tusker, bearing a replica of the casket which holds the sacred tooth relic. Temples in the Kandy area are Lankatilaka Vihare, Gadalendeniya Vihare, Galmadawa Vihare, and Degalkoruwa Vihare.

In Kandy, active sports may be enjoyed either at the Garden Club, which has tennis courts, or at the Hotel Suisse, which opens its pool and tennis courts to membership by monthly subscription and entrance fee. Newer hotels, e.g., Citadel, Mahaweli Reach, and Topaz, also have similar pool facilities. Nuwara Eliya, 48 miles (three hours) from Kandy, in Sri Lanka's beautiful tea country at an elevation of 6,000 feet, has an 18-hole golf course. Rugby, soccer, and cricket matches are held in season.

Occasionally, English-language movies are shown in Kandy cinemas. French movies with English subtitles can be seen at the Kandy branch of Alliance Française. Classic American movies, shown periodically at the Kandy American Center, are open to a limited number of Americans. Occasionally, movies also are shown at the British Council Library.

Concerts by local or foreign artists, sponsored by various Kandy organizations, are scheduled about every two months. A local dance band plays on alternate nights at two Kandy hotels. The Kandy Lake Club is a gambling casino.

There are a few nice picnic spots near the city, particularly the Victoria Dam area. Mountains, beaches, and wildlife parks are from three to seven hours from Kandy by car.

OTHER CITIES

Situated 106 miles northeast of Colombo, ANURADHAPURA is near the Aruvi River. The city was founded in 437 B.C. and was the capital of the ancient Sinhalese kings of Ceylon for four centuries. Today, it is one of the world's leading Buddhist centers. An ancient pipal tree here is thought to have grown from a piece of the Bo Tree at Buddh Gaya (in India), under which Guatama Buddha attained enlightenment. Interesting sites include a palace, ruins of a rock-hewn temple, large stupas, and other relics.

GALLE (formerly Point de Galle) is located at the extreme southern end of Sri Lanka on the Indian Ocean. With a population of over 168,000, Galle is an agricultural market center, exporting tea, rubber, coconut oil, cloves, and other products from the surrounding region. Known as early as 100 B.C. as a trade center for the Chinese and Arabs, Galle became important under Portuguese rule, 1057-1640, when it was the island's chief port. Under the Dutch, it was the capital of Ceylon from 1640 to 1656. The Dutch built a fort here to guard the harbor and it still stands today. The city came under British rule in 1796, and its commercial importance continued until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. It further declined when the British built the modern harbor at Colombo in 1885.

JAFFNA is situated on a peninsula in the northernmost part of Sri Lanka. Separated from India by the Palk Strait, Jaffna and the peninsula are densely populated. There are approximately 130,000 inhabitants here, most of whom are Tamil-speaking people. Tobacco, rice, coconuts, palmyra palm, and vegetables are grown in the region, and fishing is an important occupation. Industries include those for salt, cement, chemical, and tobacco production, as well as textile weaving and gold filigree work. Elephants, peppers, and other commodities are traded. Remains of the ancient Tamil culture, as well as traditions from the Portuguese and Dutch occupations in the 17th and 18th centuries, are found here.

Located in southern Sri Lanka, on the Indian Ocean, MATARA is 24 miles east of Galle. It has a population of more than 125,000. Matara is centered in a region rich with coconut palms and cinnamon trees. An old Portuguese fort is among the sites located here.

NEGOMBO , with a population of over 120,000, is located on the west coast of Sri Lanka at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, just north of Colombo. The city is a fishing center and a market for coconut products and cinnamon; handicrafts include ceramics and brassware. Many 17th-century Dutch buildings still stand in Negombo. Sri Lanka's international airport is located just outside the city.

Situated in southwest-central Sri Lanka, RATNAPURA is 42 miles southeast of Colombo. It is the center of the precious-stone industry. The Buddhist temple, Maha Saman Dewale, is nearby. Ratnapura has a population of over 40,000.

TRINCOMALEE is situated on Sri Lanka's east coast, on the Bay of Bengal. With a population exceeding 52,000, Trincomalee has one of the world's finest natural harbors. Exports traded here include tea, hides, and dried fish. A railroad terminus and an important road junction, Trincomalee (sometimes written Trinkomali) is also known for its coconut and rice plantations, and some pearl fishing. Early Tamil settlers from south India built the Hindu Temple of a Thousand Columns in Trincomalee, but it was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1622. On its site, the Dutch built Fort Frederick in 1676. Captured by the British in 1795, the city was British naval headquarters in the Pacific theater during World War II. U.S. planes used its airfield for operations against the Japanese in Burma and Malaya (now part of Federation of Malaysia).

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Sri Lanka is a pear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean18 miles from India at its closest point. The country, roughly the size of West Virginia, is 270 miles long and 140 miles wide at its extremities, and comprises 25,332 square miles. It lies in the tropical zone between 5° and 9°N and between 79° and 82°S.

Sri Lanka has many spots of scenic beauty and historic interest. Topographically, the island consists of two main sections: the mountainous south-central region which rises to more than 8,200 feet above sea level, and the low-lying northern, eastern, and southwestern coastal plains. Dense vegetation covers a large part of Sri Lanka, particularly the southern and western coasts. Rubber and coconut trees grow in the midlands and lowlands, and there are vast tea estates in the highlands.

Sri Lanka has a varied effect on Westerners who remain on the island a considerable time without a break. People who like hot weather and are active in sports usually enjoy themselves and keep physically fit and mentally alert. Those accustomed to seasonal changes find the tropical climate monotonous and enervating. The climate, except in the mountains, is hot and humid. In Colombo, the capital, temperatures rarely rise above 90°F or drop below 70°F. Humidity is always high, often in the 90s. In the mountainous districts, the average temperature is about 60°F during the day but, at night, it cools off rapidly, sometimes dropping to near freezing in places like Nuwara Eliya (at an altitude of 6,200 feet).

The monsoons produce two main rainy seasons. The southwest monsoon lasts roughly from mid-May into early fall. During this period the southwestern part of the island, including Colombo, receives much of its average annual rainfall of 100 inches. The northeast monsoon lasts from about October or November through February. The northern and eastern parts of the island receive virtually all of their average annual rainfall of 60 inches at this time.

Monsoon showers range from gentle to torrential in the Colombo area. December through March are usually the driest months. Because of the massive Mahaweli hydroelectric and irrigation scheme, water shortages and interruptions of electricity during the dry months are less frequent than in the past.

Colombo's climate compares to the hot, humid summers in Washington, DC. Even during the cooler period (December and January), most Americans depend on electric fans or air-conditioning to keep comfortable.

Population

The population of Sri Lanka is 19.4 million (2000 est.) and, although it has more than doubled over the past 30 years, the overall growth rate is slowing. Currently it stands at.87%; this is somewhat understated since it takes into account outward migration to the Middle East.

Ethnically, 74% of the population is Sinhalese and speaks Sinhala, the national language; 18% is Tamil (people of South Indian origin) and speaks Tamil, an official language since 1978. About 70% of the Tamils are "Ceylon Tamils"citizens whose ancestors have lived in Sri Lanka for many generations and who have full voting rights. Most live in the northern and eastern provinces, but many Ceylon Tamils live in Colombo and throughout the island. The other 30% of the Tamil population are the so-called "Indian Tamils," whose ancestors were brought from South India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work on tea and rubber plantations. Most were disenfranchised in Sri Lanka by legislation passed in 1948. Because India also refused to recognize them as citizens, the Indian Tamils were considered stateless.

A 1964 agreement with India provided for repatriation of many to India and the granting of Sri Lankan citizenship to others on a 60-40 ratio. In 1988, Sri Lankan citizenship was extended to 230,000 stateless Indian Tamils.

Other minority groups include Sri Lankan Muslims (including both Moors and Malays and totaling 7% of the population) and Eurasians. Most Sinhalese are Buddhists, most Tamils are Hindu, and Moors and Malays are Muslims. Christians constitute 8% of the population, most of whom are Roman Catholic. Christians can be found in both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.

Racial tension between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities erupted into violence in 1983 and continued in varying degrees of intensity until 1995, when the government and Tamil rebels announced a cease-fire. The peace only lasted a few months, however, before Tamil rebels renewed their attacks on government installations. Since 1983, over 51,000 people have been killed, and more than 300,000 Tamils have fled the island.

Government

The 450-year foreign presence on the island (Portuguese, Dutch, and British) has influenced Sri Lanka's government, jurisprudence, and administration. Sri Lanka became independent in 1948 after being a British colony for over 100 years. It initially opted for dominion status in the Commonwealth, like nearby India and Pakistan. But, unlike India and Pakistan, it retained dominion status only until 1972 when the island was formally proclaimed a democratic republic and a unitary state with the office of governor-general converting to a ceremonial presidency. During that period, real power was vested in Parliament and in a prime minister under the British pattern. The 1972 constitution proclaimed Sinhala the official language (with some provision for the use of Tamil) and Buddhism the foremost religion (with religious freedom guaranteed to all).

Following the overwhelming 1977 electoral victory of the United National Party (UNP), a decision was made to revamp the constitutional system more along continental than British lines. The result was the 1978 constitution which established an executive (and active) presidency, abolished the upper house of legislature, and established a system of proportional representation as the basis for future parliamentary elections. The constitution also elevated Tamil to the status of an official national language.

An executive president, elected for a six-year term, serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, chief of state, and head of government. The position is based largely on the French model. The president appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers who are responsible to a 225-seat unicameral legislature. The president's chief lieutenant is the prime minister, who is the leader of the ruling party in Parliament.

Communal tension in Sri Lanka has remained high since July 1983, when the worst communal violence in the country's post-independence history occurred. Following the killing of 13 members of an army patrol (all Sinhalese) by Tamil terrorists fighting for a separate Tamil state in the north and east, Sinhalese mobs took to the streets of Colombo and then throughout Sinhalese-majority areas, attacking Tamils and their property. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in the ensuing violence and tens of thousands were left homeless, as mobs attacked Tamils and their property throughout much of the island. The riots led to a burgeoning of Tamil militant groups in the north and east and to continued military and political confrontation between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil militants.

By mid-1987, the situation had reached an impasse. The government's policy of pressing the insurgents militarily, although attempting to negotiate with Tamil moderates, had not succeeded. In an attempt to break the deadlock, Sri Lanka brought India directly into its communal dispute. Under a July 29, 1987, accord signed by the President and the Indian Prime Minister, Sri Lanka made many concessions to Tamil demands, including devolution of some powers to the provinces, merger (subject to later referendum) of northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents.

A key element of the accord soon fell apart. The major Tamil militant group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), within weeks declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam. The 50,000-strong Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LLTE. After two-and-a-half years of conflict between the IPKF and LLTE, with over 1,000 deaths on each side, the situation had not completely resolved. By late 1989, the Indian troops were being withdrawn, but the army and LLTE continued to have confrontations.

In 1995 a cease-fire between the Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan government was announced, with government promises to send an $816-million aid package to the northern part of the island. The peace process fell apart after a few months, when additional demands by the rebels went unfulfilled. After Tamil terrorists attacked two gun-boats and an army base, the government went on the offensive by blockading the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna and attacking rebel positions. By the end of 1996 the death toll from almost 15 years of civil war had surpassed 50,000.

Presidential elections were held in December 1988 and Ranasinghe Premadasa won with just over 50% of the votes cast in an election marked by considerable violence instigated mostly by the radical revolutionary Janatha Viimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Despite JVP violence, a parliamentary general election was held in February 1989. President Premadasa's United National Party won 125 of the 225 seats in Parliament in the first national election held under the system of proportional representation, which had been established by the 1978 constitution.

The JVP began asserting itself in mid-1987, capitalizing on opposition in the Sinhala community to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, it launched an intimidation campaign. Using terrorist tactics, including assassinations, strikes, and other weapons of intimidation, it brought the country to a virtual standstill several times in 1988 and 1989. Several thousand people died in JVP-instigated violence and much property, particularly government-owned property, was destroyed. The deaths included government officials, members of political parties who supported the Accord, and innocent civilians. The government fought back, killing another several thousand people suspected to be JVP party members, supporters, or their families. In late 1989, the JVP party leaders had virtually all been killed or arrested, and the JVP threat appeared to have failed.

On May 1, 1993, President Premadasa was killed in a May Day Parade bombing. Prime Minister Wijetunga succeeded him, and called for early elections in August 1994. Voters, however, chose a leftist coalition led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga became president. She was reelected in 1999.

Sri Lanka's legal system reflects the interplay of cultural influences. The criminal law is fundamentally of British origin. The basic system of civil law, a legacy of the Dutch, is Roman-Dutch; but personal law (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.) is unique to each ethnic community. Thus Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists have their own family codes. The judiciary is based on the British model.

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court which is also authorized to give advisory opinions, a Court of Appeals, a High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. The Supreme Court, composed of a chief justice and six to 10 associate justices, has original jurisdiction on all constitutional matters, as well as on such other matters as election petitions, breach of parliamentary privilege, protection of fundamental rights, and other matters over which Parliament has legislative power.

The Sri Lanka Administrative Service is a direct descendent of the highly regarded colonial Ceylon Civil Service. Each ministry has a secretary, usually a career civil servant, who provides continuity as ministers and governments change. The country is divided into 25 districts, each headed by a government agent (GA) responsible for regional government activities. In colonial days, the GA was virtually overlord of a district; today, democracy has brought an increased concern for mass public opinion and socially responsive administration. An innovation of the government elected in 1977 was the introduction of a system of district ministers, senior members of Parliament usually not from the district, who oversee development efforts in the region.

Sri Lanka is a member of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as the following international bodies: Asian Development Bank, Colombo Plan, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Group of 77, International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), Nonaligned Movement, World Bank, and World Tourism Organization. The Sri Lankan capital is the home of the international headquarters of the Colombo Plan, a program to aid the economic development of Asian nations, which was launched at a conference in Colombo in 1950. The address is 12 Melbourne Avenue, P.O. Box 596, Colombo.

Sri Lanka maintains diplomatic relations abroad in over 30 foreign countries, including Iraq, the People's Republic of China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Germany, Kenya, India, and the United States. There are over 30 foreign embassies in Colombo, including those of Australia, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, the Holy See, Japan, the Maldives, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The outer two-thirds of the flag of Sri Lanka has a dark red background with a gold lion, sword, and bo leaves (from the former Kingdom of Kandy). The inner third of the flag has vertical green and saffron bands (for the Muslims and Tamils). The flag is bordered and divided in gold.

Arts, Science, Education

Sri Lanka's artistic and intellectual life is lively in some areas. There are eight universities, one open university, and two university colleges; both arts and sciences are taught. Facilities include four medical schools. The Institute of Aesthetic Studies is a department of the University of Kelaniya, near Colombo. Instruction includes art, crafts, music, and dance.

The Ministry of Education operates 21 teacher training colleges; of these, four train instructors to teach English as a second language and 17 cover other areas. The Ministry of Higher Education directs 13 polytechnics and eight junior technical institutes. Curricula and direction at all educational levels are increasingly related to Sri Lanka's development.

The Natural Resources, Energy, and Science Authority, established in 1968 as the National Science Council, implements central government science policies. The Sri Lanka Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) is an autonomous, non-profit, industrial research institute, established by the government in 1955.

The Tea Research Institute established in 1925, the Rubber Research Institute (1910), and the Coconut Research Institute (1971) are all government non-profit organizations.

Private schools teach Eastern and Western dance and music. The country has several theaters, a major museum, and many specialized societies. Few art galleries exist, but interest is active in painting, batik, jewelry, sculpture, and indigenous handicrafts. A national dance troupe performs, and interest in a national theater, and national culture in general, is strong.

An active and healthy interest also flourishes in Western music, art, and drama. English-language plays are performed by a few amateur groups in Colombo, and drama groups welcome foreign members. Concerts of Eastern and Western music also are given occasionally, and Colombo has an amateur symphony orchestra; many foreigners have joined this latter group. Visiting artists regularly perform with the orchestra or give solo performances.

Commerce and Industry

Compared with the many developing countries in the region, Sri Lanka's economic potential is high. The island has rich agricultural and mineral resources and is surrounded by a bountiful sea. Population pressures are less severe than in neighboring areas, and the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is about $$3,500 (2000 est.).

Agriculture accounts for about 21% of the GDP and employs about 38% of the population. Tea, rubber, and coconuts are the principal crops and the source of about 50% of export earnings. Rice is the major domestic food grain crop; improved seeds and yields have significantly reduced the need for rice imports.

Industrial production has grown substantially in recent years and now accounts for about 20% of the GDP. Garments, many of which are assembled in the free trade zone located just outside Colombo, account for most of Sri Lanka's exports of manufactured goods. Roughly 75% of the apparel exported is sent to the U.S. Other industrial exports include refined petroleum products and precious and semi-precious gems.

Services (i.e., transportation and tourism) and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad are of increasing importance to the economy. Colombo's efficient port has become a major cargo transshipment hub and a significant foreign exchange earner. Tourism, which has been hurt by the security situation, remains an important source of employment and one of the best hopes for future economic growth.

The United National Party government has undertaken to reverse many basic economic policies followed by all previous governments since independence. Most significantly, the government has reduced its rice subsidy program and is placing greater reliance on the private sector in promoting economic development. The country relies on considerable international assistance from both multilateral and bilateral aid donors. Increased foreign investment, the huge Mahaweli irrigation development scheme now beginning to yield results, the successful free trade zones, and the growth of the tourist industry, have helped to reduce the country's serious unemployment problem. However, the economy has suffered in recent years due to the continuing ethnic conflict and political instability.

Sri Lanka has chronic, current account and government budget deficits. Foreign aid has helped to cover these gaps somewhat, but foreign borrowing also has been significant. External debt is estimated at about $9.9 billion (2000 est.).

Import liberalization, part of the 1977-78 economic reforms, eliminated the scarcities and black-market activities which once plagued the island. The government's economic priorities are now to bring prices under better control, diversify and expand exports, increase national savings, and maintain the quality of life of its people. Although shortages of basic food items no longer occur, imported products on the local market are often expensive.

The address of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka is P.O. Box 1375, Second Floor, YMBA Building, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka is located at the People's Bank Bldg., 220 Deans Rd., Colombo 10.

Transportation

Air Lanka offers domestic service. Charter planes and helicopters are also available. The railway system, also a government enterprise, provides a reasonably satisfactory means of reaching a few points of interest on the island. First-class travel, although somewhat rigorous, should be used whenever possible; second-class accommodations frequently are the best available. The government-owned bus system, which is overcrowded and poorly maintained, normally is not used by foreign residents. Private buses offer little improvement.

Rental vehicles with a driver, although relatively expensive, may be engaged for excursion trips. Satisfactory and inexpensive three-and four-wheeled metered taxi service is available in Colombo.

Despite such problems as heavy traffic (bicycles, bullock carts, other vehicles, and pedestrians), lack of spare parts, and indifferent servicing, most resident Americans rely on automobiles for transportation within and outside Colombo. Sri Lankan roads are generally narrow and inadequately maintained. The island has an extensive network of paved surfaces.

Small, right-hand-drive cars are recommended because of the narrow roads. The highest rated gasoline is about 93 octane. The most popular cars include Peugeot, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford, (Australia, Germany, U.K.), and British Ley-land. Parts and servicing are most readily available for Japanese vehicles. Heavy-duty tires and batteries, air-conditioning, tropical radiators, and extra undercoating against rust are worthwhile investments. Catalytic converters on newer models should be removed, since lead-free gasoline is not available.

As in England, traffic moves on the left side of the road. Sri Lanka permits import of left-hand-drive vehicles, but for safety and resale value, it is wise to import only right-hand-drive vehicles.

Third-party liability insurance is compulsory in Sri Lanka. Insurance policies are available only through the government-owned and-operated Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and the National Insurance Corporation.

Communications

Local telephone service often is interrupted by breakdowns caused by age and weather conditions. Long-distance and international direct-dial services are available to all points in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Japan, Europe, and the U.S., provided an advance deposit has been made. Telegraph and cable service, available day and night, is satisfactory. Telex facilities are available at most good hotels.

Airmail service to and from the U.S. is generally satisfactory. The average transit time is eight to 10 days. Radio broadcasting operates 17 and one-half hours daily, seven days a week. Programs offered by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation cover local and international subjects and include a substantial amount of Western music, especially on FM. Programming and schedules follow British format, and some British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programs and news features are relayed on local channels. Broadcasting is in English, Sinhala, and Tamil on shortwave, AM, and FM frequencies. Many interesting and informative programs are presented. Reasonably good worldwide radio reception is available on shortwave.

Sri Lanka initiated television transmission in 1978 and now has two stations. Each station operates from 5 p.m. until after 11 p.m. The programs on both channels consist of locally produced shows in English, Sinhala, and Tamil, and reruns of U.S. and U.K. serials in English. Regular, nightly news programs are broadcast in all three languages at different times.

Sri Lanka uses the PAL system of color TV; therefore, U.S. sets cannot operate here. Color sets are available locally through the duty-free complex; however it is a time-consuming process and purchases require Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry approval. Prices compare favorably with those in the U.S.

Most Americans bring videotape equipment to Sri Lanka. Many belong to local tape clubs which rent tapes (VHS/PAL system only) at reasonable prices.

Colombo newsstands sell current international editions of Time and Newsweek. The International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and Asian Wall Street Journal also are available.

Library facilities in Colombo are limited, but improving. The American Center library is designed to meet the needs of Sri Lankan students and academics. The Colombo municipal library system has approximately 123,000 titles in English at any one time, and subscribes to some 400 English-language journals and newspapers. The British Council's large, 52,000-volume library includes a good selection of fiction. It subscribes to about 150 periodicals and newspapers. The Colombo Swimming Club operates a small library offering book selections to both children and adult members. A modest number of expensive current paperbacks are available at the large hotel bookshops.

Mildew, termites, and silverfish are a serious threat to books not kept in air-conditioned rooms. Valuable volumes should not be brought to Sri Lanka.

Health and Medicine

Privately owned hospitals, with 24-hour English-speaking Sri Lankan-trained physicians on duty, have outpatient departments, intensive care units, operating rooms, and diagnostic facilities. However, the hospitals are not up to American standards and are utilized rarely, except for routine lab work. Medical problems requiring sophisticated treatment are sent to the nearest adequate medical facility (in Bangkok).

The U.S. Embassy maintains a health unit in Colombo for official personnel and dependents. Some limited care is occasionally provided to unofficial Americans on a fee-for-service basis.

Private physicians are the primary source of medical assistance. Specialists from the government hospitals assist when needed. Some specialists are board-certified in the U.K. Fees for medical care and treatment are reasonable.

All dental work should be done prior to arrival in Sri Lanka. Local dentists have been consulted, with satisfactory results, by some members of the American community. However, dental care is substandard, and no major dental work can be done.

Pharmaceutical supplies are not always available locally, so one should have an adequate supply of first aid materials, aspirin, or other necessary items; this includes vitamins and birth control pills.

Gastrointestinal disease is the major health problem here. Hepatitis A is common in the local population. Diarrhea is the most common illness among Americans living in the subcontinent, mainly because of contaminated food and water. City water is not potable and should be filtered and boiled for 10 minutes before using. One should thoroughly cook all meat and wash and disinfect all fruits and vegetables.

Sri Lanka has many kinds of insects. Mosquitoes carry malaria, Japanese B encephalitis, dengue fever, and filariasis. Flies carry filth that cause such endemic diseases as cholera and typhoid. Those coming here for an extended stay should bring a good supply of insecticides, pest strips, insect repellents, and fly swatters. Snakes, both poisonous and nonpoisonous, are found in Sri Lanka. Yards and lawns around the houses must be maintained by keeping grass cut and clearing leaves, which helps to deter nesting of snakes.

Parents with small children must exercise special caution as to safe play areas outdoors. The U.S. Embassy health unit maintains a stock of snake bite serum, which, if needed, is best administered in a hospital setting.

Malaria prophylaxis must be started two weeks before arrival in Sri Lanka. Also, make sure immunizations are up to date, especially those for gamma globulin, rabies, meningitis, and hepatitis B.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

Several international airlines fly into Sri Lanka's Katunayake Airport about 20 miles northwest of Colombo (one hour by car). At present, no American carriers provide service. Air Lanka is the national airline.

A passport and an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visit visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted at the time of entry into Sri Lanka to bona fide tourists and business travelers. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Yellow fever and cholera immunizations are needed if arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. Sri Lankan law requires all persons, including foreigners, who are guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station. Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses.

American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line drawn from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nivaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. In addition, the LTTE rather than the Government of Sri Lanka is effectively the civil administration in many sections of the north. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to this area is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nivaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks. Roads are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited land-line telephone access. Because of these considerations, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.

Sri Lankan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Sri Lanka of items such as firearms, antiquities, business equipment, obscene materials, currency, gems and precious metals. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, D.C., or one of Sri Lanka's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Americans living in or visiting Sri Lanka are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(1) 448-007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1) 447-601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(1)-436-943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is [email protected]. The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of the Maldives. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register at the Embassy upon arrival in Sri Lanka or by e-mail.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

Sri Lanka's monetary unit is the rupee. Strict currency controls require customs declaration of all foreign currency brought into and taken out of the country and severely limit local importation of foreign goods. Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan rupees are forbidden to be imported into or exported out of the country.

Sri Lanka operates on the metric system in calculating weights and measures.

The time in Sri Lanka is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus five-and-one-half hours.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 14 Tamil Thai Pongal Day

Feb. 4 National Day

Feb/Mar. Maha Sivarathri Day*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Apr. Eve of Sinhala & Tamil New Year*

Apr. Sinhala & Tamil New Year*

May 1May Day

May 22National Heroes' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Id al-Adha*

Ramadan*

Id-ul-Fitr

Mawlid an Nabi*

Wesak*

Divali*

*variable

The Poya Day (Full Moon Day) of each month is also considered a holiday.

RECOMMENDED READING

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Brohier, R.L. Discovering Ceylon. Colombo: Lake House Investments, Ltd., 1973.

Carter, John Ross, ed. Religiousness in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Marga Institute, 1979.

Cartman, James. Hinduism in Ceylon. Colombo: Gunasena, 1957.

Colombo Handbook. 5th ed. Colombo: American Women's Association, 1989.

Coomaraswamy, Radhika. Sri Lanka: The Crisis of the Anglo-American Constitutional Traditions in a Developing Society. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt., Ltd., 1984.

de Silva, K.M. A History of Sri Lanka. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

. Sri Lanka: A Survey. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977.

Farmer, B.H. Ceylon: A Divided Nation. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Farmer, B.H. Pioneer Peasant Colonization in Ceylon. London: North Oxford University Press, 1957.

Gunawardana, R.A.L.H. Robe and Plough: Monasticism and Economic Interest in Early Medieval Sri Lanka. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Hulugalle, H.A.J. Ceylon Yesterday, Sri Lanka Today. Stockholm: Stureforlaget AB, 1976.

Images of Sri Lanka Through American Eyes: Travellers in Ceylon in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Compiled and edited with introduction, commentaries, and bibliography by H.A.I. Goonetileke. Colombo: USICA, 1983.

Jayawardena, V.K. The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972.

Jiggins, J. Caste and Family in the Politics of the Sinhalese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Jupp, James. Sri LankaThird World Democracy. London: Frank Cass, 1978.

Kanogaran, Chelvadurai. Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

Karunatilake, H.N.S. Economic Developments in Ceylon. New York: Praeger, 1971.

Kearney, Robert N. The Politics of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973.

Knox, Robert. An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon. Introduction by H.A.I. Goonetileke. New Delhi: Navrang, 1983.

Ludowyk, E.F.C. The Footprint of the Buddha. London: Allen and Unwin, 1958.

Ludowyk, E.F.C. The Modern History of Ceylon. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966.

. The Story of Ceylon. 2nd ed. London: Faber, 1967.

Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society 1750-1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Moore, Mick. The State and Peasant Politics in Sri Lanka. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Pieris, Ralph. Sinhalese Social Organization. Colombo: Ceylon University Press Board, 1956.

Ponnambalam, Satchi. Dependent Capitalism in Crisis: The Sri Lankan Economy 1948-1980. London: Zed Press, 1981.

Rahula, Walpola. History of Buddhism in Ceylon. The Anuradhapura Period 3rd Century B.C.-10th Century A.D. 2nd ed. Colombo: Gunasena, 1968.

Raven-Hart, R. Ceylon History in Stone. Colombo: Lake House Investments, Ltd., 1964.

Robert, Michael. Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931. London: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

. Collective Identities, Nationalisms, and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka. Colombo: Marga Institute, 1979.

Ryan, Bryce. Caste in Modern Ceylon. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

Smith, Bardwell L., ed. Religion and Legitimation of Power in Sri Lanka. Chambersbyrg: Anima Books, 1978.

Snodgrass, Donald R. Ceylon: An Export Economy in Transition. Homewood, IL: Richard Irwin, 1966.

Still, John H. The Jungle Tide. London: Blackwood, 1955.

Vijayatunga, J. Grass For My Feet. London: Howard Baker, 1970.

Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam. The Gaullist System in Asia: The Constitution of Sri Lanka. London: Macmillan, 1980.

Woolf, Leonard. Growing: An Autobiography of the Years 1904-1911. New York: Harcourt Bruce, 1961.

. The Village in the Jungle. Colombo: Hansa Publishers, 1974.

Wriggins, W. Howard. Ceylon: Dilemmas of A New Nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960.

Yalman, N. Under the Bo TreeStudies in Caste, Kinship, and Marriage in the Interior of Ceylon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Prajathanthrika Samajavadi

Janarajaya

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Sri Lanka is an island nation-state in the Indian Ocean. It is located 880 kilometers (547 miles) north of the equator, off the southern tip of India, and has a maximum length of 432 kilometers (268 miles) and a maximum width of 224 kilometers (139 miles). The island has an area of 65,610 square kilometers (25,332 square miles) and a total coastline of 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles). Sri Lanka is slightly larger than West Virginia. Its capital, Colombo, lies on the country's western coast.

POPULATION.

Sri Lanka's population was estimated at 19.24 million in 2000, indicating growth of 11.5 percent compared with the 1991 population of 17.25 million. Sri Lanka has the slowest-growing population in southern Asiaestimated at 0.9 percent yearlyand its population is projected to increase to 23.55 million by the year 2025. The density of Sri Lanka's population is fairly high, at 280 persons per square kilometer (725 per square mile). In 2000 the birth rate was estimated at 16.8 per 1,000 people and the death rate at 6.4 per 1,000 people. The majority of Sri Lanka's people live in the rural sector (67 percent), in urban areas (22 percent), and on plantation estates (11 percent). The infant mortality rate (16.5 per 1,000) and overall death rate are low for a developing country, and the average life expectancy (69 years for men and 73 years for women) is the highest in southern Asia. The low fertility rate and high life expectancy has led to a larger increase in the older population than the younger population. It took most western countries 45 to 135 years for their elderly population to double, while in Sri Lanka this process is expected to take only 2 decades. Sri Lanka is expected to have the third oldest population in Asia in 2025. The rising burden of maintaining an aged population could exert considerable restraints on the government's fiscal resources, and the need to provide retirement support income and health care will have serious consequences on the economy as a whole during the next 2 decades.

An important characteristic of the Sri Lankan population is its ethnic and cultural diversity. Approximately 74 percent of the population are Sinhalese, 12.6 percent are Sri Lankan Tamils, 5.5 percent Indian Tamils, 5 percent Muslims, and the remainder consists of Burghers, Malays, and others (2.9 percent). Among the ethnic groups, the Sinhalese were the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka and are descendants of the first colonists who occupied the island during the 5th century B.C. Most of them are Buddhist, and speak a language called Sinhala, derived from several Indo-Aryan languages. The Sri Lankan Tamils are the descendants of the early Dravidian invaders from southern India. They are predominantly Hindu and speak Tamil, one of the major Dravidian languages of southern India. Indian Tamils are the descendants of laborers brought by the British planters in the 19th century to work on plantations. The Muslims are the descendants of early Arab traders who settled in SriLanka during the 10th century. The Burghers are the descendants of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British who occupied the island from the 16th to the mid-20th century. The Burghers are predominantly Christian and speak English as their first language.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Sri Lanka is a developing economy based largely on agriculture, services, and light industry. Agriculture accounts for approximately 21 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 38 percent of the workforce. Agricultural output is divided between cash crops from plantation agriculture and food crops from subsistence agriculture. Cash cropsnamely tea, rubber, and coconutsare largely grown on plantations. Rice is the principal food crop and the main livelihood for over 70 percent of Sri Lanka's rural population. Manufacturing industries account for approximately 19 percent of the gross domestic product and employ about 17 percent of the workforce. Chief manufactures include textiles, ceramics, petroleum products, vegetable oils, fertilizers, and cement. The service sector is the largest of the Sri Lanka economy, employing 45 percent of the workforce and contributing roughly 60 percent of GDP. Tourism, banking, finance, and retail trade are the major components of the service sector.

The country is endowed with many natural resources. It has an equatorial climate with a high average rainfall. The land is fertile and suitable for growing a variety of crops, and one-third of the land is arable. Rivers cascading from the central hill country provide energy to generate hydropower, the major source of electricity in Sri Lanka. The country also has rich fishing resources. Sri Lanka's mineral resources include titanium ore, graphite, kaolin, and gemstones. It also has large deposits of unexploited iron ore.

Foreign trade is an important segment of the Sri Lankan economy. Major imports include petroleum, consumables, machinery and capital equipment, motor vehicles, and various manufactured goods. Major exports include garments, tea, rubber, coconut products, foodstuffs, gems, and jewelry. Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of black tea in the world and the third largest producer of natural rubber. A variety of gemstones, for which Sri Lanka is world famous, are also exported. Significant quantities of high-grade graphite, for which Sri Lanka is a world leader, are also exported. The industrialized countries taken together as a group accounted for 75 percent of Sri Lanka's total exports in 1999 and the United States is the largest single buyer of Sri Lanka's exports, with 39 percent in 1999. Other major export markets are the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Russia (tea), China (rubber), India, and the Middle East. In terms of imports, Japan is the single largest exporter to Sri Lanka. Motor vehicles, spare parts, and woven fabrics are the major items imported from Japan. India is the second largest exporter, followed by Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Sri Lanka is a mixed economy, in which both the private sector and the state sector engage in the production process. Foreign investments are encouraged and several free zones have been established. The country's banking system is well developed, so that both foreign and local banks function in the economy. Sri Lanka is committed to a free market ideology and has one of the most liberal foreign trade regimes in the world. This contrasts greatly to what the Sri Lankan economy looked like during the first 3 decades after the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. The economy that evolved in Sri Lanka under British rule was predominantly oriented towards agriculture, with plantation agriculture being the major contributor to the nation's growth. The 3 plantation cropstea, rubber, and coconutsaccounted for 30 percent of the gross domestic product in 1948 and the bulk of the output was exported. Manufacturing was an insignificant activity in the economy. Banking and commerce were, for the most part, only used to support plantation agriculture. Nearly all foreign exchange earnings were derived from the plantations. The country depended on imports for nearly three-fourths of its food requirements and almost all of its manufactured goods.

The Sri Lankan economy has since become highly diversified; it has rapidly growing manufacturing and service sectors, agricultural activities have been modernized, and the country is nearly self-sufficient in rice production. The significance of the 3 major export crops (tea, rubber, and coconuts) as the main source of export earnings has fallen (from 90 percent in the 1950s to 16 percent in 1999) and the significance of manufacturing has risen (from 1 percent of exports in 1950 to 60 percent in 1999). These changes in the structure of the Sri Lankan economy are a result of varying economic policy measures adopted by the government since independence. Development strategies that shaped the Sri Lankan economy over the last 5 decades may be distinguished under 2 eras: the first era covering the period between 1948-76, and the second era during the post-1977 period.

During the first era, development policy focused on achieving the objectives of equity and economic growth. The instruments adopted to achieve economic growth were aimed at import substitution industrialization, both in manufacturing and foodstuffs. The key measures used to achieve this growth strategy were the imposition of various restrictions on imports, and the encouragement of domestic production. Extensive social welfare programs such as price subsidies on food, statutory price controls on consumer goods , and the provision of free education and health services were the instruments used to achieve greater equity. The welfare programs achieved significant improvements in the area of human development, including lower mortality rates, increased life expectancy, and high literacy rates. However, high welfare expenditures restrained the nation's capital growth and ability to invest, slowing economic growth and causing high unemployment and low wages. During the 1951-1976 period, per capita gross domestic product grew only at an average of 0.2 percent per year. The achievements of the import substitution policies were even less noticeable, except in the production of rice and subsidiary food crops. With a worsening trade balance crisis, most newly established industries operated well below capacity due to a shortage of imported goods. This, coupled with increased government participation in industrial development, hindered industrial growth and the ability to remain commercially viable. The continued government intervention in all spheres of economic life reached its climax at the end of the first policy era.

The second era of Sri Lankan economic development (post-1977) marked a shift towards a free market economy. The strategy aimed at liberalizing the economy from excessive government controls and it chose the private sector as the engine of growth. Policies were designed to accelerate economic growth by stimulating private investment through various incentives and also to increase the country's foreign earnings by promoting export-oriented economic activities. The liberalization policies, pursued under the watchful eye and participation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, met with success at the beginning. Stimulated by enhanced levels of foreign aid and investment, the economy was successful, recording real growth rates of about 6 percent per year until 1986. During the following 5 years, however, there was a marked deceleration of growth caused mainly by the disruptive effects of the ethnic conflict on economic activities. Gross domestic product grew at an annual average of 2.7 percent between 1986-1989, and at an annual average of 5 percent between 1990-2000. During the second era, the level of income in the economy grew significantly with per capita gross domestic product more than doubling (from US$382 in 1975 to US$802 by 2000).

The transition to a free market economy based on a liberalized trade and exchange rate regime has brought benefits to the Sri Lankan economy. Unemployment, a problem for decades, has reduced significantly, and remains at historically low levels (8 percent in 2000). Nonetheless, the high levels of inflation , fueled by the sharp deterioration of the Sri Lankan currency, combined with the mounting cost of civil war has raised the cost of living to very high levels. The soaring cost of living has made many Sri Lankans struggle to satisfy their basic needs. Over 45 percent of the population depends on benefits under the income supplement programs initiated by the government. The balance of payments problem remains unresolved. The persistent trade deficit has led to increased reliance on foreign aid to meet the country's import requirements, leading to an inevitably mounting foreign debt . Foreign debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product, which accounted for 21 percent in 1975, grew to 75 percent in 1994, and amounted to 59 percent in 1999.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

When Sri Lanka obtained its independence from Britain in 1948 it had an educated electorate conscious of its voting rights and the concept of majority rule. The judiciary was respected and the rule of law was well established. The political party system was also established with the United National Party (UNP) as the foremost party of the time. Sri Lanka also had a written constitution incorporating some of the principles of the British Westminster system of government. There is a unicameral Parliament with 225 members elected to 6-year terms. The president is popularly elected to a 6-year term and is the chief executive.

The UNP was in power for 8 years until it lost the 1956 election to Sirimavo Bandaranaike. His Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led coalition swept into power on the promise to make Sinhala the national language. This created disquiet among minorities, especially among Tamils. Tamil leaders opposed the introduction of Sinhala as the official language because they wanted to speak Tamil; their opposition soon led to violence. The seeds of the separatist war in Sri Lanka can be traced to incidents that occurred in 1958. But the conflict grew into a large-scale military confrontation only after 1983, when a group of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) followers ambushed Sinhalese troops. The LTTE, who are the Tamil protagonists of the war, have used terrorist methods to finance and promote their cause. They have assassinated moderate Tamil leaders, including President Premadasa, and several Sri Lankan ministers and party leaders. They also killed Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi because he withdrew his support of the LTTE.

Another serious problem was the emergence of a Sinhalese youth revolutionary party called the JVP, which staged an armed insurrection in 1971, lasting for 2 years and followed by 3 years of sporadic outbursts. The JVP resurrected itself in the late 1980s with a subtle form of urban terrorism, but it was brought under control by a ruthless program of suppression by the government. Both the LTTE and the JVP have been serious impediments to steady economic growth in Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka has been endowed with a very strong democratic tradition which has managed to survive these major conflicts, even during periods of poor economic management.

The 2 dominant parties during 50 years of independence have been the UNP (conservative) and the SLFP ( socialist -left, and more recently center-left). The 2 political parties have alternated in positions of power for half a century, with the UNP heading the government from 1948 to 1956, 1965 to 1970, and 1977 to 1994. An SLFP-led coalition government was in power from 1956 to 1965, 1970 to 1977, and since 1994 as a coalition called the Peoples Alliance (PA).

The Sri Lankan government epitomizes a classic democratic 2-party political system in operation. The UNP regimes during the period 1948 to 1970 placed emphasis on private sector participation with several ongoing subsidized programs such as free education, free health care, village land settlement, and colonization. The SLFP regimes continued the welfare programs and moved increasingly to public ownership and nationalization with limited private sector participation. In the early and the mid-1970s, they placed strict restrictions on imports and currency movement.

In 1977 the UNP government came into power and decided to run an open economy with few restrictions. The private sector became the main engine of growth. The rupee was devalued by 46 percent from its former artificial value. This immediately stimulated growth and received the backing and financial support of the World Bank. This UNP government lasted for 17 years. When the SLFP-led coalition known as the Peoples Alliance was elected to government in 1994, it accepted the importance of this open market economy as a positive growth strategy for the country.

A short time before the end of the first term of the Peoples Alliance in 2000, the LTTE attempted to assassinate the president of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga. The bomb caused damage to one eye but she survived, and her party was elected for a second term. The PA has had a very difficult period in government because of the financial and political pressures generated by the escalation of the armed conflict with the LTTE. The election itself generated a degree of conflict never experienced before in Sri Lankan politics, but democracy survived as it had in every one of the elections held after 1948.

TAXATION AND REVENUE.

The major source of government revenue in Sri Lanka is taxes (86 percent). However, unlike the United States, the contribution of income taxes to government revenue is negligible, at 13 percent, while indirect taxes dominate government revenue. There are 3 major sources of indirect taxes: the goods and services tax (GST), excise tax , and the national security levy (NSL). The GST is a recent addition to the tax system (introduced in April 1998), replacing the business turnover tax. The GST is levied on a value-added basis at a uniform rate of 12.5 percent with full credit given to all inputs. GST revenue accounted for 26 percent of the total tax revenues in 2000. An excise tax, which contributed 23 percent of the total tax revenue during the same period, is levied mainly on liquor, tobacco, petroleum, and motor vehicles. The third important source of government revenue, the NSL, was initially introduced as an interim measure to finance the rising cost of war in the north and the east. It has become an important contributor to national tax revenue, contributing 17.5 percent. The NSL is levied at a rate of 6.5 percent. Taxes on international trade account for 16 percent of the total tax revenue. With the liberalization of trade and restructuring of the tariff regime, which began in the late 1980s, revenue from taxes on foreign trade has been declining.

The personal income tax (PIT) rate in Sri Lanka has 4 brackets, ranging from 10 percent to 35 percent. The PIT's contribution to the government tax revenue is small (about 1 percent of gross domestic product) and is lower than most other countries. The economy's high dependence on subsistence agriculture, low levels of income and tax compliance, and inefficient tax administration are the key contributors to low levels of PIT revenue. The corporate income tax (CIT) in Sri Lanka of 35 percent (flat rate) is relatively modest and is similar to the rates in other Asian economies. However, the CIT tax yield in Sri Lanka is quite low, as many firms are offered tax incentives to encourage investment.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Sri Lanka has a well-developed transport system, including a road network of approximately 100,000 kilometers (62,140 miles). A rail network consisting of about 1,944 kilometers (1,208 miles) of tracks links Colombo with the rest of the country. Road networks are under severe strain due to the rapid increase in the number of vehicles since the 1980s. The number of registered vehicles nearly tripled from 478,000 in the mid-1980s to 1.38 million in 2000, generating severe traffic congestion. With a rising number of vehicles, and the need for a more efficient road network to facilitate the movements of goods and services, the government is actively engaged in improving, rehabilitating, and extending the existing network.

Sri Lanka has 14 airfields, the largest of which is the Katunayake International Airport, the principal gateway to Sri Lanka. The country is serviced by 32 airlines, both domestic and foreign, and the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, handles about 56 percent of international passengers to and from Sri Lanka. It has scheduled operations to 35 destinations in 26 countries covering Australia, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) is responsible for operating the ports. The SLPA operates 4 major ports in Colombo, Galle (in the south), Trincomalee (in the east), and Kankasanturai (in the north). In addition, limited shipping facilities are provided by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation and by several private sector shipping companies. A major restructuring of the cargo handling facilities in Colombo port is now taking place in conjunction with the British PNO company.

Hydropower is the major source of electricity, accounting for 66 percent of the nation's electricity supply. One of the main sources of hydropower is the gigantic Mahaweli Scheme, which has harnessed the flow of Sri Lanka's longest river in several stages. The remainder is generated through thermal power (34 percent) and most recently, wind power. Electricity generation and distribution has traditionally been a government monopoly . However, the private sector has become much more involved in power generation during the past decades.

Telecommunications is the fastest growing sector in the country. During the first half of 2000, the telecommunications sector grew by 11 percent. Sri Lanka Telecom Ltd. (SLT) is the major supplier; its network provided 44,228 new telephone connections during the first half of 2000, with total network subscriptions of 621,394. The demand for telephones is growing much faster than supply: at the end of June 2000, there were 246,560 applicants on the waiting list. To meet rising demand the SLT is expanding its capacity with assistance from international donors. In addition to the SLT subscriber network, there are 4 cellular phone operators with a subscription of 307,027. Other service providers include wireless local loop telephones (2 operators with 101,093 subscribers), data communication services such as Internet and e-mail (15 operators with 32,633 subscribers), and public phones (6 operators with 7,491 public phone booths).

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Sri Lanka 29 209 92 0.0 9 N/A 4.1 0.52 65
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
India N/A 121 69 18.8 1 0.2 2.7 0.18 2,800
Bangladesh 9 50 6 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.00 50
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The changing structure of the economy mirrored in the relative contribution of the key industrial sectors reflect the country's potential to realize substantial growth. It also reflects the transition of the agriculture-dominated economy to a more diversified one with growing industrial and modern service sectors. In 1950, agriculture accounted for half the gross domestic product and by the year 2000, its significance was reduced to one-fifth of the gross domestic product. The contribution of industry more than doubled from about 11 percent to 19 percent while the service sector expanded significantly from 39 percent to 60 percent during the same period. Sri Lanka is rich in resources, both natural and human. It has several unexploited mineral resources (such as iron ore) and underexploited mineral and fisheries resources with substantial potential for future growth. Another area with substantial growth potential is tourism, which is interrupted by the prolonged civil unrest in the economy.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the most important sector of the Sri Lankan economy. Even though its contribution to the gross domestic product declined substantially during the past 3 decades (from 30 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 2000), it is the most important source of employment for the majority of the Sri Lankan workforce. Approximately 38 percent of the total labor force was engaged in agriculture in 1999. In the subsistence sector, rice is the main crop and farming rice is the most important economic activity for the majority of the people living in rural areas. During the last 5 decades the rice sector grew rapidly and output more than tripled, reaching the highest ever output of 2.9 million metric tons in 1999. Increases in the area under cultivation, and improved productivity due to the modernization of agriculture are the main reasons for an increase in production. The rehabilitation of Sri Lanka's extensive ancient irrigation network and massive new investment in construction and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure led to a large increase in the area under rice cultivation. Between 1960-2000, the area used to grow rice increased 6 times to 546,249 hectares. The modernization of farming methods, such as the use of high-yielding seeds, tractors, and chemical fertilizers also led to increased productivity in the rice sector. Between 1960-1999, rice yield per hectare doubled from 1,877 kilograms to 3,672 kilograms. In addition to rice, various other food crops are produced for local consumption. They include yams, pulses, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Most of these crops are cultivated in family gardens, except for potatoes and sugar. Sugar cane is cultivated in the dry zone, and Sri Lanka produces only 15 percent of what it consumes domestically.

The major plantation crops of tea, rubber, and coconuts continue to figure prominently in the economy of Sri Lanka; however, the contribution of these commercial crops to gross domestic product declined from 11.5 percent in 1970 to 5 percent in 2000. Tea, the prominent crop of the plantation sector, grows in many parts of the wet zone, and in particular in the central hill country. Sri Lanka is famous for its high quality black tea, and is the largest supplier in the world. In 1999, 269.3 million kilograms of tea (95 percent of total tea production) was exported, earning US$621 million in foreign exchange. The United Kingdom, Russia, and the Middle East are the major export markets.

The second major commercial crop is rubber, growing in the ridge and valley country of the wet zone interior. Of 159,000 hectares under cultivation, about 80 percent was being tapped (harvested) and in 1999, 96.6 million kilograms of rubber were produced. A sizable proportion of rubber production is used in the domestic manufacturing sector (56 percent in 1999) and the remainder is exported. In 1999 export earnings amounted to US$33 million. China is traditionally the major buyer of Sri Lankan rubber. The performance of this sector has been subject to instability due to unfavorable movements in world prices. Competition from synthetic rubber producers has caused rubber prices to drop. However, with rising petroleum prices (the major ingredient for synthetic rubber) there is a chance for world rubber prices to improve.

The third commercial crop, coconuts, is grown mainly in the hinterland of the western seaboard. Production in 1999 accounted for 2,828 million nuts, the highest output since 1986. Coconut (mainly coconut milk) is a major ingredient used in food preparation in Sri Lanka, and nearly 65 percent of the output is consumed locally. The remainder is exported in the form of kernel products (desiccated coconut, coconut oil, copra), coconut cream, and coconut milk powder. In 1999, kernel products generated US$129 million in foreign exchange.

Forestry and fishing are less important components of the economy. Forests in the dry zone were cleared for settlement and agriculture early on. Unsustainable agricultural practices such as chena cultivation and logging resulted in land degradation and a reduction in the size of forest reserves. The country has abundant fishing resources, with an exclusive economic zone covering over 500,000 square kilometers (193,050 miles), a coastline of about 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles), and a massive network of inland water reservoirs suitable for fish farming. However, this potential has not yet been exploited. Most marine fishing is concentrated in coastal areas, which account for about 12 percent of the exclusive economic zone. Total fish production in 1999 was estimated at 280 thousand metric tons, and the contribution of this activity to gross domestic product was about 3 percent in 1999. Fishing is a traditional livelihood for people living in coastal areas: in 1999 about 145,000 people were employed in fishing activities. A slow-growing sector, fish production increased at an annual average of only about 3 percent between 1992 and 1999. Poor production is mainly due to a lack of technical knowledge and equipment.

The livestock sector in Sri Lanka is small, consisting mainly of the dairy and the poultry subsections. Unlike in the United States, where dairy production takes place on large farms, in Sri Lanka dairy farming is a small-scale domestic activity. Total milk production in 1999 accounted for 342 million liters, sufficient only to meet about one-fourth of local needs. The remainder is imported in the form of powdered milk (in 1999, 54,000 metric tons of milk powder was imported). An important development in the livestock sector was the rapid increase in the poultry production. In 1999 approximately 57 million metric tons of poultry meat was produced, increasingly becoming a common source of animal protein in Sri Lanka.

INDUSTRY

INDUSTRY.

Manufacturing accounts for 16 percent of the gross domestic product and employs nearly 400,000 people. The textile industry is the largest of Sri Lanka's industries, contributing 63 percent to industrial sector growth (1999). Other major manufacturing industries include processed diamonds, food and beverages, light engineering, chemicals, petroleum, rubber and plastics, and machinery and equipment. The manufacturing sector that evolved under the import substitution development strategy in the 1960s to cater mainly to the domestic market has transformed into a sector catering to the foreign market. Much of the industrial output is exported and it is the single major export earner in the economy (in 1999, industrial exports accounted for 54 percent of total export earnings). This remarkable achievement is attributable to the policy reforms introduced during the post-1977 period. Under the reforms, the private sector was encouraged to participate in export-oriented industries through various incentives, and several free zones were established. This resulted in a significant inflow of foreign investment; the private sector emerged as the major contributor to industrial output. Overall, market-oriented policy reforms introduced during the post-1977 period have led to far-reaching changes in the structure and performance of the manufacturing sector.

MINING.

Mining is a minor economic activity contributing about 2 percent of the gross domestic product (1999). The country's mineral extraction industries include the mining of gemstones and graphite; excavation of beach sands containing ilmenite and monazite; and quarrying quartz sand, clay, and salt. Gem mining is traditionally the most important activity, producing high value gem-stones such as sapphire, ruby, and topaz, and a variety of semiprecious stones, most of which are exported. Sri Lanka leads the world in high-grade graphite mining.

SERVICES

TRADE.

Wholesale and retail trade, the largest sub-category in the service sector, accounts for about 21 percent of the gross domestic product (1999) and employs about 22 percent of the workforce (2000). With the lifting of import controls and the government monopoly in the importation and distribution of essential consumer goods during the post-1977 period, the trade sector expanded rapidly. Domestic trade accounts for half the value of the trade sector. Increased participation by foreign firms in domestic trade in Sri Lanka is a relatively recent phenomenon, with international food franchises such as McDonald's and Pizza Hut in operation. Numerous small outlets including street stalls serve the retail trade, and in the major cities there are large shopping centers and supermarkets.

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

Banking, insurance, and real estate accounted for 8 percent of gross domestic product in 2000. This sector expanded rapidly following the 1977 policy reforms that dismantled the virtual government monopoly in the insurance industry and lifted the restrictions in the banking industry. The increased incentives for the private sector led to the emergence of several new insurance companies and banks. A total of 6 new local banks were established and 11 foreign banks opened branches. The banking system consists of 11 local and 16 foreign banks. Two development finance institutions and several merchant and investment banks are also active participants in the financial markets in Sri Lanka. In addition, 22 financial institutions providing credit facilities are in operation. The Sri Lankan financial system comes under the regulation of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which is the monetary authority of the country.

TOURISM.

Tourism is an important activity with potential for growth. The country known as the paradise in the Indian Ocean offers a diversity of environments and tourist attractions, from tropical beaches and arid lands to lush forests, tea plantations, and a rich archaeological heritage. Promotion of tourism in Sri Lanka began in the late 1960s with the establishment of the Ceylon Tourist Board. Between 1976 and 1982, the number of tourist arrivals grew rapidly at an annual average rate of almost 24 percent, reaching a peak of 407,230 before declining to 337,342 in 1983 as a result of the civil unrest in the country. As the political violence in the country intensified, international tourist arrivals continued to fluctuate with a general trend of decline. Tourist arrivals increased to 436,440 in 1999. Tourism generates US$275 million in foreign exchange annually and employs approximately 87,600 workers. The majority of tourists to Sri Lanka come from Western Europe (65 percent), Asia (26 percent), and North America (5 percent).

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

One feature of the Sri Lankan economy, both in the past and present, is the high dependency on foreign trade. The country's dependency on trade, measured by the

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Sri Lanka
Exports Imports
1975 .603 .816
1980 1.067 2.037
1985 1.293 1.843
1990 1.983 2.685
1995 3.798 5.185
1998 4.732 5.917
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

Trade Dependency Ratio (TDR), defined as the ratio of the sum of exports and imports to gross domestic product, stood at 66 in 1999 compared with a TDR of 33 for the period 1970-1977. In 2000 exports stood at US$5.2 billion while imports stood at US$6.1 billion. The changing degree of trade dependency evident in the post-liberalization era has been accompanied by significant changes in the structure of Sri Lankan foreign trade. The dominance of tea, rubber, and coconuts, which accounted for 74 percent of the total exports in 1977, had fallen to 21 percent in 1999. Industrial exports have become the major contributor to export earnings with their share rising from 14 percent to 76 percent during the same period. Of industrial exports, textiles and garments are the leading sub-category, contributing 68 percent to total industrial exports in 1999. The balance consisted of machinery and equipment (6 percent), rubber-based products (5 percent), travel goods and processed diamonds (4 percent each), petroleum products and footwear (2 percent each), crustaceans and mollusks and ceramic products (1 percent each), and other industrial products (7 percent). Despite the changes in the structure of exports, tea continues to be the leading export with a share of 65 percent of total agricultural exports while textiles dominate the industrial exports with a share of 67 percent of the total industrial exports.

Intermediate goods dominate Sri Lanka's imports (51 percent of total imports), followed by investment goods (27 percent), and consumer goods (21 percent). This is in contrast to the composition of imports in the pre-liberalization era, which was dominated by consumer goods (50 percent of total imports in 1977), followed by intermediate goods (36 percent), and investment goods (12 percent). Rice, flour, and sugar dominated consumer goods in the past, accounting for 80 percent of total consumer goods imported. Their significance, however, fell to 21 percent in 1999. This changing structure of imports reflects the new economic environment resulting from the economic reforms introduced in 1977. The improvement in the domestic supply of rice and other food items helped to limit food imports. The expansion in the industrial sector resulted in higher imports of intermediate goods. Developments in infrastructure facilities, construction and the transport sector, combined with increased use of advanced technology, increased the import of investment goods.

The destination of Sri Lankan foreign trade also has changed. The United States has become the single most important trading partner, and has continued to be the largest single buyer of Sri Lanka's exports (accounting for 39 percent of exports in 1999). Garment exports accounted for 74 percent of total exports in 1999. The United Kingdom accounted for 13 percent, while Germany accounted for 5 percent of Sri Lanka's exports. On average, one-third of the Sri Lankan imports come from the industrial countries. Japan is the largest source of imports to Sri Lanka, with 10 percent in 1999. Motor vehicles, spare parts, and woven fabrics are the major items imported from Japan. India is the second largest exporter (with 9 percent), followed by Hong Kong and Singapore (8 percent each), South Korea (6 percent), Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Wheat, gold, agricultural equipment, and textiles are among the major items imported from the United Kingdom, while wheat accounted for 31 percent of imports from the United States. Textiles, tools and accessories for the garment industry, and fruits are the other major items imported from the United States.

Sri Lanka's trade with the rest of the world has changed in terms of composition, direction, and volume. However, the country has not been able to solve its fundamental problem, the unfavorable trade balance. As exports continued to grow, so did imports. Despite the persistent unfavorable trade balance, the country has managed to maintain its import levels with foreign assistance, capital flows, and an important and growing source of foreign exchange: remittances by Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East. Prior to 1977 policy reforms, the fortunes of Sri Lankan exports depended primarily on the movements of world prices for the 3 major export commodities. While the export sector has diversified, the dependence on trade has also increased markedly. As the country's trade relations with industrialized countries rises, the Sri Lankan economy is vulnerable not only to changes in price levels of the major exports, but also to fluctuations in the levels of economic activity in industrialized countries.

MONEY

With the liberalization of the foreign exchange rate regime in 1977, which changed from a fixed exchange rate regime to a flexible one, the value of the Sri Lankan currency has continued to fall against major currencies. The Sri Lanka rupee (R) which was 16.5 per U.S. dollar

Exchange rates: Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan rupees per US$1
Jan 2001 83.506
2000 77.005
1999 70.635
1998 64.450
1997 58.995
1996 55.271
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

in 1980 fell to R40 per dollar by 1990, and collapsed to R85 in 2001. With the high dependence on imports, the falling value of the currency means that the prices of imports continue to rise, pushing up domestic inflation.

Sri Lanka has an active stock market, the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), the origin of which dates back to the 19th century. Share trading in Sri Lanka began in 1886 when the Colombo Brokers Association commenced the trading of shares in limited liability companies. Share trading grew since then and Colombo had a very active share market throughout the 20th century except during the 1960s and 1970s where a spate of nationalization, including the insurance companies and plantations, effectively reduced the trading to insignificant proportions. This decline was short lived, and the stock market recovered quickly following the policy reforms introduced in the latter part of 1970s, which created free and open market ideals where the private sector was given the key role in economic activities. Today the exchange has 238 companies listed with a market capitalization of approximately 10 percent of gross domestic product.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

The wealthy, representing those engaged in commerce and industry, are largely concentrated in urban areas, while the poorest live on plantations and in rural areas. While the rich live in luxury, many urban poor live

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Sri Lanka 382 452 536 590 802
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
India 222 231 270 331 444
Bangladesh 203 220 253 274 348
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Sri Lanka
Lowest 10% 3.5
Lowest 20% 8.0
Second 20% 11.8
Third 20% 15.8
Fourth 20% 21.5
Highest 20% 42.8
Highest 10% 28.0
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

in shanty houses with no sanitary facilities. The urban poor in Sri Lanka are found mainly in the capital, Colombo. The majority of the Sri Lankan population live in rural areas, and the major source of wealth among them is land. Landlessness and unequal distribution of land are key determinants of rural poverty. Those living on plantations are laborers with no access to land ownership or alternative employment opportunities. They live in sub-standard houses supplied by the owners of plantations. A fourth group of poor, those displaced by the continuing war in the north and east, live in various refugee camps with no access to any amenity or opportunities.

The overall degree of disparity in wealth is reflected in the distribution of incomes. The wealthiest 20 percent of the population account for over 52 percent of the nation's income while the poorest 10 percent account for only 2 percent. Disparities in wealth have risen steadily during the post-1977 period, a result of policy reforms that paved the way for more wealth generation through the increased participation of the private sector. An important byproduct of the policy reforms was the soaring inflation induced by the falling value of Sri Lankan currency, raising the cost of living of the poor disproportionately. Meeting basic needs is a struggle to the poor, because average Sri Lankans spend over 40 percent of their income on food alone. Rising poverty has led to considerable social unrest; strikes in work places and protest rallies are common occurrences. The government maintains several subsidy programs to improve the position of the poor. Over 45 percent of the population benefits from one such income supplementary program called Samurdhi. Another, the dry ration program, is aimed at helping displaced families of the north and east due to the continuing civil war. International agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have sought to help Sri Lanka reduce poverty. Several funded projects have directly targeted the poorest segments of the population. Despite low per capita income levels, and high levels of the incidence of poverty, the quality of life in Sri Lanka is relatively high when compared with its neighbor, India.

WORKING CONDITIONS

According to the Department of Census and Statistics, the labor force in Sri Lanka is about 7 million and the total number of employed persons is 6.5 million. The unemployment rate is at around 8 percent (2000). While the overall unemployment rate is lower than in the past (which was about 15 percent in 1992), unemployment among youth is relatively high. Around 22.5 percent of the youth of age between 15 and 19 were unemployed and 15 percent in the age group 20 to 29. Of the total workforce, 66.5 percent are males and 33.5 percent are females. Women play an important role in the economic life of Sri Lanka. The largest concentration of women in professions is in the areas of teaching, nursing, and clerical work. In the plantation industry, women make up 68 percent of the workforce and, in the garment industry, about 90 percent of the workforce.

The basic minimum age for employment in Sri Lanka is 15 years, and the government has enforced laws to prevent child labor. The forced or bonded labor of children is prohibited. Despite the laws governing child labor, underage children work as street vendors and hold menial jobs in tile factories, coir-making operations,

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Sri Lanka 43 0 7 4 8 4 33
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
India N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Bangladesh 49 4 18 8 9 4 8
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

fishing, and in domestic service. Poverty leads most of these children to work. According to a government study, about 60 percent of the employed children are secondary income earners, contributing as much as 30-40 percent of household income.

The constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees the right of workers to organize and establish labor or trade unions, except those employed by the security forces and members of the judiciary. All public and private sector employees possess the right to bargain collectively. The Department of Labor provides conciliation and arbitration services to resolve labor disputes. Although trade union freedom is substantial, it has been subject to periodic modification or curtailment during times of political strife. In Sri Lanka, there is no universal basic minimum wage, and the minimum wages differ from industry to industry. Sector-specific minimum wages are set by wage boards. There are about 39 wage boards, which set minimum wages for more than 100 occupations in industry, commerce, services, and agriculture. Remuneration tribunals also set minimum wages in some cases.

In Sri Lanka, working conditions and workers' rights are well protected by legislation. However, disruptions in the workplace are common. In recent years there were a number of labor actions such as strikes and protests. The rising cost of living has driven many workers to demand higher wages. There are instances where even those in the medical profession have gone on strike for higher wages. Because of the inability of most workers to make ends meet, many Sri Lankans seek employment abroad. The total number of Sri Lankan workers abroad was estimated to be around 788,000 in 1999, of whom nearly 90 percent are employed in the Middle East.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

427 B.C. The legendary Sinhalese Prince Vijaya colonizes the north-central part of Sri Lanka.

250 B.C. The king of Anuradhapura, Devanpiya Tissa, embraces Buddhism.

210 B.C. Sinhala kingdom is invaded by Cholas from southern India and Elara becomes king.

161 B.C. King Dutthagamini defeats Elara and reestablishes Sinhala rule.

1055. Sinhala kingdom moves its capital to Polonnaruwa under King Vijayabahu I.

1232-1815. Sinhala kingdom moves south.

1371-1408. Dambadeniyan, Gampolan, and Kotten kingdoms.

1469-1815. Kandyan kingdom.

1521-1581. Sitawakan kingdom.

1505. The Portuguese capture the coastal belt and rule it until the Dutch oust them.

1658. The Dutch capture coastal areas.

1659. The British regain the coastal areas, displacing the Dutch.

1660. The British are invited by the Kandyan chiefs to usurp the king, gaining control. They maintain a colony in Sri Lanka until the 20th century.

1948. Sri Lanka gains political independence from the British on 4th February.

1948. The UNP is elected in Ceylon under the leadership of D. S. Senanayake.

1956. A coalition of parties (MEP) led by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike is elected.

1959. The SLFP leader is assassinated and his widow becomes prime minister in 1960.

1965. The UNP regains power under the leadership of Dudley Senanayake.

1971. Sri Lanka becomes a republic, but retains membership in the British Commonwealth.

1977. The UNP, under the leadership of J. R. Jayawar-dane, comes to power.

1978. Jayawardane becomes the first president of Sri Lanka. Liberalization reforms begin.

1979. Riots in response to the ambush and killing of 13 Singhalese soldiers by Tamil Tigers.

1980. Military action launched against the Tamil Tigers, with help from India.

1981. R. Premadasa becomes the second president of Sri Lanka.

1993. Premadasa's authoritarian rule ends as he becomes a victim of the LTTE.

1994. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and the Peoples Alliance gain political power.

2000. Kumaratunga wins a second term as president.

FUTURE TRENDS

Since independence, despite low levels of per capita income, Sri Lanka has achieved an impressive human development record, with many of Sri Lanka's social indicators comparing favorably to those of more advanced economies. The country has broken away from a public-sector -dominated, highly regulated economic system and has laid the foundation for dynamic growth based on a free market, liberalized trade and exchange rates, and deregulated foreign investment. This transition has led to rapid economic growth, a significant reduction in the level of unemployment, and a rise in the level of per capita income. However, the impressive growth of the economy evident during the 1977-1982 period has generated increasing economic inequality. The soaring inflation fueled by the deterioration of the value of the Sri Lankan currency has worsened the relative position of the poor. Despite the reduced levels of unemployment and the increased opportunities, nearly half of the population depends on government subsidies to meet their basic needs. The balance of payments, a fundamental problem of the economy that has persisted since the 1950s, has continued to worsen. Mounting foreign debt and the debt servicing obligations has added further burden to the already critical balance of payments.

The slowdown in the pace of economic growth over the last 2 decades, coupled with the rising costs of the civil war, seriously threatens the economy's ability to meet the challenges and changing socioeconomic needs of its population. With a rapidly aging population, the need for more resources to provide health care and income support will exert considerable pressure on the government's fiscal resources and the tax system during the coming decades. The solutions to most of the burning problems, and those bound to emerge in the near future, lie in the country's ability to achieve sustained levels of long-term economic growth. The continuing civil conflict poses the biggest obstacle to the country's growth prospects. The need for an immediate solution to the 18-year-old civil war is imperative. Given that the Sri Lankan economy managed to realize an average growth rate of about 5 percent during the last decade in spite of severe interruptions caused by the civil war, lasting peace would undoubtedly bring prosperity to the nation.

DEPENDENCIES

Sri Lanka has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Central Bank of Sri Lanka. <http://www.centralbanklanka.org>.Accessed March 2000.

"Country Profile of Sri Lanka." Indian Ocean Rim Network. <http://www.iornet.org/newiornet/Srilanka.htm>. Accessed September 2001.

Department of Census and National Statistics (DCS), Sri Lanka. <http://www.statistics.gov.lk>. Accessed September 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Sri Lanka. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of Sri Lanka Online. <http://users.erols.com/slembassy/index2.html>. Accessed September 2001.

Fernando, T., and R. N. Kearney. Modern Sri Lanka: A Society in Transition. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1979.

Lakshaman, W. D. Dilemmas of Development. Colombo: SriLanka Association of Economists, 1997.

Lakshaman, W. D., and C.A. Tisdell. Facets of Development of Sri Lanka since Independence. Australia: University of Queensland, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Sri Lanka. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/sa/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.

Sarath Divisekera

CAPITAL:

Colombo.

MONETARY UNIT:

Sri Lanka rupee (R). One rupee equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 rupees. There are bills of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 rupees.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Textile and apparel, tea, gems and jewelry, coconut products, rubber and rubber-based products, and spices.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery and equipment, textiles, petroleum, foodstuffs.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$62.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$5.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$6.1 billion (f.o.b., 2000).

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 19,408,635
Language(s): Sinhala (official and national), Tamil (national language)
Literacy rate: 90.2%
Area: 65,610 sq km
GDP: 16,305 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 12
Total Circulation: 536,000
Circulation per 1,000: 38
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 36
Total Circulation: 1,322,000
Circulation per 1,000: 94
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 27.40
Number of Television Stations: 21
Number of Television Sets: 1,530,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 78.8
Number of Cable Subscribers: 5,820
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 0.3
Number of Radio Stations: 72
Number of Radio Receivers: 3,850,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 198.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 135,000
Computers per 1,000: 7.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 121,500
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.3

Background & General Characteristics

General Description

The press and media are fairly free in this island nation despite a deadly war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the separatist Tamils fighting under the aegis of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Since the mid-1970s, when the conflict started, there have been times of severe media censorship affecting the course of the war. Since 1996, when a new government led by Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga took office promising to uphold an Election Manifesto that would assure fundamental freedomsincluding freedom of the pressconditions improved markedly, although censorship restrictions were re-imposed in June 1998. London-based Amnesty International (AI), whose representatives were specially invited to Sri Lanka in October 1998 by the country's Attorney General of Sri Lanka to investigate reports of a mass grave in Jaffna, has noted a marked improvement in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka as compared to the "widespread pattern of gross and systematic violations" of the pre-1994 period. There is no room for complacency, however, as AI and other bodies like the Physicians for Human Rights have been concerned about the "apparent failure" of the Sri Lankan government to live up to its international commitment to human rights and its failure to bring the perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice.

Historical Traditions

The ethnic Sinhala form the overwhelming majority (69 percent) of Sri Lanka's population, which traces its origin to the migration of an Indo-Aryan group from North India in the sixth century B.C. In the fourth century B.C., the Sinhala King of Anuradhapura is believed to have adopted Buddhism. After Buddhism split into Mahayana and Theravada sects in India, the Sinhalese adhered to Theravada, which is the faith that endures to this day among the Sinhalese majority. As Buddhism disappeared from most of India, it remained strong in Sri Lanka, where the adherents of that faith from mainland southeast Asia (particularly from Pegu in lower Myanmar) turned for continued guidance. Today, Sri Lanka boasts more than 6,000 Buddhist temples, some of them more than 1,000 years old including the famous Daladwa Maligawa, which houses the Buddha's Tooth; approximately 55,000 monks live in Sri Lanka as well. And although the country's constitution proclaims secularism, the government continues to Theravada Buddhism the premier role as Sri Lanka's national religion. The second most populous ethnic community in Sri Lanka is the Tamils, who trace their ancestry to the influx from Tamilnadu during the British colonial times as plantation laborers. There are other Tamils who trace their ancestry to groups of Dravidians from South India, who invaded the northern and eastern parts of the island, possibly from the eleventh century A.D., forcing the Sinhalese kings to move their capitals to central and southern parts of Sri Lanka.

In the colonial era, the southern coastal areas first came under Portuguese control in the beginning of the sixteenth century, a situation that remained in place for a century and a half. Most of the Catholics who live in Sri Lanka trace their ancestry to those who were converted to that faith by the Portuguese. In 1658 the Dutch took over from the Portuguese and maintained colonial control until 1795. At that time, Great Britain realized the strategic importance of the island for the growing British empire and made Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, as it was known then) another piece of the still-expanding British dominion. Britain formalized its possession at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The British administered Sri Lanka separately from their Indian Empire, relinquishing control over the island nation in 1948, one year after they left the Indian subcontinent.

Conflict Between the Sinhalese and the Tamils

The government's relationship with the press in Sri Lanka at various points in the last half a century can be best understood by following the chronological landmarks in the conflict between the island nation's two principal communities: the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Since independence, and especially since about 1976, Sri Lanka's politics have been rocked by a festering, often violent, conflict between those two communities. The conflict has compelled the government to impose a variety of restrictions on constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press. At various times, censorship has been imposed on newspapers as well as on the electronic media; journalists have been physically assaulted, a few even killed; and there have been court confrontations between the journalists and the government. A very active Free Media Movement and the Editors Guild, assisted by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have intervened with the government at various times, with some success.

For Tamils, most of whose ancestors who were brought to the country in the nineteenth century by the British to work on the tea estates in the central highlands, the amendment to the Parliamentary Elections (Order in Council) in 1949 eliminating their franchise rights came as a shock. Before independence, many Tamils had played an important role in the government, largely because of their proficiency in English. The Tamils felt further alienated when Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was elected in 1956 on a platform that promised to make Sinhalese the country's only official language. When he took office, the Official Language Act made the campaign promise a reality. In 1964 and in 1986, Sri Lanka and India agreed to extend citizenship to some of the Tamils;sapproximately 469,000 obtained Sri Lankan citizenship at that time, while approximately 422,500 chose Indian citizenship. Of the latter, about 85,000 who accepted the Indian offer but still decided to stay in Sri Lanka became "stateless," without a passport or any official identification; these people were often subject to harassment by the security forces. They could not own land and had no right to vote. Subsequently, as the U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights for 1999 observed, "the struggle for cultural affirmation, political representation, economic advancement and linguistic parity between Sinhalese and Tamils ended in violence and armed conflict. The demand by some Tamil groups for an independent Tamil state called 'Eelam' became the overriding political issue in Sri Lanka."

The increasing Tamil discontent gave rise to extremism as the "Tigers" began their antigovernment activities with the murder in 1976 of the Tamil mayor of Jaffna, who had been cooperating with the Sinhalese government. This was followed by scores of murders of police officers, politicians, and bureaucrats. The government made some efforts to meet the Tamil demands. For example, the Constitution of 1978 recognized Tamil as a "national language" for public administration and the courts, but the Tamils remained dissatisfied because their language was still not recognized for university admissions or public office. Also, the government promised to establish regional councils with substantial autonomy, but such councils failed to materialize.

By 1983, the conflict assumed ominous proportions with a phenomenal increase in killings on both sides. Over the next two years, nearly 100,000 Tamils fled to South India, where the Tamilnadu government housed them in camps. India's mediation in the dispute marked the next several years. Then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's 1986 proposals for the devolution of authority in the Tamil areas were rejected by the LTTE leader, V. Prabhakaran, who returned to Jaffna and launched a new offensive. The Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 29, 1987, between Sri Lankan President Junius Jayawardene and Rajiv Gandhi included a peace plan providing for the amalgamation of the provincial councils in the north and the east, repatriation of the 100,000 Tamils who had fled to South India after 1983, and an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to oversee compliance of the plan in Jaffna. The IPKF's efforts to disarm the LTTE failed miserably, and it decided to withdraw from Sri Lanka beginning July 28, 1989. Rajiv Gandhi himself became a victim of the LTTE when an LTTE suicide bomber assassinated the Indian leader at an election rally in Tamilnadu on May 21,1991.

In the two years following Gandhi's murder, Sri Lanka lost thousands of people in the continuing violence, including two generals, two admirals, three government ministers and, in April 1993, President Premadasa himself.

Despite such a murderous civil war, Sri Lanka maintained its parliamentary democracy and, within reasonable restrictions, the fundamental rights of its citizens and an independent judiciary. In the May 1994 presidential elections, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was voted in as president. Her peace talks with the LTTE began in October 1994 and lasted 100 days, but the talks failed and hostilities resumed. This time, the Sri Lanka Security Forces were able to recapture the Jaffna peninsula by December 1995, ending 13 years of LTTE rule there.

In 1997, the LTTE mounted a major offensive. In response, the government launched its own campaign called "Jaya Sikurui" or "Victory Assured," its longest (20 months, from May 13, 1997, to December 4, 1998) and costliest offensive to date. On January 26, 1998, a bomb exploded outside one of Buddhism's holiest shrinesDaladwa Maligawa, in the hill capital of Kandyjust two days before the first scheduled local government elections in 15 years in the Jaffna peninsula, and only a few days before the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Sri Lanka's independence that were planned for Kandy.

In the January 1998 elections in the northern areas, five Tamil parties participated, including four which had fought against the Sri Lankan army. The LTTE boycotted the elections. The PA and the UNP, the two principal parties in the country, did not participate because they wanted to leave the field to the Tamil parties. Only 28 percent of registered voters cast their ballot. The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) won the largest number of seats.

By mid-2000, the LTTE had regained large parts of the Jaffna Peninsula and control over the jungles behind the lagoons in the eastern province. The government was frustrated at the failure of several policy initiatives to subjugate the LTTE, ranging from negotiations and military strikes to getting the United States to declare LTTE a terrorist organization. In July 2001, the world was shocked by the news of the LTTE's attack on the Bandaranayake International Airport in Colombo and the Air Force Base at Katunayake, destroying 13 air force planes and three Sri Lanka Airlines airbuses. Several other aircraft were damaged.

The Eelam wars have caused extremely heavy casualties on both sides and unacceptable economic losses (estimated over $100 million) to the government as well as to the private sector. By 2002, more than 60,000 people had died in the 20-year civil war; additionally, more than 2,000 soldiers were killed and another 1,500 turned up missing and presumed dead. Although the LTTE lost control over some of its territory, the impunity with which it could strike at the very heart of the governmen's infrastructureboth civil and militarywas shocking.

History Traditions

The beginnings of the press in Sri Lanka were marked by the publication of the Government Gazette in 1802, within months of Britain's formal acquisition of the island at the Peace of Amiens. The gazette could not be considered a genuine newspaper as such, since it was the government's tool to announce official postings, leaves, and retirements as well as to record government's administrative decisions. The first newspaper, the Colombo Journal appeared in 1832 but lasted only two years. It was almost exclusively meant for the relatively small, cloistered British community of officials and a growing number of businessmen and plantation owners. It was followed by the Observer and Commer cial Advertiser and the Ceylon Times (which later became famous as the Times of Ceylon ).

The "language" press began in 1860 with the publication of Lankaloka in Galle; the first Sinhala weekly newspaper, Lakminapahana, appeared on September 11, 1862. In 1896, the second Sinhala daily, Lakrivikrama (which had been a weekly since 1863), began publication. By the time the legendary H. S. Perera began publishing his well-known daily, Dinamana in 1909, the other two dailies had stopped publication, which made Dinamana the only Sinhala daily until September 1912. At that time, Alexander Welivita started the Sinhala daily, Lakmina, which survived till 1955. Dinamana it-self was later acquired by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL). In 1932, the ANCL began publishing a Tamil daily, Thinakaran.

At the time of Sri Lanka's independence from Great Britain in 1948, the island nation's press was practically a duopoly. The ANCL, popularly called the "Lake House" after the name of the colonial mansion that served as its headquarters, was started in 1918 by a venerable figure in Sri Lanka's history of the press, D. R. Wijewardene. He founded the chain with its principal newspaper, the Ceylon Daily News, and five years later, in 1923, he acquired the Observer and Commercial Advertiser. The Lake House also published the Daily News, Dinamana (daily in Sinhala) and Janata (another daily in Sinhala). The second component of the "duopoly" was the Times group, whose flagship was, indeed, the Times of Ceylon. It also published the daily Morning News and Lankadipa (daily in Sinhala).

To challenge the duopoly, which was not always supportive of government policies, the left-leaning government of S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake and his widow, Sirimavo encouraged the publication of Dawasa, a daily newspaper in Sinhala, that quickly became the second largest daily newspaper, based on circulation. It was published by Independent Newspapers, which was owned by M. D. Gunasena, who was Sri Lanka's most prominent book publisher. Angry over the consistently antigovernment stance of the Lake House publications, Sirimavo's government nationalized the group in 1973. As of 2002, it was still government-owned, and it supports whichever party is in power. In addition, it is the only government-run newspaper publishing house, as the remaining papers are all privately-owned, many of them linked to political parties, but essentially independent of the government. As of 2002, most newspapers in Sri Lanka were published by three powerful groups: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), or Lake House; Upali Newspapers Limited (UNL); and Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL). At the time of the government's takeover of the ANCL, that organization's dailies in all three languagesSinhala, Tamil, and English commanded the highest circulation in the country. In 1981, the UNL was founded by Upali Wijewardene, who was related to ANCL's Wijewardene and was also a cousin of the then president Junius R. Jayawardene. Upali was a very successful businessman who held political ambitions but he perished in a mysterious plane crash in February 1983. Control of his company passed on to his widow, but in reality her father, who was a brother of Sirimavo Bandaranayake, held the power. Though the UNL is thus connected with both the UNP and the SLFP leadership, it claims to be independent of both the UNP and PA and is often critical of both organizations. The third major group, WNL, is owned by Ranjith Wijewardene, a former Chairman of ANCL and son of D. R. Wijewardene.. Politically, Ranjith is close to the UNP. The WNL started the weekend Irida Lankadipa in February 1986, the Sunday Times in June 1987, the daily Lankadipa from September 10, 1991, the Mid-Week Mirror in 1995, and the Daily Mirror from June 1999.

Below are the important newspapers in the three languages along with their proprietary affiliation:

Sinhalese: The daily Dinamana and Sunday Silumina are owned by the ANCL. They fully support the government's position on all issues, changing their stand with the shift of political power from one party to the other.

The daily Divayina and the Sunday Divayana are owned by the UNL. The Sunday Lankadipa (since 1986) and the daily Lankadipa (since 1991) are owned by the WNL.

English: The Daily News, the evening Observer and the Sunday Observer, are all published by the government-owned ANCL. The Island and Sunday Island are published by the UNL. The Sunday Times, the Midweek Mirror and the Daily Mirror are owned by the WNL. Outside of the three groups, the Sunday Leader (started in 1994) is published by the Leader Newspapers Limited, while the Weekend Express, a weekly, is published (since 1995) by the Indian Express Newspapers Limited.

Tamil: The two major Tamil newspapers published from Colombo are the Thinakaran, owned by the ANCL, and Veerakesari, which is owned by a Tamil businessman and published by the Indian Express Newspapers Limited. It subtly supports Tamil nationalism.

There are several tabloids published in the north and the east. Among them, Eelanadu, Eelanadam, and Udayan, which openly support Tamil separatism. Of the 23 important newspapers, 10 are dailies, 4 in Sinhala, and 3 each in Tamil and English; 11 are Sunday editions, 5 in Sinhala, 2 in Tamil, and 4 in English; 1 publication appears only on Wednesdays and another only on Saturdays. Circulation figures are not made public by the newspaper groups because of the acute competition in advertising. Comparing and collating the data given by The Editor and Publisher International Yearbook (1999) and the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, the total circulation of all newspapers may be estimated at 587,500 for daily newspapers and 1,415,000 for Sunday newspapers with an estimated total readership of about 3.5 times those numbers. Of these, two newspapers have a circulation exceeding 250,000; three between 100,000 and 140,000; two between 80,000 and 90,000; one over 45,000; two over 20,000 and three below 20,000. The highest circulation is in Sinhala newspapers, at 389,000 daily and 901,000 on Sundays, with Lankadipa and Dinamana closely competing with each other, while the Sunday editions of Silumina and Divayana Irida claim the highest honors. The English newspapers come next, with a total circulation estimated at 132,000 daily with the Daily News having the highest circulation and 407,000 on Sundays. The Sunday Observer, Sunday Leader, and Sunday Island compete for the highest circulation among Sunday papers. The Tamil papers have roughly a combined circulation of 66,500 daily and 107,000 on Sundays, with Thinakaran and Veerakesari and their Sunday editions competing with each other.

Economic Framework

The persisting ethnic conflict spanning a quarter century has adversely affected the economy of the island nation not only in terms of the fiscal burden of the costly military campaign against the rebels, but also in the way it has paralyzed the agricultural and plantation activities so crucial for the exports and the foreign exchange earnings. One must also note that from 1977, the country shifted its prime dependence on plantation crops, notably tea, to textiles and processed foods, insurance, and banking as foreign exchange leaders. In 2000, tea exports accounted only for one-fifth of the total, while the textiles brought in 65 percent of the exchange.

Despite the handicaps imposed by the festering strife, Sri Lanka has retained its second-place among the nations of south Asia (with the exception of the Maldives) for the highest per capita gross national product. The economy maintained a healthy annual 5.5 percent growth throughout the 1990s, except in 1995 and 1996. Sri Lanka is also ahead of the other states of south Asia in another important area: literacy, which stands at more than 90 percent and is at almost 100 percent among children up to the age of 14. Most of the citizens who are illiterate are senior citizens, who did not have the opportunity to go to school. The high literacy has a positive impact on the state of the economy, on the readership of newspapers and magazines, on the size of radio and television audiences, and on the growing number of Internet users.

Press Laws

Sri Lanka, the former British colony of Ceylon, attained independence on February 4, 1948, following the British withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. Under the Constitution of 1972, Sri Lanka became a republic, its official title being the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The unicameral parliamentary system introduced by the constitution made the prime minister, who belonged to the majority party in the parliament, the head of the government. Under a new constitution, promulgated on September 7, 1978, the polity changed to a presidential system, with the president directly elected for a term of six years and holding full executive authority. Two major political parties have led the governments since independence: the United National Party (UNP) from 1948 to 1956, 1965 to 1970, and 1977 to 1994. The leftist Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) from 1956 to 1965 and from 1970 to 1977, and then renamed as the People's Alliance (PA) from 1994 to the early twenty-first century.

The constitution guarantees the fundamental rights and freedom of thought, conscience, and worship, as well as equality before the law to all. However, Buddhism has been accorded the foremost place in the national arena, and the State has the duty to protect and foster that religion. Sinhala and Tamil were made the two official languages. By and large, successive governments have shown respect for the constitution and fundamental rights except for some restrictions, at times very severe, during periods of intense civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

The Sri Lankan judiciary holds an excellent reputation for its independence and integrity in relation to upholding fundamental civil rights. Under the Emergency Regulations (ERs) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the government may detain suspects without trial for a maximum of four consecutive three month periods under the ERs, and as long as 18 months under the PTA. Additionally, the government has established a Human Rights Commission, which serves as a watchdog of the observance of the constitutional provisions. The government under Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga, who was elected president in 1994, generally respected the independence of the judiciary.

The Sri Lankan Parliament consists of one chamber with 225 members, elected by a system of modified proportional representation. The country comprises 9 provinces and 24 administrative districts, each with an appointed governor and elected Development Council. In November 1987, an amendment to the Constitution provided for eight provincial councils, with the northern and eastern provinces merged as one administrative unit.

Censorship

The government of President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga, which was in power at the start of the twenty-first century, came into power on the basis of an Election Manifesto that promised fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press. Censorship was re-imposed on June 5, 1998, when the war against the LTTE heated up and the government felt that "unfettered freedom" for the press resulted in newspapers carrying vital information that provided "tactical benefits" to the LTTE. This time, censorship applied to all reports relating to the war being fought in the north and east sections of the island. Local and international coverage of the war was prohibited, as was any discussion by the media of the actions of police and military officials. All reports, photographs, and videotapes were to pass a military censor, army general Jaliya Nammuni, the first time the government had appointed a such an overseer. Journalists were forbidden from entering the conflict zones, or, in the government's language, the "uncleared areas."

The censorship continued at the civilian level with the appointment of Ariya Rubasinghe as the chief censor and with the announcement of even tighter restrictions in November 1999. On June 30, 2000, a panel of three judges of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court unanimously nullified the appointment of a government censor or "competent Authority" in response to a fundamental rights petition filed by the newspaper group, Leader Publications, challenging the closure of the Sunday Leader and associated Sinhalese newspapers by the chief censor. The immediate reason for the action was the publication of an article in the Sunday Leader entitled "War in Fantasyland," which lampooned the government's censorship policy. More importantly, the Sunday Leader was known to be associated with Gamini Dissanaike, the opposition UNP's presidential candidate in 1994 before he was murdered during the campaign by a suicide bomber. The chief censor had also closed down the offices of Uthayan, the only Tamil daily published in Jaffna on grounds that the daily was "maliciously and detrimentally" publishing information that was biased in favor of the LTTE. The Supreme Court's annulment of the appointment of the chief censor had been based on a technicality that the government had failed to submit the appointment to the parliament for review within seven days as required by law. However, the Court went further than the issue at hand and struck down the decision to close down the newspapers involved as "a nullity and of no force or avail in law." The Court also ordered the government to pay damages to the Leader Group of Publications. Disturbing to the champions of freedom of the press was the Court's stipulation that the "rights and freedoms of the citizens under ordinary laws may be disregarded" and that the purposes of the emergency regulations were "legitimate." Obviously, the Court did not want to destabilize the political situation in the country and thought it judicious not to hamper the ability of the state to fight the war.

Even so, the restrictions in 2002 were far better than those under the previous government, when handicaps for practicing journalists were far more severe and when an independent-minded journalist stepping out of line simply disappeared. The most celebrated case was that of the broadcaster Richard de Soyza.

Information controls in 2002 followed more subtle and less obvious methods. Thus, books, magazines, and videos were quietly banned without fanfare or publication of lists of banned materials. In the case of imported materials, the Customs and Excise officials quietly confiscated them on grounds that they were pornographic, offending traditional values or tenets of Theravada Buddhism. Political writings, even if they were critical of government policies, received far more tolerance than those affecting religion or family values.

Although the Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera had pledged to the CPJ delegation that the censorship would be lifted before the parliamentary elections were announced, the government made no changes in the policy even after August 18, when the elections were announced for October 10; disappointingly for the press, no changes were made to the censorship policy. In September, the government suspended the additional censorship regulations imposed during the year.

State-Press Relations

An important member of the Cabinet is the Minister of Telecommunications, usually someone close to the president. In 2002, the minister was known to believe in the freedom of the press as long as it did not affect the nation's security. Despite criticism in the press, some of which tended to be personal, the minister refrained from penalizing the press except for an occasional action through the court system.

In order to facilitate relations with the press, the government has established the Sri Lanka Press Council. However, unlike most countries where the role of such a body is to protect the journalists and publishers, the Press Council in Sri Lanka is charged with the responsibility of protecting individual citizens who may have grievances against the press. Journalists look to their own unions, the most important of them being the Editors' Guild or the Free Media Movement, for redress of their grievances. The latter organization is linked to the Freedom of Expression Exchange based in Canada. A notable journalists' organization of a specialty kind is the Sri Lankan Environmentalist Journalists Forum, which has formulated its own Code of Ethics for its members. A good number of journalists show a remarkable degree of sophistication and sense of responsibility, are well-traveled, and remain in touch with their counterparts in India, Great Britain, and the United States.

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression, the government restricts these rights in practice, often using national security as the rationale; however, it tries to stay within the limits that are prescribed by the parliament. In 1998, following a particularly vicious attack by the LTTE, the government strictly limited the access of domestic and foreign media to information and censored news relating to military and police matters. The government also imposed censorship on all domestic and foreign media reports relating to the ongoing or possible future military and other security operations. International television broadcasts received in the country were also censored, with references to Sri Lanka filtered out of the broadcasts. Foreign and national journalists were and are allowed to go to the conflict areas, but only with prior permission from the Ministry of Defense.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has regularly logged instances of assaults on journalists and photographers and written to Sri Lankan authorities, including the president, from time to time, more often since 1998. The Free Media Movement, The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka, Amnesty International, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, and the U.S. State Department's Division on Human Rights have also helped to highlight incidents when the media have not been able to function normally. In some cases, army officers have themselves been involved in such attacks, for example during a night-time raid on February 12, 1998, by five armed men, including two air force officers, on the residence of Iqbal Athas, a defense correspondent of the Sunday Times who had written a series of exposés on corruption in the armed forces. The attackers threatened the lives of Iqbal and his wife and young daughter at gun-point. In 1994, Iqbal had received the CPJ's International Press Freedom Medal for his courageous reporting on Sri Lanka's civil war. The trial of the two air force officers, H. M. Rukman Herath and D. S. Prasanna Kannangara, was repeatedly postponed, but it finally began in May 2001, partly in response to the pressure of the several groups, both local and international, that support freedom of the press. In February 2002, a Colombo High Court judge, Sarath Ambepitiyqa, sentenced the two officers to nine years in prison, observing: "In a democratic country like Sri Lanka, newspapers have a right to expose the corruption of anyone." Noting that violent attacks against journalists undermine press freedom, the judge said in his ruling: "If crime is used to suppress [this right], then stern action should be taken." Another major incident of media harassment took place on July 15, 1999, when the police fired tear gas and used water cannons and batons to break up a large UNP-led demonstration while unidentified men assaulted protesters and snatched camera equipment from journalists. The Free Media Movement claimed that journalists and photographers had been assaulted so that there would not be any evidence of the action taken against the protesters.

Broadcast Media

Radio

Until the liberalization in 1984, radio was a government monopoly. It was governed by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Act of 1966, which established the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). It had two services: National Service and Commercial Service, both in three languages: Sinhala, Tamil, and English. In 2002, it had seven home services, three regional services, six community services (Aralangnwila, Girandurukotte, Kot-male, Maha Illuppallama, Jaffna, and Vavuniya) and seven overseas services. The services are named: the Sinhala National Service, the Tamil Commercial Service, the English Commercial Service, the Regional Services, and the Education and Sports Service. The overseas service uses several Indian languages: Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu. The overseas service is principally beamed at south and southeast Asia and the Middle East. The rules governing the Conduct of Business of the Commercial Service were framed by the Advertising Department of the SLBC. They took effect May l, 1994. They stipulate that advertising materials that contain statements or suggestions that "may be considered to be of a political nature or offensive to religious views, racial traits, and sentimental susceptibilities of any section of the community" would not be accepted.

The SLBC has three major regional stations: North Central, based on Anuradhapura and called Rajarata Sevaya; Southern, based in Matara and called Ruhunu Sevaya; and Central, based in Kandy and called the Kandurata Sevaya. The Colombo-based City FM Service is currently called the SLBC's Sri Lanka FM. The latest government-owned radio station of the SLBC, which was inaugurated in January 1997, is the popular Lakhanda, a 24-hour service in Sinhala. While the SLBC continues to operate in the public sector, there are now eleven private radio stations: Sun FM 99.9, TNL 90/101Radio, Yes FM, 7FM, Capital Radio, and Gold FM 89 (all in English); Sirasa FM (MBC Networks), Savana, Hiru FM 107.9, and Tharu FM 96.7 (all in Sinhala); and FM 99 and Suriyan FM 103.2 (both in Tamil). Even the private radio stations are, however, governed by certain "guidelines" from the government, particularly in regard to materials affecting the country's security and harmony among the ethnic minorities. The SLBC as well as the private stations have, by and large, operated independently but under the general direction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The broad mandate for its programming stipulates that nothing be included in the programs "which offends good taste or decency or is likely to incite to crime or lead to disorder or to attend [sic] any racial or religious susceptibilities or to be offensive to public feelings."

Television

Just like the radio, television was a government monopoly until the liberalization in 1992 and 1994. The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Act of 1982 established the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and the Independent Television Network (ITN) The SLRC is run by a board of six nominees of the government, including one from the SLBC and one representing the National Film Corporation (NFC). Its mandate parallels that of the SLBC in terms of its programming. In September 1986, it established the Copy Code, whereby the SLRC would not accept any advertising copy that was critical of traditions and customs of any community, or would create a feeling of insecurity or disharmony in the community, or could be injurious to the well-being of any community or the devotees of any religion. The code was further revised in November 1995. According to the code, "unacceptable material" is that which makes "irreverent reference to any time, incident or concept of religious, racial, political or sentimental susceptibilities of the community." Such cautionary language in the codes meant for radio and television broadcasting reflects the ethnic tensions and the civil war between the two principal communities on the island nation over the last quarter century. The government seems eager to establish a delicate balance between upholding the protection of fundamental rights of expression to individuals and to the media that are guaranteed by the constitution, and the supreme need to maintain interethnic harmony in a plural society.

Major changes came in 1992 when the UNP government allowed private television networks. In that year, the Maharaja Television Network (MTV), in collaboration with Singapore Telecom International (SingTel), began its operations as MTV and MTV Newsvision. The Sirasa TV replaced the MTV channel in June 1998 as the first private sector nationwide TV channel while MTV Newsvision was renamed MTV. In the following year, the Teleshan Network Limited (TNL) was started; it now operates TNL TV and TNL radio. In 1994, the Extra-Terrestrial Television (ETV) was started; it added a second channel in 1995 called ETV2. The two ETV channels were later replaced by Swarnavahini and ETV in April 1996 when there was a change of ownership. Then in 1996, the Dynavision Broadcasting Coprporation started the Dynavision channel, which became Sri Lanka's first stereo broadcast station. In 1999, the government's Telecommunication Authority authorized two more private television channels: Ruhuna 2001 Multivision and Channel 9, the first "direct-to-home" pay television, owned by TV and Radio Private Limited, a private collaboration between Sri Lanka and Australia. Until 1994, there was complete state control over the production and broadcast of news concerning Sri Lanka. All private channels broadcastingeven BBC, CNN, or other foreign channelswere required to delete any items in which Sri Lanka was mentioned. This became a major issue in the 1992 and 1994 elections. The PA's Election Manifesto in 1994 promised to restore the freedom of expression of the citizens and of the media and to "create a framework within which the media can function independently and without inhibition." Accordingly, after the elections, the PA allowed private television companies to produce and broadcast local news bulletins. In October 1995, however, the government introduced "temporary censorship" on news concerning "security matters."

Summary

In reviewing the relationship between the government and the media, the CPJ commented in its annual report for 2000: "Kumaratunga's censorship policy is just one manifestation of her basic mistrust for the media.". It pointed out that President Kumaratunga had begun the year with a three-hour long interview on government television in which she railed against several media facilities, even pointing her finger at individual journalists: Victor Ivan, editor of the Sinhala tabloid Ravaya, and Lasantha Wickrematunga, and the editor of the English paper, the Sunday Leader, accusing them of attempting to sabotage her reelection in December 1999 through tendentious reporting and corrupt practices. She threatened to crack down on those who were consistently critical of her policies. Within a week, the state media subtly hinted at links between the two editors and the LTTE.

Six months later, the government repeated this "alarming tactic" with the state media alleging that four prominent journalists were "maintaining secret connections" with the LTTE. These were: Roy Denish, defense correspondent for the Sunday Leader; D. Sivaram, who wrote under the penname "Taraki;" P. Seevagan, head of the Tamil Media Alliance and BBC's Tamil Service; and Saman Wagaarachchi, editor of Irida Peramuna. In a joint statement of June 6, 2000, the four journalists countered that the government's smear campaign "was very clearly designed and deliberately calculated to instigate extremist elements and contract killers against us and our families" Attacks on individual journalists who reported against the government also took place, in one case involving the death of a journalist. On the night of October 19, 2000, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, a freelancer who reported from the northern Jaffna peninsula for various organizations, including the BBC's Tamil and Sinhala language services, the Tamil language daily Virakesari and the Sinhala language weekly Ravaya. He had reported on vote-rigging and intimidation in the recent parliamentary elections in Jaffna. The attack occurred during curfew hours in a high-security zone in a central Jaffna town. The journal-ist's parents and 11-year-old nephew were also seriously injured.

Also attacked was Nellai Nadesan, a columnist for the Tamil leading newspaper, Virakesari. Nadesan escaped unhurt though his home was damaged. He had earlier received a telephone death threat for writing about atrocities committed by the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a government-supported Tamil militia group operating in the Batticaloa region. The attack occurred despite the fact that Nadesan's home was located between two checkpoints manned by the government.

Significant Dates

  • 1994: Kumaratunga government restores fundamental freedom and lifts censorship.
  • 1998: The government re-imposes censorship.

Bibliography

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Disanayaka, J. B. "Ethnic Perceptions and Media Behaviour in Sri Lanka." In Mass Media and Cultural Identity, Ethnic Reporting in Asia, eds. Anura Goonasekera and Youichi Ito, 256-282. London: Pluto Press, 1999.

French, D., and M. Richards, eds. Contemporary Television: Eastern Perspectives. New Delhi: Sage, 1996.

Gunaratne, S. A. "Government-Press Conflict in Ceylon: Freedom Versus Responsibility." Journalism Quarterly 47 (1970): 530-543.

."Sri Lanka and the Third Communication Revolution." Media Asia 24 (1997): 83-89.

Gunaratne, S.A., M.S. Hasim, and R. Kasenally. "Small is Beautiful, Information Potential of Three Indian Ocean Rim Countries." Media Asia 24 (1997): 1-205.

Hulugalle, H. A. J. The Life and Times of D. R. Wijewardene. Colombo: The Associated Newspapers, 1960.

Karunanayake, N. The Press in Sri Lanka: Towards a Sound Policy Framework. Colombo: Media Publishers, 1996.

Lent, J. A., ed. Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.

Merrill, J. C., and H.A. Fisher. The World's Great Dailies: Profiles of 50 Newspapers. New York: Hastings House, 1980.

Neumann, A. I. "Sri Lanka: Reform's Key Moment Journalists' Face Off with the Military." Columbia Journalism Review 37 (July-August 1998): 59-60.

Peiris, G. H., ed. Studies on the Press in Sri Lanka and South Asia. Kandy: International Center for Ethnic Studies, 1997.

Ranasinghe, N. E. "Radio Spectrum Management in Sri Lanka," APT Journal vol. 8, no. 2 (1996): 20-22.

Samarajiva, R., "Institutional Reform of Sri Lankan Telecommunications: The Introduction of Competition and Regulation." In Telecommunications in Western Asia and the Middle East, ed. E. M. Noam, 3-61. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Selvakumaran, N., and R. Edrisinha. Compilers, Mass Media Laws and Regulations in Sri Lanka. Singapore: AMIC, 1995.

Statistical Yearbook. Paris: UNESCO, 2000.

Udagama, N.D. "Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom." In Sri Lanka: State of Human Rights, 1995, ed. E. Nissan. Colombo: Law and Society Trust, 1996.

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World Radio and TV Handbook. Amsterdam: Billboard Publications, 2001.

Damodar R. SarDesai

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 19,238,575
Language(s): Sinhala, Tamil, English
Literacy Rate: 90.2%
Academic Year: January-December
Number of Primary Schools: 9,554
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.4%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 55
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,843,848
  Secondary: 2,314,054
  Higher: 63,660
Educational EnrollmentRate: Primary: 109%
  Secondary: 75%
Teachers: Primary: 66,339
  Secondary: 103,572
  Higher: 2,636
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 28:1
  Secondary: 22:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%
  Secondary: 78%



History & Background


Historical Evolution: The history of Sri Lanka before 1500 C.E., as recorded in its Great Chronicles, is considered unverifiable and is largely an obscure, confusing, and conflicting set of records about wars, invasions, usurpations, and dynastic rivalries. Beginning with the thirteenth century C.E., Sri Lanka was divided into three major kingdoms: a Tamil kingdom in the north, a Sinhalese kingdom in the southwest, and the kingdom of Kandy in the interior. In 1505, the Portuguese came to the island and established settlements on the west and south coasts. Despite Portuguese efforts to subjugate the entire island, the Kandyan kingdom remained independent. In 1612, the king of Kandy formed an alliance with the Dutch, successfully defeating and dislodging the Portuguese by 1656. Unfortunately, in removing the Portuguese, Kandy traded one European colonial master for another. Sri Lanka was subservient to Dutch interests for over a century and a half. British trading interests in Sri Lanka led to the ouster of the Dutch in 1796. The 1815 unification of the island's three kingdoms under British rule continued until 1948, when Great Britain granted Sri Lanka its independence.

Ethnically, Sri Lanka's population is divided among Sinhalese (74 percent), Tamils (18 percent), Moors (7 percent), and Burghers, Malays, and Veddas (1 percent). Most of the people of Sri Lanka migrated to the island from India more than 2,500 years ago, often in the interest of trade, war, religion, economic opportunity, or colonization. The Sinhalese are allegedly the descendants of the Aryan Prince Vijaya, from India, and his 700 followers; they came to Sri Lanka about 485 B.C.E., chased from their homes for their marauding activities. Tamils fall into two groups: Sri Lankan and Indian. The Sri Lankan Tamils came to the island in the third century B.C.E., moving across the strait from India as part of the expansion by India's southern kings. The majority of Indian Tamils were imported by the British to work on the coffee and tea plantations in the island's interior during the second half of the nineteenth century. A few Indian Tamils came as traders. The Moors, or Muslims, came to Sri Lanka in the eighth century C.E., and are descendants of Arab traders. The Burghers are descendants of marriages contracted between Portuguese and Dutch settlers, or between the Europeans and the Sinhalese or Tamils. The Dutch brought over Malays as soldiers, and the Veddas are the aboriginal forest dwellers of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's history left the island with a diverse population composed of self-conscious ethnic groups, differentiated by religion, language, and social customs. Hinduism, the island's first religion, came from India during its era of unrecorded history and is the faith of Sri Lanka's largest minority group, the Tamils. Theravada Buddhism was introduced from India during the third century B.C.E. and is the religion of the island's Sinhalese majority. Arab traders and western colonists brought Islam and Christianity in the tenth and sixteenth centuries C.E., respectively. In the modern era, Buddhists constitute 69 percent of the population, Hindus 15 percent, Christians 8 percent, and Muslims 8 percent.

Sri Lanka's commitment to education began more than 2,500 hundred years ago, when Hindu kings and chieftains received their education from Brahmins (Hindu priests), and education is thus closely tied to the religious history of the island. Similarly, early in Sri Lanka's history, education became associated with high caste status and privilege. The sweep of Buddhism from India into Sri Lanka in the third century B.C.E. converted kings and people. Monasteries were erected to educate bhikkus, or monks. These monks built the first pirivenas, or temple schools, in the villages, educating the laity in religion and secular subjects. Little information exists on the schools of Sri Lanka's minority populations of Hindus and Muslims, but it is generally assumed that each faith had temple and mosque schools, respectively, which provided an elementary education with emphasis on religion, reading, and writing.

Portuguese rule of Sri Lanka brought both Franciscans and Jesuits, who founded 41 parish schools, and three Franciscan and two Jesuit colleges. Converting the island's diverse population was a primary focus of this educational mission. The Dutch, who followed the Portuguese, replaced the Catholic parish schools with schools affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch used religious conversion to promote access to educational opportunity. Native Sri Lankans quickly realized that if they wanted to gain a public office or qualify as a schoolmaster, they had to convert to the Dutch Reformed faith, and did. A Dutch seminary in Colombo, the capital, provided additional higher education. The Dutch educational system in Sri Lanka continued to foster the public's perception of a link between education and financial success.

When the British began their occupation of Sri Lanka, they gave responsibility for the island's education to Christian missionary societies who promoted an English, western-oriented education designed to "civilize" the Sri Lankan people. English schools charged fees and received British government grants. The island's nonEnglish vernacular (secular) schools were taught in Sinhala or Tamil, Sri Lanka's two principal languages. Vernacular schools were traditionally under financed because they were denied government educational grants. Without government subsidies, these schools could offer only the basics of an elementary education. Buddhist temple schools, primarily in rural areas, suffered the most: in addition to being denied government funding, they could not charge fees, the result of successful lobbying by the missionary societies who wanted the elimination of any rival religious schools. Under British rule, Sri Lankans who spoke English were eligible to become teachers. Colonial administrators only recruited only English-speaking Sri Lankans for government service. Thus the Sri Lankans who prospered under British colonial rule were more likely to be better-educated, high-caste Hindu Tamils, Tamils who converted to Christianity and were educated in English schools, or descendants of the Burghers.

Christians, the island's smallest minority, were historically the best educated. In 1901, approximately 55 percent of Christian males were literate, compared to only 35 percent of Buddhist males, 34 percent of Muslim males, and 26 percent of Hindu males. Among Christian women, 30 percent were literate, compared to 5 percent among Buddhist women, 3 percent among Muslim women, and 2.5 percent among Hindu women. The lower literacy rates among Hindu males can be attributed to the inclusion of the uneducated and stateless imported Indian Tamil males who worked tea plantations. Cultural factors account for the low literacy rates among Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu women. By 1921, within just 20 years, literacy rates among the island's male population rose to 66 percent for Christians, 50 percent for Buddhists, 45 percent for Muslims, and 37 percent for Hindus. For women, 50 percent of Christians were literate, while literacy rates among Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu women rose to 17 percent, 6 percent, and 10 percent, respectively. When independence was granted in 1948, Sri Lanka had 5,895 schools enrolling more than 1 million students. The nation's literacy rate was 57.8 percent, the highest among both Great Britain's colonies and Asian nations. Independence did not eliminate a colonial perception among the majority of Sinhalese that British rule had favored an English-speaking Tamil minority who benefited from better education, which led to higher incomes and more valuable careers.


Political, Social, & Cultural Bases: For centuries Sri Lankan Tamils used education to promote their social mobility. The Tamil region in northern and eastern Sri Lanka is arid and infertile compared to the rest of the island and is unsuitable for profitable farming. The Tamils depended on education to prosper. Under British rule the Tamil minority received a disproportionate share of university and government positions. Higher earnings among Sri Lankan Tamils plus the income sent home by overseas Tamils generated greater economic prosperity in the Tamil regions than in the rest of the country.

Independence changed the balance of power. Two major political parties formedthe United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP)and both political parties competed for the vote of the Sinhalese majority. The parties promoted Buddhism, nationalism, socialism, and non-alignment in the Cold War era, with little thought for Tamil issues. From independence until 1956, the more conservative UNP, advocating a mixed economy and private enterprise, maintained a parliamentary majority. However, during the 1956 election, SLFP leader S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike encouraged xenophobic fears among the Sinhalese majority, allying himself with Marxist parties advocating the nationalization of banks and industry and Sinhalese Buddhist extremists who wanted to replace English with Sinhala as Sri Lanka's official language. After Bandaranaike won the parliamentary elections of 1956, the SLFP approved the change of language, and established quotas limiting Tamil entry into government service and higher education, particularly in the fields of medicine and the sciences. The number of Tamil students admitted to medical school and engineering schools fell by 50 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Tamil recruitment by the central government in the general clerical services fell from a 41 percent high in 1949 to a mere 7 percent among recruits nationally in 1963. Less than 5 percent of Tamils were in the nation's police force and national army. By the 1970s, only 6 percent of newly hired teachers were Tamil, and university placement for Tamils in the science-based disciplines fell to 11 percent in 1974 from 35 percent just four years earlier.

Tamils organized to protect their interests, and extremist factions of all parties and nationalities employed violence to bring national attention to their concerns. The violence temporarily ended in 1959, when Prime Minister Bandaranaike was assassinated. During the 1960s and 1970s both the UNP and the SLFP competed with each other for a parliamentary majority among the Sinhalese. Consistently, Tamil interests were again ignored or forgotten by the central government and the politicians. In 1972, the Sinhalese majority voted to end its status as a monarchy, which had come to represent Sri Lanka's colonial past. The Constitution of Sri Lanka was substantially revised, and parliamentary government was replaced with a presidential republic dominated by a Buddhist, Sinhalese majority. President J.R. Jayewardene was elected in 1978; the Jayewardene administration continued reforms tending toward reconciliation of Sri Lanka's warring factions.

The civil war has persisted into the twenty-first century, fought primarily in the Tamil regions of eastern and northern Sri Lanka, but Tamil guerrillas have brought the war to all parts of the country. President Jayewardene's attempts to grant Tamil autonomy under Indian supervision caused great fear among the Sinhalese majority of the nation's impending division and permanent Indian occupation. Later Sri Lankan presidents accepted Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's offer to mediate the dispute between Tamils and Sinhalese. Gandhi's efforts ended tragically with his assassination in 1991, by Tamils opposed to Gandhi's use of Indian troops to suppress the Tamil insurrection in Sri Lanka. Two years later in 1993, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated five years into his presidency when he proposed substantial grants of autonomy in Tamil areas. Although blamed, the Tamil rebels rejected responsibility for his death.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, president of Sri Lanka since 1993 and the daughter of a previous prime minister and president, both named Bandaranaike, has scaled back many oppressive and discriminatory aspects of education and language laws that precipitated the civil war. Surprisingly, the university system in the Tamil region remains open and funded by the central government while Sinhalese universities suffer from Tamil insurgency. Long-term peace in Sri Lanka depends on the creation of a pluralistic and multiethnic nation. Proposals of the Kumaratunga government bear a striking similarity to the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957, which proposed that Sri Lanka be a multiethnic state with Tamil as a national language in the northern and eastern sections of the country. The government would provide full protection for non-Tamil speakers and regional councils were permitted authority over centralized political system favoring the majority. Locally elected leaders could administer land development projects.

In December, 1999, as President Kumaratunga prepared to begin a second term of office, she barely survived an attempted assassination, and she did lose an eye. Her reelection came with 51.2 percent of the vote, the lowest percentage in the nation's history, and a realization that Sri Lankans were discouraged with politics. The assassination attempt increased President Kumaratunga's resolve to institute national reforms.


Constitution & Legal Foundations


In 1931, the British government granted universal manhood suffrage to Sri Lankans. Within 10 years of getting the franchise, Sri Lanka passed legislation granting free and compulsory education throughout the island for all ethnic and religious groups. British intent was to unify Sri Lanka's diverse population by fostering a British parliamentary-style government, educational system, and independent judiciary. The island's linguistic divisions were overcome by legislation making English Sri Lanka's official language, with Sinhala and Tamil as national languages.

Along with the constitutional reforms of the 1970s, Sri Lanka began the first of many national studies to determine the manner educational reform should take to promote national reconciliation and reduce minority claims of discrimination. President Jayewardene made Tamil the official language for the administration and courts of the Tamil regions in the north and east. The Jayewardene government also worked to establish scholarship programs for the urban poor and among rural children and authorized new technical curricula in secondary schools. Government policy encouraged the construction of new facilities in engineering, medicine, and science to serve the countryside. Section 22 of the Sri Lankan Constitution entitled each Sri Lankan the right to be educated in either Sinhala or Tamil, although central government appointments still required fluency in Sinhala. In spite of a disruptive civil war between Tamils and Sinhalese, educational reforms were instituted by the central government.

Because of civil war, Sri Lanka has faced serious funding shortages and a lack of books and equipment, and qualified teachers. The nation's central education ministry has been charged with being too autocratic and insensitive to regional and minority demands, while minorities have accused the education system of discrimination in funding, admissions, and curriculum majors. President Kumaratunga made 1997 the "year of education reforms and restructure" and promised to implement educational reforms in 1998. These reforms showcased improvement in the quality of primary and secondary education, increased career guidance programs, expansion and diversification of the university curricula, and increased vocational and technical training for rural youth and women.


Educational SystemOverview

In 1999, the Sri Lankan government recorded a total student population for both primary and secondary education of approximately 4.3 million students attending a total of 11,031 schools. Student enrollments are distributed among 10,394 government schools, 306 national schools, 77 private schools, 560 pirivenas, and 637 schools of other affiliations. International schools find increasing favor with wealthier families, but statistical data is unavailable on this educational choice. The student teacher ratio in 1999 was 22 students for each teacher, a decline of one student since 1990. The majority of teachers (60 percent) are trained, and 27 percent are graduate teachers. The remaining teaching staff consists of certified teachers, uncertified teachers, and volunteer teachers.

During the 1990s, in spite of ongoing civil war, the people of Sri Lanka witnessed a steady increase in the number of primary and secondary schools of all types, except private schools. This was coupled with a steady increase in literacy among Sri Lanka's school-age population. Private schools declined by two during the period 1995 to 1999, although at 77 the number of private schools was still higher than the 61 private schools in 1990. The number of teachers at both the primary and secondary levels increased from a total faculty of 184,822 in 1990 to 196,726 in 1999. Government expenditures for primary and secondary education increased from approximately 9.6 million rupees in 1990 to approximately 29.3 million rupees in 1999.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary education is voluntary and entirely private. Most of the schools are in urban areas. Primary education includes grades one to five. It is free but, by tradition, was not compulsory until 1999, when the Sri Lankan government established new regulations making primary education compulsory as part of a reform program. An estimated 14 percent of children ages 5 to 10 years were not attending school. Village committees are now empowered with the authority to raise and monitor school attendance. Public awareness programs are being carried out to encourage educational attendance. The most recent statistics indicate that 90 percent of Sri Lankan children are enrolled in primary education.

The curriculum for the first three years of primary education includes religion, the mother tongue, English, and numbers. In grade four the same subjects are continued and physical education, constructive activities, and environmental studies added. The goal of primary education is to promote a useful role in the local community.


Secondary Education

Junior secondary education covers grades six to eight. The curriculum consists of 10 compulsory subjects including English and science. Technical and prevocational studies constitute 20 percent of the curriculum. Examinations in the mother tongue and mathematics are taken to establish eligibility for senior secondary education. Students must pass four other examinations from among English, science, religion, social studies, aesthetic studies, health and physical education, or technical subjects. Satisfactory passes in 'O' level are required to enter senior secondary school. Students may need to repeat the last year of junior secondary in order to achieve entry to senior secondary.

Senior secondary education begins at grade nine. Five curriculum areas are available for students: physical sciences, biological sciences, social studies, humanities, and commerce. Specialist curricula are designed to groom students for university entrance requirements. This course of study lasts two years and leads to the Sri Lanka General Certificate of Education (A/L) examination for university entrance. Only one out of every 100 students is accepted into a Sri Lankan university after 12 to 14 years of education.

Reforms at the junior secondary stage were implemented in 1999 for grades six to nine. New syllabi were developed and textbooks rewritten. The number of subjects required by students planning to qualify for the GCE (A/L) examination was reduced from four to three subject areas of study. A Common General Paper, designed for testing students' awareness of current affairs, reasoning ability, problems solving ability and communication skills, became a required part of the GCE (A/L) examination. A compulsory new course on general English was introduced for GCE (A/L) students, although the scores will not be added to the aggregate marks for university entrance. In addition, the government has offered a one-year pre-university course of instruction to improve entrance prospects for those from poorer, particularly Tamil, regions of the country. Other educational reforms at the secondary level include a program to develop better school facilities at divisional levels for disadvantaged groups, particularly rural children. A total of 325 existing schools have been designated for maintenance improvement, better teacher-training programs, and human resource development.


Higher Education


General Survey: Sri Lanka's university system is financed by the central government. Its Board of Governors includes the Vice-Chancellor; the Ministers of Education, Planning, and Finance; and the presidents of all the university campuses. The Board reviews the internal administration of the university system. University senates govern academic affairs, and a university president and board supervise each campus.

At the time of independence, the Ceylon Medical College, the Ceylon University College, and the science section of the Ceylon Technical College were merged to form the University of Ceylon (later the University of Sri Lanka). To accommodate the national requirements for increased education after the primary and secondary levels, however, new universities became necessary. A rapidly expanding population demanding higher educational opportunities led to the additional construction of university campuses at Peradeniya, Vidalankara, and Vidyodaya. These schools offer majors in languages, art, and Buddhist studies. A building campaign in the 1970s added new universities at Colombo, Katubedde, and Jaffna. The latter university was the first one in a Tamil region of Sri Lanka. In 1980, the Open University was added, along with two new universities at Ruhnne and Batticaloa. Curriculum emphasis is undergraduate education. Technical and teacher-training institutes were built to foster specialized training. In 1999, Sri Lanka added a university at Wayamba, which enrolls 11,324 students, or about 15 percent of the students who meet the minimum requirements for university entrance and 8 percent of the number of students who passed the GCE (A/L) examinations.

Tamils' complaints of preferential treatment in university placement to lower-scoring Sinahalese ended in the 1980s, when more places became available in an expanding higher education program. Tamils received increased opportunities to enter degree programs in general teacher training colleges for primary teacher training and specialist teacher training colleges for secondary teacher training, in addition to university programs leading education degrees, university programs culminating in the Ph.D., and degree programs at a polytechnic or technical institute. Among university admissions into degree programs in the arts, commerce and management, law, physical science, mathematics and statistics, bioscience, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, agriculture, engineering, architecture, and quantity surveying, 40 percent of acceptances are based exclusively on merit. District quotas select 55 percent of university applicants, and the remaining 5 percent of university entrants are admitted on the basis of educational disadvantages by district.

Competition for graduate degree programs in one of Sri Lanka's six post-graduate institutes has intensified. Five higher education institutes, the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, Institute of Computer Technology, Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Campaha Wickramarachchi Aayurveda Institute, and the Institute of Workers' Education, provide additional higher education options. The Open University of Sri Lanka enrolled an additional 18,495 students in 1999, offering 10 degree programs and 31 diplomas. Private institutes in cooperation with foreign universities offer higher education programs in the fields of information technology, commerce, and business administration. The University Grants Commission and Sri Lanka universities offered scholarships to 5,700 students in 1999. Students not eligible for scholarships received limited funding from government bursaries.


Enrollment: During the 1990s, the number of universities in Sri Lanka increased from 9 universities enrolling 29,471 students with a teaching faculty of 2,040 in 1990 to 13 universities in 1999 matriculating 40,174 students with a teaching staff of 3,200. These data do not include higher education enrollments for the Open University. The number of university graduates increased from 4,522 students in 1990 to 6,758 students in 1998. For the year 1998, the 6,758 university graduates included 2,518 in arts and oriental studies, 1,180 in commerce and management, 171 in law, 1,110 in science, 551 in engineering, 812 in medicine, 42 in dental surgery, 250 in agriculture, 50 in veterinary science, 25 in architecture, and 49 in quantity surveying. All degree majors witnessed steady increases in graduates since 1990, except architecture, which demonstrated a steady decline during the 1990s.


Educational Reform: Government-directed university reforms focus on the expansion of the university system, curriculum reform, quality assurance, staff development, career guidance, counseling, and finance. All Sri Lankan universities have initiated action to reform existing curricula to accommodate a modular course unit system, which provides students with greater flexibility in selecting degree programs and individual courses. Continuous assessment will replace the final examination system traditionally used to evaluate academic progress. New academic faculty at the university level will be required to attend an induction course at staff development centers established at the Universities of Colombo, Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Jaffna, Sabaragamuwa, and Sri Jayawardanapura. Six universities have already set up Career Guidance Units to link potential graduates with private-sector careers. The Sri Lankan government plans to increase the number of dormitories on university campuses to accommodate up to 75 percent of the student population.

Even though the central government is responsible for review of the university system, the adoption of reforms and the pace of reform are left to the individual school. Students are required to accept the reforms. The government is intent on improving the overall quality of the higher education system. In particular, the government plans to increase the number of university-industry links, with the hope of intensifying the study of advanced applied research with foreign universities, in order to challenge both the teaching staff and the students. An increased number of student exchange programs are being offered to expose students to university programs in other countries.


Technical Education & Vocational Training: Technical and vocational education includes the fields of engineering, commerce, business studies, and agriculture. Prevocational programs at the secondary level of education are designed to train students for acceptance into higher education in the above-identified fields. The number of technical institutes has increased to 20. Minimum age for admission is 17 years. Diploma and certificate courses from one to four years qualify graduates to certificates from craftsman to technician. Admission to these advanced programs requires the completion of the Higher National Certificate of Education or the GCE (A/L). Engineering, commerce, and business degree programs are offered at Sri Lanka's polytechnic institutes.

Recognizing the increased demand for graduates in technical and vocational fields, the government of Sri Lanka approved the creation of the Tertiary and Vocation Education Commission to prepare and publish plans for five priority industry sectors: gems and jewelry, construction, printing, textiles and garments, and hotel and tourism. Government funds were allocated to promote skill training at private sector industrial establishments at 33 locations. The Department of Technical Education and Training, a major provider of technical education and vocational training, increased its services to 36 technical colleges enrolling 16,170 students in 1999. The Sri Lankan Institute of Advanced Technical Education conducted higher-level courses in engineering, accounting, commerce, and agriculture for an additional 2,839 students. In rural areas the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) enrolled 21,092 students in different curricula programs.

It is expected that the VTA will expand its training facilities to 36 new sites and establish 6 new special vocational training centers. An additional 20,118 students were enrolled in the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority, studying over 180 courses. The National Institute of Technical Education was re-established in 1999 as an autonomous institute to effect teacher training and curriculum development in the technical and vocational fields. Over the next five years development funds from foreign governments will increase technical and vocational skill-development programs of study among the nation's population. The government of Sri Lanka intends to encourage the private sector to do more in the education and training of students in vocational fields.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research


Ministry of Education: In 1978, the Ministry of Education was divided into a Ministry of Education and a Ministry for Higher Education. The former agency oversaw elementary and secondary education. In 1979, a Ministry of Education Services was created to provide books and materials and to review the condition of school facilities. The promotion and recruitment of teachers was assigned to the Public Science Commission. The Minister of Education is appointed by the president of Sri Lanka, is a member of the presidential cabinet, and is assisted by three Deputy Director-Generals of Education, each responsible for school organization, curriculum development and teacher education, or planning. The island is divided into 15 regions, each with a regional director with authority for school construction, maintenance, repair, and teacher supervision. The regional director recruits the teachers, assigns them to schools, and arranges transfers.


Funding & Support: Foreign governments and agencies provide needed additional funding to further improvements in the Sri Lanka educational system. The World Bank funds teacher education and teacher deployment projects to improve teacher quality and make education more widely available to the general population. The Secondary Education Development Act funded the renewal of 178 secondary schools and 14 newly established teacher-training colleges, consultancy services for curriculum development, and a new building complex to house the Department of Examinations. The Japanese government funded development work on 12 new junior secondary schools, while the United Kingdom, under the Department for International Development, continues to fund primary mathematics, primary English, and primary education planning projects.

Under the Development of Schools by Divisions Project, 393 schools were refurbished, and under the National Schools Development Project, 185 new school buildings were constructed. Provincial councils provided money to support the educational infrastructure in their areas. Government money was allocated for free school uniforms and textbooks. Recognizing the importance of computer technology, 1,795 computers and 601 printers were distributed among 601 schools in 1999. Twelve computer resource centers were set up in selected schools in the same year. The government's 2002 budget has proposed special incentives to set up 50 institutes for information technology. All institutes would be connected to the information technology parks at Malambe, Kesbew, and Pugoda. The private sector contributes to Sri Lanka's general education system by funding private schools, international schools, private tutories, and private preschools.

Research & Reform: Even though preschools are under the jurisdiction of provincial councils, the central government plans to establish policies that will regularize the education being offered throughout the nation on the basis of curricula and teacher training. To facilitate this effort, the Open University has established a Child Study Center to undertake research in early childhood and development and to improve teacher training for preschool teachers. The Sri Lankan government, in spite of continued domestic distress, is making every effort to educate parents and students about educational reforms, the availability and fair distribution of resources, and the provision of teaching material at primary and secondary levels. The Ministries of Education and Higher Education are developing an incentive program to encourage teachers to work in less advantaged areas among the urban poor and the rural regions of the country to extend education to all Sri Lankan children.

Teaching Profession

Additional education reforms include improved teacher education programs of study. There are 12,000 untrained teachers in the educational system. A distancelearning program is in place with 9,625 teachers enrolled. The remaining untrained teachers will be sent to teachers' colleges. The government has set the year 2002 as a deadline for achieving a completely trained teaching faculty. There will be no further recruitment of untrained teachers. The National Colleges of Education have been designated to train all new teachers. There will be 84 Teacher Centers, 72 of which had been established by 1999 with money provided by the World Bank under the Teacher Education and Teacher Deployment Project. Renewal courses, as part of teacher in-service training, were extended to 30,704 educators.


Summary

The civil war in Sri Lanka has affected every aspect of the nation's development. Since the war began in 1983, over 800,000 people, primarily Tamils, have become refugees, and over 62,000 Sri Lankans have lost their lives. There are five Tamil guerrilla groups; the most feared are the Liberation Tiger of Tiger Eelam. Peace mediation efforts by India failed in the 1980s. Norway has offered mediation in the 1990s. It is evident that not all Tamils want an independent Tamil state, but guerrilla warfare has coerced into service those Tamils who would prefer peaceful compromise leading to increased autonomy. Under the leadership of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, many of the oppressive and discriminatory aspects of education and the language laws that contributed to the civil war have been scaled back. The university system in the Tamil region remains open and funded by the central government, even as many Sinhalese universities have suffered from Tamil insurgency.

Long-term peace in Sri Lanka will require the creation of political, legal, educational, and cultural institutions that will foster a pluralistic and multiethnic environment. The Report of the Presidential Commission on Youth (1990) could be a bridge to resolving educational issues. Among the commission's recommendations:

  • Bilingualism should extend throughout Sri Lankan society.
  • Tamils and Sinhalese should learn each other's languages.
  • Textbooks and educational materials should be available in both Tamil and Sinhalese, and should be inspected and periodically reviewed for any traces of cultural bias and favoritism.
  • Students need to be introduced to the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka's other religious and ethnic groups.
  • The public media should be more ethnically sensitive, with television and radio programs catering to a multiethnic society.
  • Subtitles should be provided in film and television.
  • Joint radio programs should be broadcast in both Sinhala and Tamil.
  • Print media should be given the responsibility to promote multicultural awareness.

In spite of the civil war more students are being educated, the number of schools and teachers is increasing, the student to teacher ratio has improved, and national literacy has increased. Tamil overtures for peace in 2000 and 2001 and a reduction in armed conflict offer encouragement that an improved future awaits all the people of Sri Lanka. Education reform is an essential component to solving and ending the civil war.


Bibliography

Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Annual Report, 1999. Colombo: Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2000.

. Economic and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 1997.

DeSilva, C.R. Sri Lanka: A History. New York: Advent Books, 1987.

De Silva, K.M. Managing Ethnic Tensions in Multiethnic Societies, 1880-1985. Lanham: University Press of America, 1986.

De Silva, K.M., and G.H. Peiris. The University System of Sri Lanka. Kandy, Sri Lanka: International Center for Ethnic Studies, 1995.

De Silva, R., and D. De Silva. Education in Sri Lanka 1948-1988. New Delhi: Navrang Press, 1990.

Dickens, William T., and Kevin Lang. "An Analysis of the Nature of Unemployment in Sri Lanka." Journal of Development Studies 31 (1995): 620-636.

Don Peter, W.L.A. Viewpoints on Education in Sri Lanka. Colombo: W.L.A. Don Peter, 1987.

Dubé, S. "Higher Education a Key Issue in Armed Conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka." The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 26, 1991): 64.

Fernando, Fr. M. Outline of a New Education Order for Sri Lanka. Subodhi: Institute of Integral Education, 1991.

Holmes, Brian, ed. International Handbook of Educational Systems. 3 vols. London: John Wiley and Sons, 1983.

Indraratna, A.D.V. de S. Economics of Higher Education in Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Navrang Press, 1992.

Kodagoda, S. Bibliography of Educational Reports on Sri Lanka from 1796-1986. Colombo: National Library of Sri Lanka, 1992.

LeVine, Steve. "Tamil Insurgency Brings Climate of Fear to Sri Lanka's University of Jaffna." The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 26, 1991): 27+.

Little, David. Sri Lanka, the Invention of Enmity. Washington, DC: United Institute of Peace Press, 1994.

Malik, S.R. System of Education in Sri Lanka. Islamabad: Academy of Educational Planning and Management, 1986.

Matthews, Bruce. "University Education in Sri Lanka in Context: Consequences of Deteriorating Standards." Pacific Affairs 68 (1995): 77-94.

Wijemanne, E.L. Educational Reforms in Sri Lanka. Paris: UNESCO, 1987.

Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam. Politics in Sri Lanka, 1947-1973. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974.


William A. Paquette

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (srē läng´kə) [Sinhalese,=resplendent land], formerly Ceylon, ancient Taprobane, officially Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, island republic (2005 est. pop. 20,065,000), 25,332 sq mi (65,610 sq km), in the Indian Ocean, just SE of India. The capital is Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte. Colombo, the former capital (and still the site of many government offices), is the commercial capital and largest city.

Land and People

The pear-shaped island is 140 mi (225 km) across at its widest point and 270 mi (435 km) long. The narrow northern end is almost linked to SE India by Adam's Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals that, although partly submerged, present an obstacle to navigation. About four fifths of the island is flat or gently rolling; mountains in the south central area include Adam's Peak (7,360 ft/2,243 m) and rise to Pidurutalagal (8,291 ft/2,527 m), the highest point on the island. Sri Lanka has a generally warm, subtropical climate; the average lowland temperature is 80°F (27°C), but humidity is high. Rainfall, largely carried by monsoons, is adequate for agriculture, except in the subhumid north. In addition to Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte and Colombo, other important cities are Dehiwala–Mount Lavinia, Kandy, Galle, and Jaffna.

The population of Sri Lanka is composed mainly (more than 70%) of Sinhalese, who are Theravada Buddhists. Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils, and Sri Lankan Tamils are the largest minorities; there are also Burghers (descendants of Dutch and Portuguese colonists), and Eurasians (descended from British colonists). In addition to the Buddhist majority, there are Muslims, Hindus, and Christians (mainly Roman Catholics). The official language is Sinhalese (Sinhala); Tamil is a second national language, and English is commonly used in government.

Economy

The country's economy has traditionally been based on agriculture, which now contributes less than 20% to the gross domestic product and employs about a third of the work force. The emphasis is on export crops such as tea, rubber, and coconuts (all plantation-grown). Cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, citronella, tobacco, cocoa, and coffee are also exported. Rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, fruit, and vegetables are grown for local use and consumption. Petroleum refining is important, and amorphous graphite, precious and semiprecious gems, mineral sands, clay, and limestone are mined. Port construction, telecommunications, and offshore insurance and banking are also important industries. Remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad, mainly in the Middle East, contribute significantly to the economy. The island's swift rivers have considerable hydroelectric potential.

Historically, industry centered chiefly around the processing of agricultural products, but textiles and garments are now Sri Lanka's biggest export. Sri Lanka has a persistent balance of trade problem, however, and the country is dependent on large amounts of foreign aid. Although coastal lagoons provide many sheltered harbors, only S Sri Lanka lies on the main world shipping routes. The port of Colombo, on which most of the country's railroads converge, handles most of the foreign trade. Exports include textiles and apparel, tea and spices, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, coconut products, rubber goods, and fish. Textile fabrics, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery, and transportation equipment are imported. The United States, India, and Great Britain are the largest trading partners.

Government

Sri Lanka is governed under the constitution of 1978. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term, and may be reelected once. Members of the 225-seat unicameral Parliament are elected by popular vote for six-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces.

History

Early History and Colonialism

Sri Lanka was first settled by modern humans around 35,000 years ago and possibly earlier. The most ancient of the inhabitants may have been the ancestors of the Veddas, an aboriginal people (numbering about 2,000) now living in jungle areas near Maduru Oya National Park. They were conquered in the 6th cent. BC by the Sinhalese, who were originally from N India; the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic, probably reflects this conquest. The Sri Lanka chronicle Mahavamsa relates the arrival of Vijaya, the first Sinhalese king, in 483 BC The Sinhalese settled in the north and developed an elaborate irrigation system. They founded their capital at Anuradhapura, which, after the introduction of Buddhism from India in the 3d cent. BC, became one of the chief world centers of that religion; a cutting of the pipal tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya was planted there. The Temple of the Tooth at Kandy as well as the Dalada Maligawa are sacred Buddhist sites. Buddhism stimulated the fine arts in Sri Lanka, its classical period lasted from the 4th to the 6th cent.

The proximity of Sri Lanka to S India resulted in many Tamil invasions. The Chola of S India conquered Anuradhapura in the early 11th cent. and made Pollonarrua their capital. The Sinhalese soon regained power, but in the 12th cent. a Tamil kingdom arose in the north, and the Sinhalese were driven to the southwest. Arab traders, drawn by the island's spices, arrived in the 12th and 13th cent.; their descendants are the Muslim Moors.

The Portuguese conquered the coastal areas in the early 16th cent. and introduced the Roman Catholic religion. By the mid-17th cent. the Dutch had taken over the Portuguese possessions and the rich spice trade. In 1795 the Dutch possessions were occupied by the British, who made the island, then known as Ceylon, a crown colony in 1798. In 1815 the island was brought under one rule for the first time when the central area, previously under the rule of Kandy, was conquered. Under the British, tea, coffee, and rubber plantations were developed, and schools, including a university, were opened. A movement for independence arose during World War I. The constitution of 1931 granted universal adult suffrage to the inhabitants; but demands for independence continued, and in 1946 a more liberal constitution was enacted.

An Independent Nation

Full independence was finally granted to the Ceylon on Feb. 4, 1948, with dominion status in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1950 delegates of eight countries of the Commonwealth met in Colombo and adopted the Colombo Plan for economic aid to S and SE Asia. The replacement of English as sole official language by Sinhalese alienated the Tamils and other minorities, and led to Tamil protests and anti-Tamil attacks. Riots in 1958 between Sinhalese and the Tamil minority over demands by the Tamils for official recognition of their language and the establishment of a separate Tamil state under a federal system (which had been negotiated but then abandoned by the government) resulted in severe loss of life, predominantly among the Tamil community. In Sept., 1959, Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was assassinated, and in 1960 his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became prime minister. The Federal party of the Tamils was outlawed in 1961, following new disorders.

Certain Western business facilities were nationalized (1962), and the country became involved in disputes with the United States and Great Britain over compensation. The radical policies of Mrs. Bandaranaike aroused opposition, and the elections in 1965 gave a parliamentary plurality once more to the moderate socialist United National party (UNP) of Dudley Senanayake, who became prime minister with a multiparty coalition. Under Senanayake, closer relations with the West were established and compromise arrangements were made for recompensing nationalized companies. However, economic problems and severe inflation continued, aggravated by a burgeoning population (between 1946 and 1970 the population almost doubled).

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike and her three-party anticapitalist coalition won a landslide victory, following considerable preelection violence. She launched social welfare programs, including rice subsidies and free hospitalization, but failed to satisfy the extreme left, which, under the Marxist People's Liberation Front (JVP), attempted to overthrow the government in an armed rebellion in 1971. With Soviet, British, and Indian aid, the rebellion was quelled after heavy fighting. In 1972 the country adopted a new constitution, declared itself a republic while retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations, and changed its name to Sri Lanka. In the early 1970s the government was confronted with a severe economic crisis as the country's food supplies and foreign exchange reserves dwindled in the face of rising inflation, high unemployment, a huge trade deficit, and the traditional policy of extensive social-welfare programs.

Civil War

Repression of the Tamil language fueled demands by the Tamil minority for an independent state. Election of a new UNP government under J. R. Jayawardene in 1977 and the implementation of economic reforms geared toward growth did little to restrain an upsurge of terrorist violence or of bloody anti-Tamil riots (1977, 1981, 1983). In the 1980s the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam initiated a full-scale guerrilla war against the army in the north and east; at the same time, radical Sinhalese students assassinated government officials whom they believed were too soft on the Tamils, and in 1987–89 the JVP launched a new insurrection that was brutally suppressed. In response to a request from Jayawardene's government, India sent (1987) 42,000 troops to NE Sri Lanka. The Indian troops fought an inconclusive war with the Tigers and were asked to withdraw by Jayawardene's successor, Ramasinghe Premadasa, who was elected in 1988.

The Indian troops withdrew in late 1989, and fighting resumed in 1990. In 1993, Premadasa was assassinated in a suicide bombing; he was succeeded as president by prime minister and UNP leader Dingiri Banda Wijetunga. A year later, the opposition People's Alliance party (PA) came to power, and Chandrika Kumaratunga, the daughter of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became prime minister and then president. Her government negotiated a cease-fire with the Tamil Tigers, but it collapsed after three months as violence resumed. In late 1995 the government, in a large-scale offensive, captured the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna; heavy casualties were reported there, while terrorist bombs caused civilian deaths in Colombo. The war continued throughout the 1990s, as government troops attacked rebel bases and terrorists carried out political assassinations (including those of several moderate Tamil politicians) and suicide bombings. By end of the century, more than 60,000 people had been killed in the ethnic conflict.

President Kumaratunga was injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at an election rally in Dec., 1999; a few days later, she narrowly won reelection. Subsequent attempts by Kumaratunga to negotiate a new constitution that would grant Tamils some autonomy proved unsuccessful, and fighting continued. In Oct., 2000, the PA remained the largest party after parliamentary elections, but it was six seats shy of an absolute majority, leading it form a coalition with a Muslim party. When that party withdrew, Kumaratunga suspended parliament (July–Sept., 2001) until she could form a coalition with the JVP, which had become a nationalist leftist party after 1989. Defections by members of her own party, however, ultimately forced her to dissolve parliament and call for new elections in December.

Following an opposition victory at the polls, the UNP's Ranil Wickremasinghe became prime minister, creating a politically divided government. He pledged to work with the president, and agreed to a truce and mediated negotiations with the Tamil guerrillas. The truce led to a formal cease-fire, brokered by Norway and signed in Feb., 2002, and off-and-on peace talks began the following September.

In Nov., 2003, the president suspended parliament and assumed control of the defense, interior, and information ministries, accusing the prime minister of yielding too much to the Tamil rebels in negotiations. She also briefly declared a state of emergency. The power struggle created a constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka, and paralyzed the government and its inconclusive negotiations with Tamil forces.

The crisis continued into 2004, and in January Kumaratunga claimed she was entitled to an additional year in office because of a secret swearing-in ceremony a year after she was elected to her second term. (Sri Lanka's supreme court ruled against her claim to an additional year in 2005.) The following month the president called early elections, which were held in April. Her PA-led coalition won a plurality of the parliamentary seats, and she appointed Mahinda Rajapakse prime minister.

Meanwhile, a split developed in the Tamil guerrillas in Mar., 2004, when the smaller eastern force broke away, but the following month the main northern force reasserted control in the east. The rebels accused the government of supporting the renegade faction and refused to restart the peace talks. Sri Lanka's coastal areas, especially in the south and east, were devastated by the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that was caused by an earthquake off NW Sumatra. More than 34,000 people died, and more than 800,000 displaced. Only Sumatra itself suffered greater loss of life.

An agreement between the government and the rebels to share the distribution of disaster aid seriously weakened the governing coalition when the JVP quit the government in protest. The JVP challenged the agreement in court, and although it was upheld in principle, the court's objection to aspects of it led to suspension (July, 2005) of its implementation. At the same time, there escalating Tamil attacks, and in August the foreign minister was assassinated. The government invoked emergency rule, and subsequently called for a renegotiation of the cease-fire agreement with the Tamil rebels to establish stronger sanctions for cease-fire violations.

In the 2005 presidential election, Prime Minister Rajapakse formed an alliance with the JVP and Buddhist nationalists and came out strongly against autonomy for the Tamils, while his main opponent, the UNP's Wickremasinghe, was supported by Muslim and Tamil parties. Rajapakse narrowly won the presidency, aided in part by violence and intimidation by the Tamil Tigers that kept Tamil voters from the polls in the north and east. Rajapakse named as prime minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, a Sinhalese nationalist who had served in the post during 2000–2001.

By the end of 2005 the cease-fire with the Tamils appeared more breached than honored. A new round of Norwegian-sponsored peace talks began in Feb., 2006, but even their continuation was subject to difficult negotiations. In April the breaches of the cease-fire escalated sharply, and the Tamil Tigers withdrew from the talks. By the fall the country had returned to civil war in all but name, but attempts to restart negotiations continued. By the end of 2006 the rebels had declared the truce defunct, and the government had readopted antiterror measures that it had abandoned in 2002.

Fighting in E Sri Lanka that began in July, 2006, led to a government offensive that was initially focused on the east; it continued into subsequent years and steadily succeeded in reclaiming territory from the rebels, who had controlled some 5,800 sq mi (15,000 sq km) in 2006. In Jan., 2008, the government officially ended the truce with the rebels, and in heavy fighting during 2008, the government made significant further advances into rebel territory. By Jan., 2009, Sri Lankan forces had reopened a land route to Jaffna, which had been closed since 2000.

The military continued to have successes in subsequent weeks, confining the Tamil rebels to a relatively small coastal strip, but as many as 330,000 civilians were also trapped in the area. Many civilians fled the fighting in Apr., 2009, when a breach in the Tamil defenses allowed them to escape. By late May the Tamil Tigers had been destroyed as an military force, Prabhakaran had been killed, and the government had ended rebel control of Sri Lankan territory. Since the 1980s more than 70,000 people had died as a result of the conflict; according to government figures, some 22,000 rebels and 6,200 government troops died in the last 34 months of fighting. It is unclear how many civilians died in the last weeks of the fighting when the rebels were using them as human shields. Government forces were accused of killing Tamils indiscriminately during its offensive in 2009, and some estimates place civilian deaths as high as 40,000 during 2008–9.

In Sept., 2009, some 265,000 Tamil refugees remained confined to government camps, leading to criticism from the United Nations and international human rights groups; the government said that 70% would be resettled by November and all of them by the end of Jan., 2010. By December, some 130,000 remained in the camps, with at least 11,000 of those suspected of being former Tamil Tigers. Roughly two years later, all but about 1,000 suspected former Tamil Tigers had been released.

Seeking to benefit from his government's victory over the rebels, Rajapakse called a presidential election two years early, and subsequently defeated (Jan., 2010) Sarath Fonseka, the general who had led Sri Lanka's forces but who had a falling out with the president. The campaign was marred by violence, mainly against the opposition, and by one-sided coverage by the government-controlled media, and the results were challenged by the opposition. Fonseka subsequently was arrested (February) by the military, accused of participating in politics while in uniform and other charges, and convicted later in the year after two trials. His trial by courts martial was questioned by legal experts, who said he should be tried in a civilian court, and his lawyer accused the army of assembling a group of prejudiced judges. (The convictions were reversed by Rajapakse's successor.)

The events during the election, the arrest of Fonseka, and harassment of journalists and the opposition led the opposition and others to accuse the government of antidemocratic tendencies. Also in Feb., 2010, the president dissolved parliament; elections in April resulted in a landslide victory for the president's party against a divided opposition. Rajapakse subsequently named D. M. Jayaratne as prime minister, and in September secured amendments to the constitution that abolished presidential term limits and increased presidential powers. Record monsoon rains in Jan., 2011, led to severe flooding in parts of the country; some 300,000 people were forced from their homes. In Sept., 2011, the emergency rule in effect since 2005 was ended, but at the same time new antiterrorism regulations were adopted that preserved some of the government's emergency powers. In the years after the Tamil Tigers were crushed the government undertook significant development in Tamil areas, but the continuing presence of the army there and human-rights violations by security forces undermined the reintegration of former rebel-held areas into Sri Lankan society.

In late 2012, the government impeached and removed (2013) the chief justice; though appointed by Rajapakse, she had ruled against a government move to transfer control of the economic development budget from the provinces to the central government. The impeachment (declared illegal under Rajapakse's successor) was seen as a further consolidation of power in Rajapakse and his family, which controlled the defense and economic development ministries as well as the parliamentary speakership. In late 2014, Rajapakse called an early presidential election for Jan., 2015. Maithripala Sirisena, a former health minister under Rajapakse, defected from the Sri Lanka Freedom party to run as the opposition unity candidate, and the president lost the support of a number of other prominent government supporters.

Rajapakse, who had been expected to win handily, was defeated by Sirisena, who denounced the concentration of power in the Rajapakse family hands and promised to reverse constitutional changes made under Rajapakse and to reduce the powers of the presidency. In Apr., 2015, Sirisena succeeded in winning passage of some reductions in the president's powers, though the changes were not as significant as he had wanted; presidential term limits were restored. In June the president dissolved the parliament and called for new elections in August in an effort to win support for his reforms.

Bibliography

See L. A. Mills, Ceylon under British Rule, 1795–1932 (1965); N. E. Weerasooria, Ceylon and Her People (4 vol., 1970–71); M. D. Raghavan, Tamil Culture in Ceylon (1971); L. M. Jacob, Sri Lanka: From Dominion to Republic (1973); R. F. Nyrop et al., Sri Lanka (1985); V. Samaraweera, Sri Lanka (1987); A. J. Wilson, Break-Up of Sri Lanka: The Sinhalese-Tamil Conflict (1989); C. R. De Silva, Sri Lanka (1991); J. C. Holt, ed., The Sri Lanka Reader (2011).

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Area: 65,610 square kilometers (25,332 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Pidurutalagala (2,524 meters/8,281 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 6 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 435 kilometers (270 miles) from north to south; 225 kilometers (140 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 1,340 kilometers (833 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean south of India. It is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Sri Lanka has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Sri Lanka has neither summer nor winter but instead has rainy and dry seasons. Sri Lanka receives the northeast monsoon from December through March and the southwest monsoon from June through October. Seventy-five percent of Sri Lanka is a dry zone, primarily in the northern and eastern regions. These areas receive an average annual rainfall of 127 to 190 centimeters (50 to 75 inches), most of which comes from the northeast monsoon. The wet zone, in the southwest region, receives 254 to 508 centimeters (100 to 200 inches) of rain each year, mostly from the southwest monsoon. In any one location on the island, the temperature remains fairly constant year-round. For example, the temperature in Colombo varies only from 25°C to 28°C (77°F to 83°F). The island's lowland areas have hot weather, with annual temperatures averaging from 23°C to 31°C (73°F to 88°F), while the central mountains are cooler, averaging 14°C to 24°C (57°F to 75°F). Sri Lanka's humidity averages between 70 percent and 90 percent.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Situated on the Indian Tectonic Plate, the island is a teardrop-shaped mass separated from India by 29 kilometers (18 miles) of shallow sea. The south-central section of Sri Lanka is a rough plateau cut by a range of mountains. Narrow coastal plains surround the mountainous region to the east, south, and west. In the north, the coastal plain extends from the eastern to the western shores of the island. Rivers and streams flow towards the sea in all directions from the central mountain area.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Sri Lanka lies in the northern Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to its east. The waters surrounding the island are so deep that Sri Lanka is almost unaffected by tidal variations. To the south of Adam's Bridge, the Gulf of Mannar comes between Sri Lanka's northwest coast and India. Coral reefs extend around the Gulf of Mannar and sections of the southern and eastern coasts. Much of the coral is dying, however, from pollution, dynamite fishing, and changes in sea temperatures due to global warming. The Laccadive Sea borders Sri Lanka on the southwest.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Palk Strait and Palk Bay separate Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula from India. Koddiyar Bay indents the eastern coast, forming a superb natural harbor for the port of Trincomalee. A little further north, Kokkilai Lagoon cuts into the coast near the point at which the Yan River empties into the sea.

Islands and Archipelagos

A few small islands extend from the north of Sri Lanka to the Indian mainland. Delft, covering 50 square kilometers (19 square miles), and Velanai, with an area of 68 square kilometers (26 square miles), are both situated in Palk Bay. Southwest of the Jaffna Peninsula, an elevated portion of the continental shelf forms the chain of rocky islands known as Adam's Bridge, nearly connecting Sri Lanka's northwest coast to India. Mannar Island is part of Adam's Bridge.

Coastal Features

The Jaffna Peninsula, a dry limestone extension, is Sri Lanka's northernmost region, with Point Pedro at its tip and Jaffna Lagoon to its south. Further south on the western coast, the Kalpitya Peninsula extends in a hook enclosing Puttalam Lagoon. The southern and southwestern coastline of Sri Lanka is famous for its many beautiful beaches, which are shared by tourist resorts and fishing communities. The southernmost point of the island is Dondra Head, marked with a lighthouse built in 1899.

6 INLAND LAKES

Although Sri Lanka has few natural lakes, there are twelve thousand bodies of water ranging from tiny ponds to huge artificial reservoirs. The oldest of the traditional reservoirs, known as tanks, is believed to be Basawakkulam, built about 300 b.c. and covering more than 30 square kilometers (11 square miles). There are as many as ten thousand tanks of various sizes. There are also flood plain lakes, called villus, which are generally near river bends.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

The rivers of Sri Lanka rise in the high mountains and flow over the plateaus down to the plains in a ring of waterfalls. A survey found 272 waterfalls on the island. There are sixteen principal rivers. The Mahaweli, which flows northeast from the central highlands for 341 kilometers (206 miles), is the longest. With the exception of the 167-kilometer (104-mile) Aruvi Aru in the northwest, the other chief rivers range from 100 to 156 kilometers (62 to 97 miles) in length. The Yan flows from the center of the island northeast to the Bay of Bengal. In the southeast, the relatively short Gal runs eastward from Gal Oya National Park to the ocean, and just north of it the Maduru runs to the coast near Batticaloa. The southern end of the island has the Gin River, and the northwestern region has rivers at nearly even intervals running westward from the center to the coast. From north to south, they are the Aruvi Aru, Kala, Mi, Deduru, and Maha Rivers.

8 DESERTS

There are no notable desert regions in Sri Lanka.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Grasslands occur in the central highlands, the arid north, and along the eastern hills. The Uva Basin has distinctive wet grasslands called patanas. Gal Oya, in the southeast, is a national park, with tall grasses and monsoon forest. It has medicinal plants and is an elephant habitat. The Horton Plains are grasslands mixed with temperate forest, though the forests are dying off. About 25 percent of Sri Lanka is covered by forest, and 20 percent of that is tropical rainforest. Sinharaja, in the southern lowlands, is Sri Lanka's last significant primary rainforest, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Dry zone forests include thorn forests in the northwest and southeast, dry evergreen forests, and deciduous monsoon forests. The eastern slopes of the central highlands contain savannah forests that are very susceptible to burning and droughts. Tropical evergreen rainforests are found at low and high elevations of the wet zone. Mangrove forests are declining along the coasts. Remaining forest cover exists mostly in disconnected patches of protected land.

The island's southeastern plain is interspersed with rounded hills that are the bare tops of eroded mountains. Gentler, grass-covered hills occur in the Uva Basin of the central highlands.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

The island's southwest is a series of ridges and valleys. Close to the sea, the ridges are low and parallel to the coast, but inland they become mountain chains alternating with long, narrow depressions. The Sabaragamuwa Ridges cover nearly the entire southern region of the country.

High mountain walls distinguish the central highlands (also known as the hill country). Elevations of more than 1,524 meters (5,000 feet) are the rule; Adam's Peak, a pilgrimage destination, rises to 2,243 meters (7,360 feet). The Piduru Ridges comprise the central mass of the hill country. This nearly inaccessible mountain fortress includes Sri Lanka's highest mountain, Pidurutalagala, with a summit of 2,524 meters (8,281 feet).

The northernmost sections of the central highlands are the Knuckles (Dumbara) group of mountains, including Knuckles Peak that rises to a height of 1,863 meters (6,112 feet). The Mahaweli River valley separates the Dolosbage mountain range from the rest of the central highlands.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

In the Dolosbage area of the central highlands, deep, narrow valleys lie between the ridges creating a rock maze. The Kandy Plateau is also cut by ridges and valleys and by the Mahaweli River gorge.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The Hatton Plateau is one of a series of high plains of the central highlands. Its elevation ranges from 914 to 1,219 meters (3,000 and 4,000 feet). The rivers that flow between its ridges ultimately form the Mahaweli. Nearly all of the Hatton Plateau is used for tea cultivation. The ancient town of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated on the Kandy Plateau in the northwest central highlands. Horton Plains, a 32-square-kilometer (12-square-mile) national park in the southern central highlands, is Sri Lanka's highest plateau at 2,130 miles (6,988 feet).

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Sri Lanka's largest lake, Maduru Oya (63 square kilometers/24 square miles), is a modern reservoir in the central highlands. Other large reservoirs include Randenigala (27 square kilometers/10 square miles), Victoria Falls (23 square kilometers/9 square miles), and Kotmale (10 square kilometers/ 4 square miles). These huge highlands reservoirs were formed by the damming of the Mahaweli River for irrigation, hydro-electricity, and water supply projects completed between 1977 and 1983. Sri Lanka has forty-six large dams and many smaller hydropower projects. Nature sanctuaries have been established around the reservoirs to protect the watersheds, but tens of thousands of people were displaced as a result of the construction, and valuable agricultural land was submerged. The reservoirs are becoming choked with silt and the water levels are dropping.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Bradnock, Robert, and Rona Bradnock. Sri Lanka Handbook. Emeryville, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2001.

Devendra, Tissa. Sri Lanka, the Emerald Island. Torrance, CA: Heian International, 2000.

Niven, Christine. Sri Lanka. London: Lonely Planet, 2001.

Web Sites

Sri Lanka WWW Virtual Library. http://www.lankalibrary.com (accessed April 23, 2003).

Welcome to Sri Lanka Webserver. http://www.lanka.net (accessed April 23, 2003).

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka .

Country statistics

area:

65,610sq km (25,332sq mi)

population:

18,732,255

capital (population):

Colombo(642,020)

government:

Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 18%, Moor (Yonaka) 7%

languages:

Sinhala and Tamil (both official)

religions:

Theravada Buddhist 69%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Muslim 7%

currency:

Sri Lankan rupee = 100 cents

Republic in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is a pear-shaped island, separated from se India by the Palk Strait. A chain of coral islands (Adam's Bridge) almost joins the two countries. Most of Sri Lanka is low-lying. cliffs and lagoons fringe the coastal plain. On the sw coast lies the capital, Colombo. The s central core of Sri Lanka is a highland region. The highest peak is Pidurutalagala, at 2524m (8281ft). Nearby, Adam's Peak, at 2243m (7359ft), is a pilgrimage centre. The major highland city is Kandy.

Climate and Vegetation

Western Sri Lanka has high temperatures and heavy rainfall. The n and e are drier. The monsoon season is between May and October. More than 30% of Sri Lanka is tropical rainforest or woodland. The highlands are open grassland. More than 14% of land is cultivated for tea and spice gardens, rice fields, and sugar plantations.

History and Politics

Sinhalese settlers from n India forced the native Veddahs into the mountains c.2400 years ago. Some Veddahs remain in remote regions. The Sinhalese founded Anuradhapura in 437 bc, which acted as their capital and a centre of Theravada Buddhism, until the arrival of the Tamils in the 8th century ad. In the 11th century, the Chola dynasty conquered the island and the Sinhalese were gradually forced s.

The Portuguese landed in 1505, and formed coastal settlements. In 1658, Portuguese lands passed to the Dutch East India Company. In 1796, the British captured the Dutch colonies, and in 1802 Ceylon became a Crown Colony. In 1815, Britain captured Kandy. Colonial settlers developed the plantations. In 1948, Ceylon achieved self-government within the Commonwealth of Nations. In the late 1950s, following the declaration of Sinhalese as the official language, communal violence flared between Tamils and Sinhalese. In 1958, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike was assassinated. In 1960, his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became the world's first woman prime minister. Following a brief period in opposition, she was re-elected in 1970. In 1972, Ceylon became the independent republic of Sri Lanka (‘Resplendent Island’). The new republic faced resurgent demands for a separate Tamil state (Tamil Eelam) in n and e Sri Lanka. In 1983, secessionist demands spiralled into civil war between government forces and the Tamil Tigers. In 1987, the Sri Lanka government sought Indian military assistance. Unable to enforce the peace, Indian troops withdrew in 1989. In 1993, President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated. In 1994, Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected president, and her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became prime minister for the third time. In 1995, government forces recaptured Jaffna from the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers refused to accept devolution and the war, which has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives, continued. Kumaratunga was re-elected in 1999. In 2001, the National Unity Party won elections and Ranil Wickramasinghe became prime minister. In December 2004, more than 30,000 people on the southern and eastern coast died in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Economy

Sri Lanka is a low-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$3200). Agriculture employs 50% of the workforce. Sri Lanka is the world's third-largest producer of tea It is also a leading producer of coconuts and rubber. Manufacturing has increased rapidly and contributes 67% of exports. Products include ceramics, textiles and clothes. Tourism is also important.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.lanka.net/home/

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SRI LANKA

SRI LANKA. A country of South Asia, and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: Sinhala, Tamil (both official, national languages), and English (often used in government and spoken by some 10% of the nation, including especially the Burghers). The first Europeans to visit the island were the Portuguese in 1505, who built a fort at Colombo. The Dutch forced them out in 1658, but failed to gain control of the whole island. The British defeated them in 1796 and established the colony of Ceylon in 1802, to which Tamil labourers were brought from south India to work on tea and coffee plantations. Ceylon became a Dominion of the British Empire in 1948 and the independent republic of Sri Lanka in 1972. Until about 1831, the teaching of English was in the hands of missionaries; when the government took control, there were 235 Protestant schools in the island, and until 1886 Christian schools and colleges predominated.

English in Sri Lanka

One result of the long-established tradition of such institutions was the emergence of two broad and at times hostile educated classes: an English-using and largely Christian minority and a Sinhala-educated majority, most of whom were Buddhists. Until 1948, three languages were used side by side, English, Sinhala, and Tamil. English served as the language of administration, the generally desired language of higher education, and a link language between the communities. In 1956, however, a socialist government replaced English with Sinhala, unleashing in the process social disturbance that has not yet come to an end. The Sinhala-only policy resulted in ‘the sharp cleavage between Sinhalese and Tamils, most of whom are monolingual in their own tongues and therefore have no means of communication with members of the other community’ ( Rajiva Wijesinha, An Anthology of Contemporary Sri Lankan Poetry in English, Colombo, The British Council, 1988). In recent years, a three-language policy has been proposed that provides for equality among Sinhala, Tamil, and English, and to some extent seeks to restore the position of English, whose role in the community was greatly reduced from the 1960s to the 1980s. English in Sri Lanka, sometimes referred to as Lankan English, has a range of subvarieties based on proficiency in its use and the language background of its users. In general terms, it is a subvariety of SOUTH ASIAN ENGLISH sharing many features with INDIAN ENGLISH.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka or Ceylon was settled during the 6th cent. bc by peoples from the Indian subcontinent, who subsequently converted to Buddhism. Hindu Tamils conquered the island in the 11th cent. ad but were eventually driven back to a northern enclave. The powerful Kandyan kingdom arose in the central region and was first encountered by the Portuguese in 1505. They established a hold over the south-west coast until moved on by the Dutch in the 17th cent. The Dutch took over virtually the entire seaboard and developed a lucrative spice trade which became the envy of the British in India. In 1795 the East India Company invaded but mismanaged their rule. When Ceylon was finally ratified in British possession at the treaty of Amiens (1802), it was made a crown colony. The British displaced the kings of Kandy in 1818 and developed Ceylon as a plantation economy. The emergence of an important Sinhala and Tamil middle class permitted advanced constitutional experiment. A legislative council was established as early as 1912 and a universal franchise adopted in 1931. Ceylon was granted independence within the Commonwealth in February 1948 and, in 1972, adopted a republican constitution under the ancient name of Sri Lanka.

David Anthony Washbrook

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Culture Name

Sri Lankan

Alternative Names

Ceylonese, Lankan

Orientation

Identification. The official name of the nation is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. In 1972, the national constitution discarded the name Ceylon and adopted the name of Sri Lanka. In Sinhala, the language of the majority, Sri means "blessed" and Lanka is the name of the island.

The island's history of immigration, trade, and colonial invasion has led to the formation of a variety of ethnic groups, each with its own language and religious traditions. Besides the majority Sinhala Buddhists, the nation also includes Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamils of recent Indian origin, Muslims, semitribal Väddas, and Burghers, descendants of intermarriages between Sri Lankans and Europeans. Although the members of these groups share many cultural practices, beliefs, and values, ethnic differences have become especially marked since the nation's independence in 1948. These differences and the exclusive policies of the Sinhala-dominated central government have led to escalating ethnic conflicts, including the current civil war in which Sri Lankan Tamil rebels are fighting for an independent nation in the northern and eastern regions of the island to be called Eelam.

Location and Geography. Sri Lanka is a small tropical island off the southern tip of India. The island nation covers approximately 25,332 square miles (65,610 square kilometers) and is divided ecologically into a dry zone stretching from the north to the southeast and a wet zone in the south, west, and central regions. This contrast in rainfall combined with topographical differences has fostered the development of regional variation in economy and culture. The north-central plains are dotted by the ruins of ancient kingdoms built around man-made lakes. The northern tip of the island is the traditional home to the Sri Lankan Tamils who consider Jaffna, its principal city, their cultural and political center. The dry lowlands of the eastern coast, site of fishing and rice cultivation, are particularly diverse both ethnically and culturally, with Muslims, Tamils, and Sinhalas composing almost equal portions of the population in some areas. The central highlands are famous for tea plantations and, in the southwestern part, gem mines. Kandy, the principal city of this central "Hill Country," was the seat of the last of the indigenous kingdoms and continues to be an important ritual, administrative, and tourist center. The southern coastal lowlands are the site of coconut, rubber, and cinnamon estates, an active fishing industry, and beautiful beaches. Located on the west coast is the island's largest city, Colombo, a hub of international commerce as well as the seat of government administration located on its outskirts in Sri Jayawardenepura.

Demography. According to the islandwide census in 1981, there were nearly 15 million inhabitants of Sri Lanka. This population was concentrated in the wet zone and around the principal cities, although barely three million people were considered to live in urban areas. At that time, there were approximately eleven million Sinhalas, two million Sri Lankan Tamils, one million Tamils of recent Indian origin, 1.5 million Muslims, and less than seventy thousand people of other ethnicities. Although the civil war in the north and east of the island has thwarted subsequent census plans, it was estimated that the population in 2000 stood near nineteen million.

Linguistic Affiliation. There are three official languages in Sri Lanka: Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Sinhala, the language of the majority, and Tamil, spoken by Muslims as well as ethnic Tamils, are the primary languages of the island. English was introduced during British rule and continues to be the language of commerce and the higher levels of both public and private sector administration. Language has been a volatile issue in Sri Lanka, particularly following independence when the "Sinhala Only" campaign came to the political fore, provoking resistance from the Sri Lankan Tamils in particular, and thus paving the way toward the civil war.

Symbolism. The official symbols of Sri Lanka are largely drawn from those representing the Sinhala Buddhist majority. Sinhala means "lion's blood" and the lion is the central image on the national flag. Also pictured on the flag and other emblems of national culture are the leaves of the sacred Bo Tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment. Other symbols central to Sri Lankan Buddhism and Sinhala mythology have also become icons of national identity, such as the Tooth Relic of the Buddha, the possession of which has provided legitimacy to Sinhala rulers for thousands of years.

There are also symbols of national culture that reflect a more integrated national identity. For instance, the color blocks on the nation's flag represent each of Sri Lanka's three major ethnic groups. The Sri Lankan elephant is a symbol of national heritage and of prosperity, both for its long association with wealth and royalty and for its association with Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of wealth. The betel leaf and oil lamp are used to mark special occasions. Images of the island's natural resources, such as palm trees, gems, and beaches, are promoted as part of the tourist industry and other international commercial enterprises. The players and events that are part of the wildly popular national cricket team serve as symbolic foci of national culture. Further, the performance of certain islandwide customs, such as bowing in respect, serve as symbolic enactments of a national cultural identity.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. There is archaeological evidence that the island was inhabited as early as 10,000 b.c.e. The present-day Väddas, who live in remote areas of Sri Lanka and use a simple technology, are apparently descended from these early inhabitants mixed with the later arriving Tamils and Sinhalas, who were both well established on the island by the third century b.c.e. It is widely believed that the Sinhala people migrated to the island from north India, bringing their Indo-Aryan language and some version of Brahmanism with them, although Buddhism was introduced in their principal areas of settlement during the third century b.c.e. The Tamils emigrated to the north of the island from southern India, bringing Hinduism and their Dravidian language with them. The Sinhalas, the Tamils, and various south Indian invaders built powerful kingdoms with advanced agricultural projects and elaborate religious institutions, kingdoms that periodically brought the island under the authority of a single regime.

Because of its important ports along the East-West trade routes and desirable goods, traders were drawn to the island. Some of these Arab traders made Sri Lanka their permanent home, adding Islam to the island's religions. In the early sixteenth century Portuguese traders introduced Christianity as they began to make use of the island, eventually gaining control over productive portions of it.

In 1638 the king of Kandy drove out the Portuguese with the help of the Dutch. The Dutch then kept the land for themselves, controlling all but the kingdom of Kandy until they were driven out by the British in 1796. In 1815 the British ousted the last king of Kandy, gaining control over all of Sri Lanka, which remained a British colony until 1948.

On 4 February 1948, Ceylon, as the nation was then known, became politically independent of Great Britain, though it remained part of the Commonwealth.

National Identity. The current Sri Lankan national identity is dominated by the Sinhala majority, although this identity is resisted by the minority ethnic groups. Since independence, national leadership has consistently appealed to the Sinhala majority and the strength of the Buddhist monastic orders, marginalizing the non-Sinhala, non-Buddhists from the Sri Lankan identity and limiting access to state-controlled benefits. Despite the politicization of separate ethnic identities, there is a core of cultural beliefs, practices, and values that are largely shared among the people of Sri Lanka, particularly in the domains of the economy, social stratification, gender, family, and etiquette.

Ethnic Relations. Sri Lanka has always been home to a multiethnic and multireligious society. Because of the historic fluidity in migration and marriage patterns, the physical attributes of the principal ethnic groups are widely distributed. While conflicts between various groups have periodically flared up, beginning in 1956 the ethnic rivalry between the Sinhala-Buddhist majority and the Sri Lankan Tamil minority has intensified to an unprecedented level and led to the eruption of civil war in 1983. Since that time, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant organization of Sri Lankan Tamils, have been fighting for an independent Tamil state in the north and east.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

In the precolonial period, only the ruling elite and religious establishments were permitted to have permanent buildings. As a result, most of the archaeological ruins represent the heritage of elite culture, the ancient states, and the temple complexes, many of which are still in use today. The most elaborate of Sri Lanka's architecture continues to be dedicated to religious purposes, ranging from the imposing domes of the mosques to the graceful spires of the Portuguese churches to the ornate and colorful figures covering the Hindu temples to the white, bell-shaped dagobas that house the relics of the Buddha. The influences from these religious traditions have combined with the influences of the colonists and more modern designs to produce a diverse architectural landscape in the urban areas as well as the rural, where 7080 percent of the population continues to live.

Residential buildings vary widely according to the socioeconomic status of their inhabitants. Rural peasants live in small temporary wattle and daub (stick and mud), thatched houses whose style has remained unchanged since ancient times. In the urban area of Colombo, half of the residents are estimated to live in "low income" areas characterized by crowded dilapidated buildings and adjoining watte, built of a hodgepodge of thatch, wooden planks, and corrugated metal sheets along railways and roadways, beaches, rivers, and canal banks. In this same city are modern apartment buildings and colonial-era gated compounds with attached servants' quarters.

All over the island, there is a preference for whitewashed cement houses with polished cement floors and windows designed to keep out the heat and light but let in the air through built-in vents. The front of the house with its sitting room, bedrooms, dining area, and veranda is typically separated from the back of the house in which the kitchen and washing areas are located, a division that reflects notions of the danger of pollution by outsiders. Buddhist, Hindu, or even Christian shrines are often located within the house or the garden areas that surround it.

Public spaces provide the setting for a variety of valued activities. Each community, no matter how small, contains a public school, a place of worship, and a shop or two where people can buy daily necessities as well as exchange gossip. Wells, rivers, and other bathing places are also important social gathering places.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Sri Lanka's staple meal is a large serving of rice accompanied by up to twelve different side dishes of vegetables, egg, meat, or fish stewed together with peppers, spices, and often coconut milk. This rice and curry meal is traditionally eaten at midday, although it may also be served in the evening. The traditional morning and evening meals are usually composed of a traditional starchy staple, such as string hoppers (fresh rice noodles), hoppers (cup-shaped pancakes), roti (coconut flat bread), or thosai (sourdough pancakes), served with a sambol (a mixture of hot peppers and other vegetables, served cool) and one or two curries.

A variety of snacks and beverages are also eaten periodically throughout the day. Strong, sweat tea, usually with milk, is drunk alone or following a small serving of finger food or sweets, especially at mid-morning and late afternoon. Curd, a yogurt made from the milk of water buffaloes or cows, is often served as a dessert with palm syrup or sugar. A rich variety of fruits is available year-round.

Eating outside of the home has not been very common, although it is becoming more so. In almost every town there is at least one Chinese-style restaurant where alcohol is also served, as well as Sinhala, Muslim, and Tamil restaurants and traditional snack booths. In the capital, Western chain restaurants as well as other foreign-style foods are increasingly available.

There is some ethnic variation in foods and customs, as well as food taboos. For instance, Muslims avoid pork while Hindus are often vegetarian. Sinhala and Tamil people tend to take care that the foods served together create a balance of hot and cold energies. They also typically will not accept food prepared by those of relatively lower caste status.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Kiribath, rice cooked in coconut milk, is part of nearly every ceremonial occasion in Sri Lanka. Kawum (sweet oil cakes) and other special snacks are also popular at special events. Alcoholic beverages do not play a role in the formal rituals of Sri Lanka, being condemned by Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism alike. Alcohol is, however, a ubiquitous part of men's social gatherings, where beer, toddy (fermented palm nectar), arrack (distilled palm nectar), and kassipu (an illegally distilled beverage), are consumed in great quantities.

Basic Economy. Sri Lanka's economy is shifting away from its traditional agricultural base to include production for an international market, a shift accelerated by a major policy change in the 1977 transition from a socialist-style, state controlled economy to a free market economy lead by the private sector. By the mid-1990s, roughly one-quarter of the population was employed as skilled workers in agriculture, fishing, or animal husbandry; one-quarter in skilled craft or factory production; one-quarter in administration, medicine, law, education, accounting, sales, services, or clerical work; and one-quarter as unskilled laborers. In spite of this shift away from agriculture, Sri Lanka has recently achieved near self-sufficiency in rice production and other staple foods.

Land Tenure and Property. Although private ownership of land has been well established in Sri Lanka since the precolonial period, most of the land is currently owned by the state and leased to private individuals and companies. Religious establishments also own substantial tracts of land. Today as in the past, private property is passed from parents to children, with the bulk of landholdings going to sons. Although the sale of housing lots is a growing industry, the sale of agricultural land is relatively uncommon. This, in combination with the subdivision of property with each generation, has created very small holdings of paddy land, which are inefficient to farm, something that the World Bank has identified as the primary cause of poverty in Sri Lanka.

Commercial Activities. Sri Lanka's towns and villages as well as its urban centers are typically active sites of commercial exchange. Most of the nonplantation agricultural crops that are not consumed in the home are sold at local markets, along with traditional craft products such as brass, pottery, and baskets, which are largely produced by hereditary caste groups. Repair, construction, tailoring, printing, and other services are always in demand, as is private tutoring. Tourists are also the focus of a range of commercial activity.

Major Industries. The major industries in Sri Lanka are involved with agricultural production and manufacturing. Nearly one-third of the agricultural production of the island is from the tea and rubber estates, products that are partially processed locally. The production of textiles and apparel; food, beverages, and tobacco; and wood and wood products together account for a quarter of all manufacturing. Heavy industry is largely confined to government-controlled steel, tire, and cement manufacturing, oil refining, mining, and quarrying. Transportation, construction, and energy production are also important locally oriented industries. In addition, the ongoing war effort, the education system, and the tourism industry comprise significant sectors of the economy.

Trade. In recent years, the sale of garments manufactured in Sri Lanka has outstripped the more traditional exports of tea, rubber, and coconut products, although the latter continue to be among the largest exports, along with locally mined gems. Textiles, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and metals, and other raw materials are among the principal imports. In 1996, Sri Lanka exported nearly $5 billion (U.S.) worth of goods, with nearly $1.5 billion (U.S.) worth of products going to the United States, three times more than any other country. In the same year, over $5 billion (U.S.) worth of goods were imported from other countries, over half a billion each from Japan and India.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, the division of labor in Sri Lanka has been largely based on caste, gender, and ethnicity. Although members of all ethnic groups participate to some degree across the range of occupations, particular ethnic groups are thought to predominate in certain occupations, for instance, the Sinhala in rice cultivation and the public sector, and the Muslims, Tamils, and recent immigrants in trade. Different castes are also associated with particular occupations, which is not necessarily reflected in the actual work that people do. Symbolically associated with occupations such as rice farming, the largest and highest status Sinhala castes are typically land holders and recipients of service obligations from the lower castes. The lower status service castes are associated with hereditary crafts such as mat weaving, jewelry making, and clothes washing. Increasingly, these hereditary statuses are being replaced by education and command of English as the most important determinants of employment.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Even though the ideal of social equality is widely diffused in contemporary Sri Lanka, stratification according to caste and class, as well as gender and ethnicity, continues to be very important. Class is determined by attributes such as wealth and education while caste, a traditional part of Hindu and Buddhist society in Sri Lanka, is determined by birth into a predetermined status hierarchy, typically understood as a matter of reward or retribution for one's deeds in previous lives. The traditional correspondence between these statuses was upset by 450 years of colonial rulers who often privileged members of certain, relatively low-status castes, effectively raising their class status and that of their offspring. The importance and legitimacy of caste continues to be undermined by political and economic developments. Class differentiation, on the other hand, is increasing both in day-to-day social interaction and manifestations of disparities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Traditionally, caste identity was extensively marked by ritual roles and occupations, names of individuals and places, networks of social relations, and regulations of dress and housing. Degrees of difference within the caste hierarchy were also marked by forms of address, seating arrangements, and other practices of deference and superiority. Today, where these hierarchical relations continue, there is a degree of uneasiness or even resentment toward them, particularly among the educated younger generations. Class status, in contrast, is increasingly manifested in speech, dress, employment, education, and housing. In general, elite classes can be identified by their command of English, education in exclusive schools, executive-level employment, possession of valued commodities, and access to international networks, whereas the lower classes are associated with manual labor, minimal comforts, and a lack of social contacts with the elite.

Political Life

Government. Sri Lanka is governed by a democratically elected president and a 225-member parliament. The president serves for a term of six years and has the power to dismiss the parliament, out of which the president selects cabinet members, a prime minister, and a chief justice. Although regular elections at all levels of government have been held since independence, there are increasing allegations of tampering and violence. The current leadership is considering a new constitution in which greater powers would be reserved for the provincial governments, a move calculated to address the ethnic conflicts and end the nation's civil war.

Leadership and Political Officials. Although a spectrum of political parties campaign within Sri Lanka, political leadership is almost exclusively drawn from the traditional, propertied elite. Family lineage and caste affiliation figure prominently in selection of candidates at all levels. Since independence, only two parties have drawn the majority of their leadership from the lower classes and challenged the control of the elite: the ultraleft Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, who staged armed insurrections that posed a significant threat to the stability of the nation in 1971 and again between 1987 and 1989, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Since political leaders distribute state-controlled benefits and resources, such as access to employment, quality schools, and even passports, their constituents work to stay in their good graces. These elected leaders, who typically distribute resources preferentially to their supporters, make an effort to be seen as benefactors and are often more personally accessible than many bureaucrats.

Social Problems and Control. Although crime rates are rising, Sri Lanka's citizens are generally respectful of both formal and informal laws, as well as of each other. Throughout the nation's history, however, there have been periodic explosions of violence and lawlessness. Since the 1980s, there have been massive riots, bombings, and insurrections that have effectively challenged the authority of the state and resulted in massive bloodletting. Large portions of the island are not under the control of the state but are in the hands of the LTTE rebels. In response to these challenges, the government has periodically declared states of "emergency rule" that extend its constitutional authority.

The police, the military, and the judiciary system are in place to maintain government control. Imprisonment is the main legal sanction for those who are convicted of violations of the law. The death penalty, suspended for many years, is being considered for re-introduction in response to the perceived rise in crime and violence.

Informal sanctions also provide strong deterrents against socially unacceptable behavior. Rumor and gossip are particularly feared, whether these take the form of village talk, anonymous petitions to the newspapers, or posters mounted in public spaces. Acceptance in the family and other important social groups to which one belongs and how one's behavior reflects on the reputation of these groups are among the most powerful motivators of social compliance. The threat of sorcery or divine retribution on an injured party's behalf, as well as more earthly threats of violence and revenge, also act to ensure good behavior.

Military Activity. There are three branches of the all-volunteer national military: the army, the navy, and the air force. Since independence, Sri Lanka's military, once largely ceremonial, has been called on to counter civil violence and terrorist activities, as well as provide more peaceable services, such as coastal supervision and surveying. Since 1983, they have been fighting a full-scale civil war against the LTTE army which is reportedly well-trained and internationally funded. Between 1990 and 1995, defense spending made up the largest portion of the national budget, comprising over 20 percent of annual expenditures.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Sri Lanka has often been referred to as the model welfare state. With free and universal education and health care, subsidized transportation, and a wide range of public sector programs to assist the poor, the quality of life is high in comparison with other developing countries. Since the change in economic policies of 1977 which emphasize private sector growth, however, the quality and availability of these government services have been eroding and have been increasingly replaced by private resources accessed by the middle and elite classes. Besides the difficulty posed by reductions in state funding, the civil war has created additional challenges to the welfare system as up to 1.5 million people have been displaced, a group that has been targeted for relief and resettlement by nongovernmental organizations and private donors.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Since 1977, foreign-supported nongovernmental organizations have proliferated, providing welfare services and promoting social agendas such as human rights, fair elections, conflict resolution, and peace initiatives. Other civil organizations that are more locally led and membership-based, such as trade unions and cooperatives, are largely dependant on or part of the political sector of Sri Lankan society. Religious organizations are the primary exception to this, and are independent from political society, which tends to regard them with fear and respect. Another notable exception is the Sarvodaya Movement which has been active since 1958, mobilizing volunteer labor for community service.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In Sri Lanka, there is a strong tradition of both men and women working, with men focusing more on income opportunities and women focusing on the household. Currently, women's participation in the paid labor force is significant, although not evenly distributed, concentrated in professions such as nursing, teaching, tea picking, and garment construction. In manufacture and agricultural work, men are typically assigned tasks considered more physically demanding, while women are assigned the more repetitive, detail-oriented work at which they are thought to be better than men. Opportunity for foreign employment for women, while relatively available and well-paying, is restricted to domestic work, whereas opportunities for men are more varied, ranging from manual labor to engineering. Within the home, regardless of their engagement in paid labor, women and girls do all food preparation and most other domestic work.

Although most schools are segregated by gender, education has always been important for both boys and girls in Sri Lanka. The literacy rates for men and women are similarly high; the last census in 1981 found that 87 percent of females over the age of ten years were literate, compared to 91 percent of males.

Leadership roles in Sri Lanka are largely held by men, with some important exceptions. Sri Lanka elected the world's first female prime minister in 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, whose daughter is the current president of the nation. While this is not indicative of the political power of women in general, it is true that Sri Lankan women have held voting rights since they were instituted in 1931 and have long held certain property rights. The large majority of religious leaders and officiants are also male, while women tend to be overrepresented among their followers.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. It is a widely held position among social scientists as well as lay people that the status of women is relatively high in Sri Lanka, especially in comparison to other South Asian nations. There has never been the practice of child marriage or the burning of widows in Sri Lanka. Even though most groups on the island prefer for new brides to move into their husbands' homes, women traditionally retain strong ties with their own natal families. Additionally, although it is expected among most groups for the bride's family to give the groom a dowry, in practice this property commonly remains in the possession of the wife until she passes it on, typically to her daughters.

Despite these traditional practices and the full rights of citizenship that women in Sri Lanka enjoy today, women consistently defer to men across all domains of life, including the workplace and the home. Women also bear the greater weight of social expectations and sanctions for noncompliance. In addition, sexual harassment and assault, while seldom reported to the authorities, are common experiences.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. In all ethnic groups, marriages are traditionally arranged by the families of the couple. "Love marriages" initiated by the couples themselves are, however, increasingly common. Regardless of who initiates the marriage, the bride and groom are expected to be of the same socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and, for Buddhists and Hindus, caste status, although the groom is expected to be slightly older, taller, and educationally and professionally more qualified than the bride. Additionally, there is a preference among Tamil and Sinhala groups for cross-cousin marriage, which is marriage with the child of one's father's sister or one's mother's brother. Among Muslims, the preferred match is between parallel cousins, the children of two brothers. It is also considered best if the couple are of similar ages.

The age at which people marry is on the rise, especially for women. According to the 1981 census, over a quarter of those over twenty have never been married. Divorce, while increasingly common, still occurs in less than 1 percent of marriages. Remarriage following divorce or the death of a spouse is possible for both men and women, although it is uncommon for previously married women to marry never-married men.

Domestic Unit. Ideally, a husband and wife live in their own household with their unmarried children, even if that household is actually a small section of an extended family home. In Sri Lanka, individual households are identified by cooking practices, so that, even within a larger house, a wife will cook for her husband and children independently from others who may live within the structure, perhaps sharing the same kitchen.

While women may have a great deal of power within a family, ultimate authority belongs to the oldest male member of a household, whether that is the father, husband, brother, or son. Sri Lankans express a preference that their first child be a girl, whom they believe will help care for and be a disciplining influence on younger siblings. While overall there is a preference for sons, this is not as strong as in other South Asian countries.

Inheritance. The majority of Sri Lankan families practice bilateral inheritance, giving a portion of the family possessions to all children in the family. In practice, fixed property such as land and the family home go to sons and mobile property such as cash and jewelry go to daughters, usually in the form of her dowry.

Kin Groups. In Sri Lanka, the notion of ancestral place and the kin group associated with it is very important, even as people move to other areas because of employment opportunities or displacement. This hereditary home is the site of life-cycle rituals as well as day-to-day interaction with extended kin. It is most common for this kin group to belong to the father's family, as there is a preference for women to move to the homes of their husband, raising their children among his relatives. It also happens, however, that husbands join wives' families instead, particularly among the matrilineal people of the island's east.

Socialization

Infant Care. In Sri Lanka, young children are highly adored, fondled, and indulged by everyone, both male and female. Infants are traditionally kept with their mothers or female relatives. Babies are carried until they can walk and sleep with mothers until they are school-aged, at which time they are encouraged to move into a bed with their siblings. Nearly all mothers breast-feed their children, commonly through the first year.

Child Rearing and Education. Throughout childhood, important rituals are conducted around culturally significant milestones, such as the first feeding of solid food and the introduction of the letters of the alphabet. The coming of age ritual following a girl's first menstruation is an important marker of her entrance into the adult world, although there is no such similar rite of passage for boys.

As children grow, they are expected to develop a sense of lajjawa, a feeling that combines shyness, shame, modesty, and fear. It is cultivated early in childhood and used to teach self-control, beginning with bowel-control training, which starts at one year, then with weaning and nudity, and later with school performance.

Although mothers perform most of the child rearing, they are more responsible for their daughters' discipline and tend to be more indulgent with their sons. Fathers tend to indulge all of their children under five, at which point they take on a stricter disciplinary role, particularly with their sons whom they are responsible for controlling. Corporal punishment is quite common, especially from older males to boys.

In Sri Lanka, education has always been highly valued and encouraged. School attendance is compulsory between the ages of six and fourteen, although children often attend preschool and typically continue until the completion of the secondary level. Academic competition starts early, as parents scramble to place their children in the better primary schools, and continues with three sets of standardized exams that determine access to subsequent educational privileges. To prepare for these exams and other academic challenges, almost all children attend private tutorial sessions in addition to their regular schooling.

Higher Education. All of Sri Lanka's universities are government sponsored and attendance is free. Admission is determined by exam, so that only 2 percent of Sri Lanka's children eventually are enrolled in the universities, although children from affluent families frequently gain admittance to foreign universities. Of those who enter the Sri Lankan university system, the majority go into the arts, which includes humanities and social sciences, a course of study taught in the vernacular languages. Unemployment following graduation is high for these students, reflecting a disjuncture between market needs and university education. Those who attend the technical/professional schools, which are taught in English, tend to be more employable. Opportunities for postgraduate education are quite limited within the country.

Protests against authorities are well established among university students at all levels. New entrants to the university student community are routinely subjected to "ragging," a form of collective harassment by the senior students in an effort to create a sense of common identity and an anti-establishment consciousness.

Etiquette

Many of the most important rules of etiquette serve to mark differences in social rank. Both Sinhala and Tamil contain a range of linguistic markers for status as well as relative social distance and intimacy. In routine social interactions, personal names are avoided in preference to nicknames, relationship terms, or other titles.

Gender is also an important factor in determining appropriate conduct. Among all but the most urbanized, women are expected to defer to men of relatively equal status and to avoid all implication of sexual impropriety by keeping themselves well covered at all times. They are also expected to refuse all alcohol and tobacco and to refrain from direct physical contact with men. Between members of the same gender and with children, however, there is a great deal of physical contact that emphasizes closeness.

At meals, women usually eat last, after they have served the men and the children of the household, although visitors are served first, regardless of gender. While the more Westernized may use silverware, food is commonly eaten with the right hand, a preference that extends to other domains as well.

In public, people tend to speak in hushed tones if at all, although leaders and sellers are expected to shout. Large emotional displays of any type are uncommon in public. Greetings are often unvocalized, with broad smiles exchanged between strangers and a friendly raised eyebrow to frequent acquaintances. When new people are involved in a conversation, the mutual acquaintance is asked questions about the stranger. Seldom does direct self-introduction occur. Unusual behavior of any kind draws unconcealed observation.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Buddhism, the religion of the majority of people in Sri Lanka, is given a place of preference in the national constitution and public life, although Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are also practiced by significant portions of the population. Except in the case of Christians, who are drawn from a variety of ethnic groups, these religious traditions map directly onto the three major ethnic groups: Sinhala/Buddhist, Tamil/Hindu, and Muslims.

The 1981 census reported that 69 percent of the population considered themselves Buddhists, 15 percent Hindus, 8 percent Muslims, and 8 percent Christians. In practice, however, there is a degree of blending between these practices as well as an incorporation of ancient indigenous and astrological beliefs.

Sri Lankan Buddhists and Hindus, in particular, share a number of foundational beliefs and ritual practices. The moral codes of both of these religious traditions recommend moderation and restraint, Hindus stressing the discipline of one's behavior and Buddhists advocating "the middle path." In both, the concept of karma and rebirth are central, ideas that posit that one's actions in this lifetime determine the kind of life into which one will be reborn through the quantity of merit that one earns. While both Buddhism and Hinduism also propose that one can escape the cycle of rebirth, a goal that is highly elaborated within Buddhism, the acquisition of spiritual merit to gain a better rebirth either for one's self or one's loved ones generates much of the religious activity of the laity. Among the participants in both of these religions, there is also a belief in a broad pantheon of gods, spirits, and demons, into which many local deities have been absorbed. These beings may be male or female, benevolent or malevolent, moral or amoral, but they are all considered subject to the same laws of death and rebirth as other beings. Devotees, including some Muslims and Christians, appeal to these gods to assist them with a variety of (mostly worldly) concerns.

Religious Practitioners. In Sri Lanka, each of the four major religions are served by native religious leaders, although not exclusively; the island is home to training institutions for specialists in each of its organized religions.

The largest and most active group of religious specialists are the members of the Buddhist monkhood, or Sangha, who are ordained for life to follow a path of celibacy committed to the disattachment from worldly life. As temple monks, they provide spiritual guidance to the laity, serve as role models, and act as a source of merit acquisition for those who support them. They do not, however, traditionally play a role in secular matters or life-cycle rituals, except the death rites. Well organized and often in control of fair amounts of property, the Sangha have considerable influence in society, both historically and today.

The priests of the various gods are more independently organized. The ethnicity of the priests depends on their clientele more than the origin of the gods they serve. Tamil Hindu priests are born into their roles, almost traditionally but not exclusively coming from the Brahman caste. Sinhala Buddhist priests, who serve many of the same gods, are drawn from the laity and are increasingly likely to be women.

Members of both the Buddhist and Hindu laity also play a variety of specialized religious roles as mediators, renunciates who withdraw from worldly pursuits, and other kinds of adepts.

Rituals and Holy Places. Sri Lanka is home to many sacred sites visited by foreigners and locals alike. Kandy's Sri Dalada Maligawa, which houses the Tooth Relic of the Buddha, is an active temple complex that is the ritual center of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. During this temple's annual perahera season, the Tooth Relic is paraded through the torch-lit streets, accompanied by dancers, drummers, and elephants. While this is the island's largest perahera, or religious procession, other temples around the island host their own at different times of the year.

Pilgrimage is an important religious activity for many Sri Lankans. Kataragama, the most popular and elaborate of the pilgrimage centers, is primarily dedicated to the deity, although it is visited by members of all four of the island's religions. The summit of Sri Pada, or Adam's Peak, another important pilgrimage destination, is the traditional home of Saman, a Sinhala guardian deity common to both Sri Lankan Buddhists and Hindus. A large rock at the top is believed by Buddhists to have been imprinted with the footprint of the Buddha during one of his legendary visits to Sri Lanka and by Muslims to hold the footprint made by Adam as he was cast out of paradise. The ancient temples, especially of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, are also important pilgrimage sites.

Death and the Afterlife. Death ceremonies are quite elaborate in Sri Lanka, usually conducted by the families of the deceased in conjunction with religious officiants. Bodies are first embalmed in a secular, medical process and then returned to the families for funeral rites involving the gathering of extended family and the sharing of food, followed by either burial or cremation. Among Buddhists and Hindus the body is kept in the ancestral home for as long as a week while a variety of rituals are performed to give merit to the deceased in order to ensure a good rebirth. A series of purification rituals are also performed to protect the family members from the pollution from the body. White is the color associated with funerals, except for monks whose death is marked with yellow. Following a death, white banners, flags, and other decorations are put up according to the status of the deceased. Anniversaries of a death are also marked by rituals performed by family members.

Medicine and Health Care

The quality of life in Sri Lanka is among the highest in the developing world based on indicators such as its average life expectancy of seventy years, a relatively low infant mortality rate, and a well-developed infrastructure that provides safe drinking water and latrines to at least two-thirds of its inhabitants, an adequate food supply, and an extensive network of health-care providers.

In Sri Lanka, several different types of health systems are available. The state's free and universal health-care system includes Western allopathic medicine as well as South Asian Ayurvedic treatments. In addition, there are a variety of private clinics offering Western and Ayurvedic services, indigenous herbal specialists, and ritual healers. In general, people do not see these various health systems as mutually exclusive or contradictory, simultaneously accessing different systems for the same or different types of ailments.

Dosha, which loosely translates as "troubles," is the central concept that integrates these various health systems. Within Ayurveda, the concept refers to the physical and emotional problems resulting from imbalances in the body humors of heat, coolness, and wind. But the concept of Dosha is much broader in the folk system, referring to all kinds of problems including financial, academic, and social difficulties. Imbalances may result from food, spirit attack, or contact with some other extreme and may require different treatment approaches available from the different health systems.

Although there is a certain amount of popular knowledge about illness prevention, diagnosis, and treatment derived from these different systems, each is primarily administered by trained practitioners. Doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers are trained in modern Western allopathic medicine through Sri Lanka's university system as well as in foreign institutions. Ayurvedic doctors are trained in university-affiliated colleges in Sri Lanka and India. Indigenous herbal medical training is passed through apprenticeship from father to son. Different types of healing rituals are also conducted by expertssuch as exorcists, drummers and other caste-based professionals, and priests and priestess of the godssometimes in consultation with astrologers.

Secular Celebrations

All Saturdays and Sundays are public holidays, as is the Poya Day of each month which marks the full moon. Independence Day on 4 February and May Day on 1 May are also public holidays. During April, the island largely shuts down for a week as its Sinhala and Tamil residents celebrate the traditional new year, the exact day of which is determined by astrologers. In addition, the major Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian days are also reserved as public holidays.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Whether nationally acclaimed or only locally recognized, Sri Lankan artists are primarily supported by the clients who commission or purchase their work. In addition, some larger corporations sponsor particular projects and the government gives some small stipends and positions of honor to notable artists.

Literature. Sri Lanka has a long and prolific history of written as well as oral literature. As early as the fifth century c.e., both Sinhala and Tamil writers were recording histories and religious stories, as well as writing on more secular topics. This tradition continues today as fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and journalists write in all three of the nation's languages; some of their works have been translated into other languages as well. However, Sri Lanka's university and public libraries, once reputed to be the best in South Asia, are underfunded and poorly maintained as a result of increased budgetary constraints since 1977.

Graphic Arts. Religious topics and institutions heavily influence Sri Lanka's statuary and pictorial art. Local handicrafts, encouraged during the socialist days, have been challenged by less expensive imports since 1977. Some of these traditional handicrafts, such as pottery and basket weaving, are caste-based activities and tend to be more utilitarian than decorative. Others, such as wood carving, are highly ornate and well respected in international as well as local markets.

Performance Arts. Performance is the most vibrant of all art forms in Sri Lanka, particularly drumming and dancing. All fully professional theater productions are performed in a ritual context, although there is also modern, secular theater which is semiprofessional. There are also numerous forms of music produced and appreciated on the island including traditional drumming, religious chanting, work songs, South Asian and Western classical music, as well as contemporary popular music and film songs from national artists and abroad. Although appealing to different sections of the community, performances of all types are typically well-attended in Sri Lanka.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Sri Lanka's medical, engineering, and sociological fields are internationally respected although they are challenged by lack of funding and the loss of many of the best researchers to foreign institutions. Additionally, the switch from English to the vernacular languages in the social science departments of the universities has made it difficult for scholars to participate in an international exchange of ideas.

Bibliography

Alexander, Paul. Sri Lankan Fisherman: Rural Capitalism and Peasant Society, 1982.

Arachchige-Don, Neville S. Patterns of Community Structure in Colombo, Sri Lanka: An Investigation of Contemporary Urban Life in South Asia, 1994.

Baker, Victoria J. A Sinhalese Village in Sri Lanka: Coping with Uncertainty, 1998.

Brow, James. "The Incorporation of a Marginal Community within the Sinhalese Nation." Anthropological Quarterly 63 (1): 717, 1990.

Daniel, E. Valentine. Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence, 1996.

David, K. A. "Until Marriage Do Us Part: A Cultural Account of Jaffna Tamil Categories for Kinsmen." Man 8 (4): 521535, 1973.

de Munck, Victor C. Seasonal Cycles: A Study of Social Change and Continuity in a Sri Lankan Village, 1993.

de Silva, K. M. A History of Sri Lanka, 1981.

Dissanayake, Wimal. "Newspapers as Matchmakers: A Sri Lankan Illustration." Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 13 (1): 97108, 1982.

Gombrich, Richand F. Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon, 1971.

, and Gananath Obeyesekere. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka, 1988.

Good, Anthony. The Female Bridegroom: A Comparative Study of Life-Crisis Rituals in South India and Sri Lanka, 1991.

Kapferer, Bruce. Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia, 1988.

Kearney, R. N., and D. B. Miler. "The Spiral of Suicide and Social Change in Sri Lanka." Journal of Asian Studies, 2 (1): 81101, 1985.

Knox, Robert. An Historical Relation of Ceylon, 1681, reprinted, 1966.

Leach, E. R. "Introduction: What Should We Mean by Caste?" In E. R. Leach, ed., Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon, and Northwest Pakistan, 1960.

McGowan, William. Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka, 1992.

Obeyesekere, Gananath. Medusa's Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience, 1981.

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught, 1974.

Roberts, M. "Filial Devotion in Tamil Culture and the Tiger Cult of Martyrdom." Contributions to Indian Sociology, 31 (2): 245272, 1996.

Ryan, Bryce F. Caste in Modern Ceylon: The Sinhalese System in Transition, 1953.

Schalk, P. "Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers in Tamil Ilam: The Martial Feminism of Atel Palacinkam." South Asia Research, 14 (2): 163183, 1994.

Silva, Kalinga Tudor. "Caste Ethnicity and the Problem of National Identity in Sri Lanka." Sociological Bulletin 48 (1 and 2):201215, 1999.

, and Karunatissa Athukorala. The Watte-dwellers: A Sociological Study of Selected Urban Low-income Communities in Sri Lanka, 1991.

Spencer, Jonathan. A Sinhala Village in a Time of Trouble: Politics and Change in Rural Sri Lanka, 1990.

, ed. Sri Lanka: History and Roots of the Conflict, 1990.

Tambiah, S. J. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka, 1992.

Yalman, Nur. Under the Bo Tree: Studies in Caste, Kinship, and Marriage in the Interior of Ceylon, 1967.

Bambi L. Chapin and Kalinga Tudor Silva

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

SINHALESE 161
TAMILS 169

The people of Sri Lanka are called Sri Lankans. Ethnic groups include the Sinhalese making up about 74 percent of the total population; Tamils, making up 18 percent of the total. Other groups together make up almost 8 percent. A small group of Veddas, an aboriginal (native) tribe represent less than 1 percent.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lankaalpaca, attacker, backer, clacker, claqueur, cracker, Dhaka, hacker, Hakka, knacker, lacquer, maraca, paca, packer, sifaka, slacker, smacker, stacker, tacker, tracker, whacker, yakka •Kafka •anchor, banker, Bianca, canker, Casablanca, Costa Blanca, flanker, franker, hanker, lingua franca, Lubyanka, rancour (US rancor), ranker, Salamanca, spanker, Sri Lanka, tanka, tanker, up-anchor, wanker •Alaska, lascar, Madagascar, Nebraska •Kamchatka • linebacker • outbacker •hijacker, skyjacker •Schumacher • backpacker •safecracker • wisecracker •nutcracker • firecracker • ransacker •scrimshanker • bushwhacker •barker, haka, Kabaka, Lusaka, marker, moussaka, nosy parker, Oaxaca, Osaka, parka, Shaka, Zarqa •asker, masker •backmarker • waymarker •Becker, checker, Cheka, chequer, Dekker, exchequer, Flecker, mecca, Neckar, Necker, pecker, Quebecker, Rebecca, Rijeka, trekker, weka, wrecker •sepulchre (US sepulcher) • Cuenca •burlesquer, Francesca, Wesker •woodpecker

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the November 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.

Cities: Capital—Colombo (pop. est. 1.3 million—urban area). Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte is the officially designated capital and is the site of Parliament, but it is currently only an administrative center. Other cities—Kandy (150,000), Galle (110,000), Jaffna (100,000).

Terrain: Coastal plains in the northern third of country; hills and mountains in south-central Sri Lanka rise to more than 2,133 meters (7,000 ft.).

Climate: Tropical. Rainy seasons—light in northeast, fall and winter, with average rainfall of 50 in.; heavy in southwest, summer and fall, with average rainfall of 200 in.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sri Lankan(s).

Population: 20.1 million.

Annual growth rate: 1.1%.

Ethnic groups: (2002) Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%), others (1%).

Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Languages: Sinhala and Tamil (official), English.

Education: Years compulsory—to age 14. Primary school attendance—96.5%. Literacy—91%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—14/1,000. Life expectancy—72 yrs. (male); 77 yrs. (female).

Work force: 7.5 million (excluding Northern and Eastern provinces).

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: February 4, 1948.

Constitution: August 31, 1978.

Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Government branches: Executive—president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative—unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, subordinate courts.

Political subdivisions: Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts.

Political parties: Janatha Vimuk-thi Peramuna, Jathika Hela Uru-maya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Tamil National Alliance, United National Party, several small Tamil and Muslim parties, and others.

Economy (2007 est.)

GDP: $32.4 billion.

Annual growth rate: 6.7%.

Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.

Agriculture: (16.8% of GDP) Major products—rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.

Services: (56.2% of GDP) Major types—tourism, wholesale and retail trade, transport, telecom, financial services.

Industry: (27% of GDP) Major types—garments and leather goods, rubber products, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, gems and jewelry, non-metallic mineral-based products, and construction.

Trade: Exports—$7.6 billion: garments, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets—U.S. ($ 2.1billion), U.K., India Imports—$11.5 billion. Major suppliers—India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Iran, Malaysia, Japan, U.K., U.A.E., Belgium, Indonesia, South Korea, U.S. ($210 million).

PEOPLE

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country's main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Sinhalese make up 74% of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Ceylon Tamils, citizens whose South Indian ancestors have lived on the island for centuries, total about 12% and live predominantly in the north and east.

Indian Tamils, a distinct ethnic group, represent about 5% of the population. The British brought them to Sri Lanka in the 19th century as tea and rubber plantation workers, and they remain concentrated in the "tea country" of south-central Sri Lanka. In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 "stateless” Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, some 200,000 of whom now live in India. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, chose to remain in Sri Lanka and have since been granted Sri Lankan citizenship.

Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.); and aboriginal Veddahs. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu. The majority of Sri Lanka's Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Sizable minorities of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholic. The 1978 constitution, while assuring freedom of religion, grants primacy to Buddhism.

Sinhala, an Indo-European language, is the native tongue of the Sinhalese. Tamils and most Muslims speak Tamil, part of the South Indian Dravidian linguistic group. Use of English has declined since independence, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle and upper middle classes, particularly in Colombo. The government is seeking to reverse the decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons. Both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages.

HISTORY

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later 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. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

The island's contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as “Serendip,” the root of the word “serendipity” Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island's coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy, last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948.

Post-Independence Politics

Sri Lankan politics since independence have been strongly democratic. Two major parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have generally alternated rule.

The UNP ruled first from 1948-56 under three Prime Ministers—D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley, and Sir John Kotelawala. The SLFP ruled from 1956-65, with a short hiatus in 1960, first under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and then, after his assassination in 1959, under his widow, Sirimavo, the world's first female chief executive in modern times. Dudley Senanayake and the UNP returned to power in 1965.

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike again assumed the premiership. A year later, an insurrection by followers of the Maoist “Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna” (JVP, or “People's Liberation Front”) broke out. The SLFP government suppressed the revolt and declared a state of emergency that lasted 6 years.

In 1972, Mrs. Bandaranaike's government introduced a new constitution, which changed the country's name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, declared it a republic, made protection of Buddhism a constitutional principle, and created a weak president appointed by the prime minister. Its economic policies during this period were highly socialist and included the nationalization of large tea and rubber plantations and other private industries.

The UNP, under J.R. Jayewardene, returned to power in 1977. The Jayewardene government opened the economy and, in 1978, introduced a new constitution based on the French model, a key element of which was the creation of a strong executive presidency. J.R. Jayewardene was elected President by Parliament in 1978 and by nationwide election in 1982. In 1982, a national referendum extended the life of Parliament another 6 years.

The UNP's Ranasinghe Premadasa, Prime Minister in the Jayewardene government, narrowly defeated Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP) in the 1988 presidential elections. The UNP also won an absolute majority in the 1989 parliamentary elections. Mr. Prema-dasa was assassinated on May 1, 1993 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (“LTTE” or “Tigers”), and was replaced by then-Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister.

The SLFP, the main party in the People's Alliance (PA) coalition, returned to power in 1994 for the first time in 17 years. The PA won a plurality in

the August 1994 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Kumaratunga later won the November 1994 presidential elections and appointed her mother (former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to replace her as Prime Minister. President Kumaratunga won re-election to another 6-year term in December 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickra-manayaka was appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga remained as President. In November of 2003, President Kumaratunga suddenly took control of three key ministries, triggering a serious cohabitation crisis.

In January 2004, the SLFP and the JVP formed a political grouping known as the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In February, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. In these elections, which took place in April 2004, the UPFA received 45% of the vote, with the UNP receiving 37% of the vote. While it did not win enough seats to command a majority in Parliament, the UPFA was able to form a government and appoint a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The JVP later broke with the SLFP and left the government, but has often supported it from outside.

Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister. The current government has a majority in the Parliament through a coalition with a number of small minority parties and the backing of 18 dissident UNP members.

Communal Crisis

Historical divisions continue to have an impact on Sri Lankan society and politics. From independence, the Tamil minority has been uneasy with the country's unitary form of government and apprehensive that the Sinhalese majority would abuse Tamil rights. Those fears were reinforced when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike triumphed in the 1956 elections after appealing to Sinhalese nationalism. His declaration that Sinhala was the country's official language—an act felt by Tamils to be a denigration of their own tongue—was the first in a series of steps over the following decades that appeared discriminatory to Tamils. Tamils also protested government educational policies and agriculture programs that encouraged Sinhalese farmers from the south to move to newly irrigated lands in the east. The decades following 1956 saw intermittent outbreaks of communal violence and growing radicalization among Tamil groups. By the mid-1970s Tamil politicians were moving from support for federalism to a demand for a separate Tamil state—“Tamil Eelam”—in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas on a platform of separatism. Other groups—particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers)—sought an independent state by force.

In 1983, the death of 13 Sinhalese soldiers at the hands of the LTTE unleashed the largest outburst of communal violence in the country's history. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, tens of thousands were left homeless, and more than 100,000 fled to south India. The north and east became the scene of bloodshed as security forces attempted to suppress the LTTE and other militant groups. Terrorist incidents occurred in Colombo and other cities. Each side in the conflict accused the other of violating human rights. The conflict assumed an international dimension when the Sri Lankan Government accused India of supporting the Tamil insurgents.

In October 1997, the U.S. Government designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and has maintained this designation since then, most recently redesignating the group in October of 2003. The U.S. Government in November 2007 froze the U.S.-held assets of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, a charitable organization associated with the LTTE.

Indian Peacekeeping

By mid-1987, India intervened in the conflict by air-dropping supplies to prevent what it felt was harsh treatment and starvation of the Tamil population in the Jaffna Peninsula caused by an economic blockade by Colombo. Under a July 29, 1987, accord (the Indo-Lanka Accord) signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger—subject to later referendum—of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.

Within weeks, however, the LTTE declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and refused to disarm. The IPKF found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LTTE. Further complicating the return to peace was a burgeoning Sinhalese insurgency in the south. The JVP, relatively quiescent since the 1971 insurrection, began to reassert itself in 1987. Capitalizing on opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord in the Sinhalese community, the JVP launched an intimidation campaign against supporters of the accord. Numerous UNP and other government supporters were assassinated. The government, relieved of its security burden by the IPKF in the north and east, intensified its efforts in the south. The JVP was crushed but at a high cost in human lives.

From April 1989 through June 1990, the government engaged in direct communications with the LTTE leadership. In the meantime, fighting between the LTTE and the IPKF escalated in the north. India withdrew the last of its forces from Sri Lanka in early 1990, and fighting between the LTTE and the government resumed. Both the LTTE and government forces committed serious human rights violations. In January 1995, the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation of hostilities as a preliminary step in a government-initiated plan for peace negotiations. After 3 months, however, the LTTE unilaterally resumed hostilities. The government then adopted a policy of military engagement with the Tigers, with government forces liberating Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and moving against LTTE positions in the northern part of the country called the Vanni. An LTTE counteroffensive begun in October 1999 reversed most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna. Heavy fighting continued into 2001.

Peace Process and Resumption of Conflict

In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the LTTE and government declared unilateral cease-fires. In February 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and LTTE signed a ceasefire agreement sponsored by peace process facilitator Norway. Peace talks began in Norway in December 2002. The Tigers dropped out of talks in February 2003, however, claiming they were being marginalized. In July 2004, the first suicide bomb since 2001 struck Colombo.

In March 2004, Eastern Tiger commander Karuna broke with the LTTE, going underground with his supporters. In March 2006, the Karuna faction registered a political party, the Tamil People's Liberation Tigers. The LTTE and the Karuna faction have targeted each other in low-level attacks since that time.

Over 30,000 Sri Lankans died in the December 2004 tsunami, and hundreds of thousands of others fled their homes. In June 2005, the GSL and LTTE reached an agreement to share $3 billion in international tsunami aid. However, the agreement was challenged in court and was never implemented. In August 2005, the LTTE assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil. Parliament passed a state of emergency regulation that has been renewed every month since then.

During the November 2005 presidential election, the LTTE enforced a voting boycott in areas under its control. As a result, perceived hard-liner Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Mahinda Rajapaksa won by a narrow margin. Low-level violence between the LTTE and security forces escalated. In December 2005, pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance MP Joseph Pararajasingham was assassinated within a GSL high security zone in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

In February 2006, exactly four years after the ceasefire agreement was signed, the GSL and LTTE renewed their commitment to the agreement at talks in Geneva. There was a lull in violence until April 2006, when an explosion rocked a Sinhalese market in Trincomalee, followed by limited Sinhalese backlash against Tamils. Several days later, an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the main army compound in Colombo, killing eight soldiers and seriously wounding Army Commander General Fonseka. The government retaliated with air strikes on Tiger targets. In June 2006, an LTTE suicide bomber succeeded in killing Army third-in-command General Kulatunga in a suburb of Colombo.

The European Union banned the LTTE as a terrorist organization on May 30, 2006. In June 2006, GSL and LTTE delegations flew to Oslo to discuss the future of the Scandinavian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The Tigers refused to sit for talks with the GSL and instead demanded the SLMM remove any monitors from EU-member nations.

Heavy fighting in August 2006, the worst since the 2002 ceasefire, killed hundreds of people and caused tens of thousands to flee their homes when the Tamil Tiger rebels clashed with government forces in the north and east. In September 2006, the government carried out the first major seizure of enemy territory by either side since the 2002 ceasefire when it drove Tamil Tiger rebels from the entrance of the strategic Trincomalee harbor.

In October 2006, the LTTE attacked a Navy bus convoy at a transit point in Habarana, killing 90 sailors, and a few days later, attacked the Sri Lankan Navy Headquarters in Galle, a major tourist destination in the far south. Peace talks in Geneva at the end of October ended with no progress. The LTTE attempted to assassinate the Defense Secretary by bombing his motorcade in December 2006, but he escaped unharmed. Government troops took control of the LTTE's eastern stronghold of Vakarai in January 2007, resulting in thousands more internally displaced persons. In March 2007, the Tamil Tiger rebels launched their first-ever air attack, which targeted the Katunay-ake Air Force base adjacent to Bandaranaike International Airport. By July 2007, however, the government had recaptured the remaining territory held in the Eastern Province from the Tigers. In November 2007, a Sri Lankan Air Force bomb killed LTTE political chief and number two leader, S.P. Tamilchelvan. Also during that month, the LTTE detonated a bomb in a busy Colombo shopping center, killing 17 and wounding many more. Despite the fighting, neither side has formally abrogated the ceasefire.

GOVERNMENT

Under the 1978 constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and 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. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.

Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation 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's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 and the 13th amendment to the constitution, the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Pro-vincial Councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. As a result, the Provincial Councils have never functioned effectively. Devolution proposals under consideration as a means of finding a political solution to the ethnic conflict foresee a strengthening of the Provincial Councils, with greater autonomy from central control. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA

Prime Min.: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE

Min. of Agricultural Development & Agrarian Services Development: Maithripala SIRISENA

Min. of Child Development & Women's Empowerment: Sumedha JAYASENA

Min. of Community Development & Social Inequity Eradication: P. CHANDRASEKARAN

Min. of Constitutional Affairs & National Integration: D. E. W. GUNASEKARA

Min. of Construction & Engineering Services: Rajitha SENARATNE

Min. of Cultural Affairs: Mahinda Yapa ABEYWARDENA

Min. of Defense: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA

Min. of Disaster Management & Human Rights: Mahinda SAMARASINGHE

Min. of Education: Susil PREMAJAYANTHA

Min. of Enterprise Development & Investment Promotion: Sarath AMUNUGAMA

Min. of Environment: Champika RANAWAKA

Min. of Export Development & International Trade: G. L. PEIRIS

Min. of Finance & Planning: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA

Min. of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources: Felix PERERA

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Rohitha BOGOLLAGAMA

Min. of Foreign Employment Promotion & Welfare: Kehelilya RAMBUKWELLA

Min. of Heath Care & Nutrition: Nimal Siripala DE SILVA

Min. of Higher Education: Wisva WARNAPALA

Min. of Highways & Road Development: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE

Min. of Housing & Common Amenities: Ferial ASHRAFF

Min. of Indigenous Medicine: Tissa KARALLIYADDE

Min. of Industrial Development: Kumara WELGAMA

Min. of Internal Admin.: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE

Min. of Irrigation & Water Management: Chamal RAJAPAKSA

Min. of Justice: Amarasiri DODANGODA

Min. of Labor Relations & Manpower: Athauda SENAVIRATNE

Min. of Land & Land Development: Jeewan KUMARATUNGE

Min. of Livestock Development: R. M. C. B. RATNAYAKE

Min. of Local Govt. & Provincial Councils: Janaka Bandara TENNEKOON

Min. of Mass Media & Information: Anura Priyadharshana YAPA

Min. of National Herritage: Anura BANDARANAIKE

Min. of Parliamentary Affairs: M. H. MOHAMED

Min. of Petroleum & Petroleum Resources Development: A. H. M. FOWZIE

Min. of Plan & Implementation: P. DAYARATNE

Min. of Plantation Industries: D. M. JAYARATN

Min. of Ports & Aviation: Chamal RAJAPAKSA

Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: Rauff HAKEEM

Min. of Power & Energy: John SENAVIRATNE

Min. of Public Admin. & Home Affairs: Karu JAYASURIYA

Min. of Public Estate Management & Development: Milroy FERNANDO

Min. of Resettlement & Disaster Relief Service: Abdul Risath BATHIYUTHEEN

Min. of Rural Industries & Self-Employment Promotion: R. M. S. B. NAVINNA

Min. of Science & Technology: Tissa WITARANA

Min. of Social Services & Social Welfare: Douglas DEVANANDA

Min. of Special Projects: Mahinda WIJESEKERA

Min. of Sports & Public Relations: Gamini LOKUGE

Min. of Supplementary Crops Development: Dharmadasa BANDA

Min. of Tourism: Milinda MORAGODA

Min. of Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives, & Consumer Affairs: Bandula GUNAWARDENA

Min. of Transport: Dullas ALAHAPPERUMA

Min. of Urban Development & Sacred Area Development: Dinesh GUNAWARDENA

Min. of Vocational & Technical Training: Piyasena GAMAGE

Min. of Water Supply & Drainage: A. L. M. ATHAULLAH

Min. of Youth Affairs: Pavithra WANNIARACHCHI

Min. of Youth Empowerment & Socioeconomic Development: Arumugam THONDAMAN

Governor, Central Bank: Ajith Nivard CABRAAL

Ambassador to the US: Bernard GOONETILLEKE

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Prasad KARIYAWASAM

Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-4025).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sri Lanka's two major political parties—the UNP and the SLFP—embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.

Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys considerable stability despite relatively high levels of political violence. LTTE violence is largely confined to the Northern and Eastern provinces, which are 6 to 8 hours by road from the capital. Before the advent of the peace process, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets were common in Colombo, Kandy, and elsewhere in the country. LTTE terrorist activities have generally been aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka politically, economically, and socially. LTTE attacks on key political figures include the attempted assassinations of Social Affairs Minister Douglas Devananda in November 2007 and of Secretary of Defense Gothabaya Rajapaksa in December 2006, the assassination of Army General Kulatunga in June 2006, the attempted assassination of Army Commander General Fonseka in April 2006, the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005, the killing of the Industrial Development Minister by suicide bombing in June 2000, and the December 1999 attempted assassination of President Kumaratunga.

Economic targets included the airport in July 2001, the Colombo World Trade Center in October 1997, and the central bank in January 1996. In January 1998, the LTTE detonated a truck bomb in Kandy, damaging the Temple of the Tooth relic, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country.

ECONOMY

Sri Lanka is a lower-middle income developing nation with a gross domestic product of about $33 billion. This translates into a per capita income of $1,600. Sri Lanka's 91% literacy rate in local languages, and life expectancy of 72 years rank well above those of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. English language ability is relatively high but has declined significantly since the 1970s.

Sri Lanka's income inequality is severe, with striking differences between rural and urban areas. About a quarter of the country's population of 20.1 million remains impoverished. Civil conflict, falling agricultural labor productivity, lack of income-earning opportunities for the rural population, and poor infrastructure outside the Western Province are impediments to poverty reduction.

In 1978, Sri Lanka shifted away from a socialist orientation and opened its economy to foreign investment. But the pace of reform has been uneven. A period of aggressive economic reform under the UNP-led government that ruled from 2002 to 2004 was followed by a more statist approach under former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and current President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Despite a brutal civil war since 1983, economic growth has averaged around 4.5%. In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%—the only contraction since independence. Growth recovered to 4.0% in 2002. Following the 2002 ceasefire and subsequent economic reforms, the economy grew more rapidly, recording growth rates of 6.0% in 2003 and 5.4% in 2004. The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 32,000 people, displaced 443,000, and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage. The tsunami's overall economic impact was less severe than originally feared, with the economy growing by 6% in 2005 as the damage was offset by the reconstruction effort. The economic situation in Sri Lanka in 2006 was stable, despite a resumption of hostilities between the government and the LTTE and escalating oil prices. GDP growth in 2006 was a strong 7.4%. GDP grew in the first half of 2007 at an annual rate of 6.2%.

President Rajapaksa's broad economic strategy was outlined in his election manifesto “Mahinda Chin-tana” (Mahinda's Thoughts), which now guides government economic policy. Mahinda Chintana policies focus on poverty alleviation and steering investment to disadvantaged areas; developing the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector; promotion of agriculture; and expanding the already enormous civil service. The Rajapaksa Government rejects the privatization of state enterprises, including “strategic” enterprises such as state-owned banks, airports, and electrical utilities. Instead, it plans to retain ownership and management of these enterprises and make them profitable.

The future of Sri Lanka's economic health primarily depends on political stability, return to peace, and continued policy reforms—particularly in the area of fiscal discipline and budget management. Rising oil costs and the 24-year conflict have contributed to Sri Lanka's high public debt load (90% of GDP in 2007). Sri Lanka needs economic growth rates of 7-8% and investment levels of about 30% of GDP for a sustainable reduction in unemployment and poverty. In the past 10 years, investment levels have averaged around 25% of GDP.

Sri Lanka depends on a continued strong global economy for investment and for expansion of its export base. The government plans an ambitious infrastructure development program to boost growth. It hopes to diversify export products and destinations to make use of the Indo-Lanka and Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreements, GSP+ treatment by the European Union and other regional and bilateral preferential trading agreements.

The service sector is the largest component of GDP at around 56%. In 2007, the service sector continued its strong expansion, fueled primarily by strong growth in telecom, trading, transport, and financial services. Public administration and defense expenditures increased in 2007 due to resumption of hostilities, expansion of public sector employment, and the expenses associated with maintaining a 104-minister cabinet. There also is a growing information technology sector, especially information technology training and software development. The tourism sector has been impeded by the volatile security situation.

Industry accounts for 27% of GDP. The textile, apparel, and leather products sector is the largest, accounting for 39% of total industrial output. The second-largest industrial sector, at 22% of total manufacturing output, is food, beverages, and tobacco. The third-largest industrial sector is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products. The construction sector accounts for 7% of GDP. Mining and quarrying accounts for 2% of GDP.

Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It employs 33% of the working population, but accounts for only about 17% of GDP. Rice, the staple cereal, is cultivated extensively. The plantation sector consists of tea, rubber, and coconut; in recent years, the tea crop has made significant contributions to export earnings.

Trade and Foreign Assistance

Sri Lanka's exports (mainly apparel, tea, rubber, gems and jewelry) are estimated at $7.6 billion and imports (mainly oil, textiles, food, and machinery) are estimated at $11.5 billion for 2007. The resulting large trade deficit was financed primarily by foreign assistance, commercial borrowing, and by remittances from Sri Lankan expatriate workers. Sri Lanka must diversify its exports beyond garments and tea. Garment exports face increased competition following the 2005 expiration of the worldwide Multifiber Arrangement. The tea industry is challenged by a shortage of plantation labor and by growing competition. Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most important market, are estimated to be around $2.1 billion in 2007, or 27% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market for garments, taking almost 60% of total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, accounting for 21% of imports valued at over $2 billion. United States exports to Sri Lanka are estimated to be around $210 million in 2007, consisting primarily of textiles and specialized fabrics, tobacco, newsprint, food and beverages, chemicals, synthetic rubber-primary, electrical apparatus, telecommunications equipment, computers and accessories, and industrial supplies.

Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Japan, and other donors disbursing loans totaling $912 million in 2006. Foreign grants amounted to $301 million in 2006. While implementation of aid projects has been spotty over the years, the government is trying to improve this record by streamlining tender processes and increasing project management skills.

Labor

The unemployment rate has declined in recent years to about 6.3% in 2007. The rate of unemployment among women and high school and college graduates, however, has been proportionally higher than the rate for less-educated workers. The government has embarked on educational reforms it hopes will lead to better preparation of students and better matches between graduates and jobs.

More than 20% of the 7.5 million-strong work force is unionized, but union membership is declining. There are more than 1,650 registered trade unions, many of which have 50 or fewer members, and 19 federations. Many unions have political affiliations. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and Lanka Jathika estate workers union are the two largest unions, representing workers in plantation sector. The president of the CWC also is Minister of Youth Empowerment and Socio Economic Development. Other strong and influential trade unions include the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Jathika Sevaka Sangayama, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers, Conference of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, and the JVP-aligned Inter-Company Trade Union.

Public sector trade unions have recently resisted Government moves to restructure the state-owned electrical utility board and the petroleum company.

There are 1.5 million Sri Lankan citizens working abroad. A majority are women working as housemaids. Remittances from migrant workers, estimated at around $2.6 billion in 2007, are an important source of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, second only to earnings from apparel exports.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a nonaligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 2001. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.

U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS

The United States enjoys cordial relations with Sri Lanka that are based, in large part, on shared democratic traditions. U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka is characterized by respect for its independence, sovereignty, and moderate nonaligned foreign policy; support for the country's unity, territorial integrity, and democratic institutions; and encouragement of its social and economic development. The United States is a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the peace process that began in December 2001.

U.S. assistance has totaled more than $1.63 billion since Sri Lanka's independence in 1948. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it has contributed to Sri Lanka's economic growth with projects designed to reduce unemployment, improve housing, develop the Colombo Stock Exchange, modernize the judicial system, and improve competitiveness. At the June 2003 Tokyo Donors' Conference on Sri Lanka, the United States pledged $54 million, including $40.4 million of USAID funding. Following the 2004 tsunami, the United States is providing $135 million in relief and reconstruction assistance. In addition, the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB)—formerly Voice of America (VOA)—operates a radio-transmitting station in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Armed Forces maintain a limited military-to-military relationship with the Sri Lanka defense establishment.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO (E)
210, Galle Road, Colombo 3,, 94-11-249-8500,
Fax 94-11-243-7345, Workweek: M-Th:0800-1730,
F:0800-12:00, Website: http://colombo.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Karie L. Ennis
AMB OMS:Amanda T. Prytherch
ECO:Robert R. Gabor
FM:Sergio J. Tristan
HRO:Alboino L. Deulus
IBB:William S. Martin
MGT:Maria E. Brewer
AMB:Robert O. Blake, Jr..
CON:Christopher R. Green
DCM:James R. Moore
PAO:Terry J. White
COM:Kami A. Witmer
GSO:Yoshino E. Rosenstein
RSO:Michael V. Perkins
AFSA:Alboino L. Deulus
AID:Rebecca W. Cohn
CLO:Susan Hern
DAO:Ltc. James E. Oxley
EEO:Lissa M. McAtee
FIN:Alboino L. Deulus
FMO:Alboino L. Deulus
ICASS:Chair Rebecca W. Cohn
IMO:Mark A. Brewer
ISSO:Mark A. Brewer
POL:Michael R. Detar
State ICASS:Robert R. Gabor

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 22, 2008

Country Description: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. Civil war and terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983. Over the past several years, incidents of violence have increased. From December 2005 to January 2008 more than 5,000 persons, including combatants and civilians, have been killed in the conflict, in violation of the Ceasefire Agreement the Government of Sri Lanka signed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in February 2002. On January 2, 2008, the Government of Sri Lanka announced its withdrawal, effective January 16, from the Ceasefire Agreement. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches, hill country, and archeological sites continue to attract thousands of visitors each year from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and many southern beach towns all have good tourist facilities.

The Asian Tsunami on December 26, 2004 caused severe damage and loss of life to several coastal areas of eastern, southern, and southwestern Sri Lanka. Many affected resorts have completely recovered.

Entry Requirements: A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visitor visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka. Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival. Individuals traveling to Sri Lanka for purposes other than tourism (i.e. volunteering or working), will need to obtain an entry visa from the nearest Sri Lankan Embassy or Consulate before your arrival in Sri Lanka. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees.

Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. Sri Lankan law requires all foreign guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station.

Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 26, fax numbers (202) 232-7181, e-mail address: [email protected], the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210, or the U.N. Mission in New York City, telephone (212) 986-7040.

There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States. They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy web site. Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka web site at http://www.slem-bassyusa.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Due to the outbreak of hostilities in July 2006, the Department of State issued a Travel Warning for Sri Lanka that strongly advises American citizens not to travel to the North and East of Sri Lanka. Several thousand people have been killed since the fighting began, including over 1,000 security personnel. Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities such as suicide bombings and targeted assassinations in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. The LTTE have targeted many Tamil moderates, Sri Lankan military and government officials, and the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka. As the conflict continues, the U.S. Embassy expects that targeted assassinations and bombings in the Colombo area will continue. The government's announcement of its withdrawal from the Ceasefire Agreement may increase the risk of such attacks. The Department of State strongly advises against all travel to the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Throughout its history, the LTTE have engaged in numerous terrorist acts, including suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings, and major economic targets. The group is also suspected in conducting assassinations. Most recently, on January 16, 2008, a terrorist attack against civilians traveling on a bus in Uva Province killed at least 24 people, including many women and children, and more than 60 people were injured. On January 8, 2008 Non-Cabinet Minister D.M. Dassanayake was fatally wounded by a fragmentation mine (claymore) explosion in the vicinity of Ja-Ela, on the main road between Colombo and Sri Lanka's International Airport. The blast claimed two lives and injured more than ten security personnel and civilians. In December 2006, the LTTE attacked the motorcade of Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in downtown Colombo. In August 2005 Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated at his residence in Colombo.

Economic facilities have also been impacted by the conflict. In November of 2007, a bomb exploded near a clothing store at Nugegoda Junction, a busy suburb of Colombo, killing at least seventeen and injuring more than thirty civilians. Earlier in the year, Bandaranaike International Airport briefly curtailed operations following an attack by LTTE fixed-wing aircraft on March 26, 2007against the adjacent Katunay-ake Air Force Base in Colombo. Subsequently, on April 29, 2007, LTTE aircraft attacked two oil facilities in the Colombo area. In response to these incidents, the government announced that, beginning May 10, 2007, the Bandaranaike International Airport would be closed from 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. every day. On July 1, the airport resumed 24-hour operations; however, not all airlines have resumed their flights. Prior to the March 26, 2007 aerial attack, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport in 2001 and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft located at the adjacent military base.

LTTE activity has also taken place in the vicinity of Colombo's harbor and port, including the sinking of LTTE boats by Sri Lankan forces as they attempted to enter Colombo Harbor in February 2007. In June 2006, LTTE frogmen were apprehended north of Colombo, possibly attempting to attack ships in the port of Colombo. In 2003, the LTTE attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka. Several military personnel were killed, while both military and airport employees were injured. Civilians were also caught in the crossfire.

Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners might be killed or injured. American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In the past, the LTTE have detonated bombs near major hotels, a tourist site in Kandy, and have targeted buses and trains. In January 2007, two bombs on public buses outside Colombo killed more than 20 people and injured dozens more. In May 2006, seven people were killed when a jeep carrying Sri Lankan tourists hit a landmine in Wilpattu National Park in the northwest of the country. The park had reopened in 2003, after being closed for 17 years due to the ongoing conflict. In October 2007, the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan army camp at Thalgasmankada in the Yala Wildlife Sanctuary, killing six soldiers and wounding three others. The incident took place in a tourist area of the wildlife park, but foreigners were not the target of the attack and none were injured. However it highlights the prevailing risk to non-combatants of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tourists should be aware that the LTTE have the capability to operate in many national parks located in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Travelers should also be aware that the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs.

The Department of State strongly advises Americans tourists to stay away from military bases and vehicles in Sri Lanka. In March 2007, the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka sustained a minor injury when a Sri Lankan military helicopter he was traveling in landed at a military base in Batticaloa and came under LTTE mortar fire. The Ambassador was not the specific target of the LTTE attack. In October 2006, the LTTE attacked military targets in Galle and Habarana. On June 6, 2006 a claymore mine exploded 50 meters from the Welisara Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) camp in Ragama, on Colombo-Nego-mbo Road. In April 2006, a female suicide bomber attacked the vehicle of the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army at army headquarters in Colombo, killing several members of his staff and injuring many more bystanders. While these attacks occurred near tourist areas, foreign tourists were not the target of these attacks and none were injured. American citizens should also be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugam Bay. Arugam Bay also experienced communal violence in September 2006 following the murder of 10 Muslim youths. There are also reports of increasing ethnic unrest in the Ampara district.

Americans are strongly advised to avoid political rallies and other mass gatherings as well as public transportation, and to limit their exposure to government buildings if possible. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. U.S. citizens of any ethnic heritage are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times. In the event of a terrorist attack, Americans should monitor local radio and television, seek cover away from windows, and return to their homes or hotels when it is safe to do so. In light of the recent LTTE air attacks, Americans are advised to remain in their homes or hotels away from windows during possible air attacks in order to avoid falling shrapnel or bullets. If traveling, individuals should find a safe location in a building as soon as possible. The Government of Sri Lanka has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television. Travelers in Colombo are often the subject of searches by the police, as security forces increase their vigilance. U.S. citizens should expect frequent delays in travel due to the deteriorating security situation in Sri Lanka. American citizens should comply with instructions from the security forces. Americans are also strongly advised against taking photographs of Sri Lankan military bases, foreign missions in Sri Lanka and government buildings, which could be a violation of the law under current security restrictions in the country.

American citizens are strongly advised not to travel north of a line from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north to Polonnaruwa, Bibile, and Pottuvil on the east coast. However, thus far the U.S. Embassy does not perceive any threat to the tourist areas in the Cultural Triangle, including the tourist sites at Polonnaruwa and Dambulla. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel very dangerous. The security forces have bombed several locations in LTTE-controlled areas. Ongoing fighting between government and LTTE forces may pose severe hazards to American citizens traveling in this region. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to these areas in the North and East is restricted, and unofficial travel is prohibited. Americans should consider their personal security foremost before considering traveling or working in northern or eastern Sri Lanka.

In addition, roads in these areas are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or unavailable. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. The U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the North and East.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: While Sri Lanka has a high crime rate, relatively few incidents have been directed against the American community residing in Colombo. Most of the violent crimes occur within the local community and involve people who know each other, although violent crime directed at foreigners is not unheard of. Routine petty crime, especially theft of personal property and pick pocketing, is not uncommon if the traveler does not take appropriate safeguards. Street hustlers or “touts” are common around hotels, shopping centers and tourist sites. Incidents of credit card fraud are increasing, and travelers should consider paying in cash, whenever possible, and should carefully review billing statements to ensure that purchases displayed on the statements are accurate.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. American citizens, who are victims of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/ Consulate staff can, for example, assist with finding appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can provide information on the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special medications with them. There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service—Asiri Hospital, Apollo Hospital, and the government-run General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about out-breaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sri Lanka is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, overloaded trucks, dangerously-driven buses and a variety of conveyances on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel-drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous. Many visitors hire cars and drivers for long trips through the country. Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations. Visit the web site of Sri Lanka's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lanka.net.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lanka's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC, the Consulate General in Los Angeles, or the U.N. Mission in New York City.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sri Lanka's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 249 8500. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94) (11) 249 8888. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-249 8590. The Embassy's Internet address is http://colombo.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section has a specific email address dedicated to American Citizens Services at [email protected] state.gov. The general email address for the consular section is [email protected] The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives.

International Adoption

March 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Important Notes: The Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, has advised the U.S. Embassy that foreign nationals residing in Sri Lanka are not permitted to adopt Sri Lankan children. In addition, foreign citizens may not adopt children under three months old. U.S. citizens interested in adopting from Sri Lanka are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Sri Lanka before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed that will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Sri Lanka is:

Department of Probation and Child
Care Services,
LHP Building, 2nd floor
150/8 Nawala Rd.,
Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.
Telephone No. 94-11-285-3575 or
94-11-2853553 Fax No. 94-11-2852393
Website: usembassy.colombo.gov;
email address:
[email protected]

The Department's hours of operation are from 8.30 a.m. to 4.15 p.m.

Every application for adoption must be in conformity with the provisions of the Adoption of Children's Ordinance (Chapter 61), as amended. The Sri Lankan Department of Probation and Child Care Services may, as needed, amend the adoption procedures.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Under Sri Lankan law, adoption by single persons is not permitted. An application for adoption must be made jointly by a husband and wife. Each of the applicants must be over the age of 25 years and not less than 21 years older than the child for whom the application is made. Both husband and wife must be present during the court proceedings unless the court waives personal appearances on the grounds of ill health (supported by a medical practitioner recognized by the U.S. Government). In such cases, a power of attorney will also be necessary.

Residency Requirements: As was noted earlier in this flyer, the Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services has advised the U.S. Embassy in Colombo that foreign nationals residing in Sri Lanka are not permitted to adopt Sri Lankan children.

Time Frame: The process for adopting a child from Sri Lanka is lengthy. Under Sri Lankan procedures, an application from foreign prospective adoptive parents to adopt a Sri Lankan child must be registered with the Sri Lankan government for at least one year before a child may be matched with that family. This is even before the actual court process or any required travel by the prospective parents to Sri Lanka. Prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to stay for a period of about four weeks for the court procedures to be finalized. Once the child has received a U.S. immigrant visa, the family should be able to depart the country the following day.

Fees: Prospective adoptive parents should abstain from making any payment or giving any reward to any person in consideration of the adoption except such as the Court may sanction. Legal action would be taken against those who commit this offense. The fee a lawyer would charge for an adoption case is approximately about $500 and the court fees will be only $1 (Rs. 100/-). The lawyers' fees could vary from lawyer to lawyer and the court does not have any control over this.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Foreign prospective adoptive parents are not allowed, on their own, to locate children for adoption. Only the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children's Homes that have been registered with the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years may perform this function. These Homes (also referred to in this flyer as Sri Lankan adoption agencies) must also have specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.

Adoption Procedures: The District Court of Colombo and the District Court of Colombo South are empowered to make orders of adoption of Sri Lankan children by persons not resident and domiciled in Sri Lanka. Foreigners who do not reside in Sri Lanka should note and follow the procedures below in order to pursue the adoption of a Sri Lankan child.

  • Have a home study conducted in the United States.
  • Collect other required documents.
  • Send in the application. The application should be in the form of a letter, in duplicate, addressed to the Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services.
  • File I-600A Petition with U.S. Immigration.
  • Wait for the “Letter of Allocation” from the Sri Lankan Adoption Agency.
  • Make Arrangements to Travel.
  • Immediately upon arrival in Sri Lanka, prospective adoptive parents should contact the U.S. Embassy in Colombo to ensure that everything is in order for the processing of an immigrant visa and to obtain additional information on adoption procedures.
  • Contact the Social Worker. The Commissioner of Probation & Child Care Services will have assigned a social worker to the case.
  • Visit the Child. After the interview, the prospective parents will be issued a letter from the Commissioner authorizing them to see the child at the specified children's home.
  • Prospective adoptive parents must engage a Sri Lankan attorney for the legal proceedings. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo has a list of Sri Lankan attorneys who have indicated a willingness to assist U.S. citizens in Sri Lankan legal cases. This list may be found at: http:\\colombo.usembassy.gov. The attorney will petition for the adoption. If all is in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations, the court issues an order of adoption.
  • Obtain the Certificate of Adoption.
  • Obtain a Sri Lankan Passport for the Adopted Child.
  • Apply for and Obtain a U.S. Immigrant Visa for the Child.
  • Submit Post-Placement Reports.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: 202-483-4026 to 28 Fax: 202-232-7181
Email address: [email protected]

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
210, Galle Road
Colombo 03, Sri Lanka
Tel: 94-1-437345, 436943
Home page:
http://www.usia.gov/posts/srilanka
or www.travel.state.gov

Additional Information: Specific questions regarding adoption in Sri Lanka may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/ OCS/CI, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

Travel Warning

October 19, 2007

This Travel Warning provides updated security information and alerts American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the continuing danger of terrorist actions against military, government, and economic targets in certain areas of the country. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka dated April 5, 2007. The Department of State specifically warns Americans against travel to northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka.

While the government has effectively controlled the eastern part of the country since July 2007, security is not yet assured. Some LTTE members and larger numbers of armed paramilitary members are active in the area, leading to instability and incidents of violence. This situation is likely to continue for some time. Americans are particularly warned against travel to LTTE-controlled areas in the north, which may pose severe hazards.

Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to areas north of a line following the highway from Puttalam through Anuradhapura to Polonar-uwa, Bibile, and Pottuvil in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka is restricted, and unofficial travel is prohibited. In March 2007, the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka sustained a minor injury just after a Sri Lankan military helicopter he was traveling in was attacked shortly after landing at a military base in Batticaloa. The Ambassador was not the specific target of the LTTE attack.

The Department also alerts American citizens to the dangers posed by recent acts of terrorism throughout Sri Lanka. Although other parts of the country remain largely unaffected, the LTTE has conducted attacks outside of the northern and eastern areas. On March 26, 2007, the Katunayake Air Force Base in Colombo came under attack from LTTE aircraft, causing the adjacent Bandaranaike International Airport briefly to curtail operations. On April 29, 2007, the LTTE attacked two oil facilities in the Colombo area. On October 15, 2007, the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan Army camp in Yala National Sanctuary, located in southeastern Sri Lanka. Foreign tourists were not the objects of these attacks and none were injured.

Although there is no specific indication that American citizens or institutions are targets, there is a general risk of American citizens being victims of violence simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Politically-motivated assassinations have taken place throughout Sri Lanka, including several in the Colombo area. In many cases, these assassinations involve the use of fragmentation bombs. American citizens in Sri Lanka should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices. Americans should avoid large crowds or public gatherings and should particularly stay away from political rallies and military bases in Sri Lanka.

Americans should comply with all instructions from security forces and police when traveling in Sri Lanka. American citizens, including those of Sri Lankan origin, living in Sri Lanka or traveling there for even a few days are strongly urged to register with the Embassy.

Registration will allow the embassy to provide direct information on the security situation as necessary. Registration is done on-line and can be done in advance of travel at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs. Information on registering can also be found at the Embassy website: http://srilanka.usembassy.gov or at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website: http://travel.state.gov/travel.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its consular information documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, outside the U.S. and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.

Cities:

Capital—Colombo (pop. est. 1.3 million—urban area). Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte is the officially designated capital and is the site of Parliament, but it is currently only an administrative center. Other cities—Kandy (150,000), Galle (110,000), Jaffna (100,000).

Terrain:

Coastal plains in the northern third of country; hills and mountains in south-central Sri Lanka rise to more than 2,133 meters (7,000 ft.).

Climate:

Tropical. Rainy seasons—light in northeast, fall and winter, with average rainfall of 50 in.; heavy in southwest, summer and fall, with average rainfall of 200 in.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Sri Lankan(s).

Population (2003):

19.4 million.

Annual growth rate:

0.08%.

Ethnic groups (2002):

Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%), others (1%).

Religion:

Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Language:

Sinhala and Tamil (official), English.

Education:

Years compulsory—to age 14. Primary school attendance—96.5%. Literacy—91%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—15/1,000. Life expectancy—71 yrs. (male); 76 yrs. (female).

Work force:

7.2 million.

Government

Type:

Republic.

Independence:

February 4, 1948.

Constitution:

August 31, 1978.

Suffrage:

Universal over 18.

Branches:

Executive—president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative—unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, subordinate courts.

Administrative subdivisions:

Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts. (The northern and eastern provinces, however, have been technically jointly administered since 1988.)

Political parties:

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Jathika Hela Urumaya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Tamil National Alliance, United National Party, several small Tamil and Muslim parties, and others. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, along with several small leftist parties, operate under an umbrella organization known as the "United People's Freedom Alliance." The United National Party and several other smaller parties operate as the "United National Front."

Economy (2003)

GDP:

$18.4 billion (est. 2003).

Annual growth rate:

5.9%.

Natural resources:

Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.

Agriculture (20.1% of GDP):

Major products—rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.

Services (53.6% of GDP):

Major types—tourism, transport, telecom, banking and finance.

Industry (26.3% of GDP):

Major types—garments and leather goods, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, wood products, basic metal products, and paper products.

Trade:

Exports—$5.1 billion: garments and footwear, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets—U.S. ($1.8 billion), U.K., Germany, Japan, Belgium. Imports—$6.4 billion. Major suppliers—India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, U.K., U.S. ($155 million). [U.S. data]


PEOPLE

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country's main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse.

Sinhalese make up 74% of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Ceylon Tamils, citizens whose South Indian ancestors have lived on the island for centuries, total about 12% and live predominantly in the north and east.

Indian Tamils, a distinct ethnic group, represent about 5% of the population. The British brought them to Sri Lanka in the 19th century as tea and rubber plantation workers, and they remain concentrated in the "tea country" of south-central Sri Lanka. In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 "stateless" Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, some 200,000 of whom now live in India. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, now wish to remain in Sri Lanka. The government has stated these Tamils will not be forced to return to India, although they are not technically citizens of Sri Lanka. In October of 2003, an act of Parliament granted citizenship to several thousand of these "tea estate" Tamils.

Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.); and aboriginal Veddahs. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu. The majority of Sri Lanka's Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Sizable minorities of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholic. The 1978 constitution, while assuring freedom of religion, grants primacy to Buddhism.

Sinhala, an Indo-European language, is the native tongue of the Sinhalese. Tamils and most Muslims speak Tamil, part of the South Indian Dravidian linguistic group. Use of English has declined since independence, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle and upper middle classes, particularly in Colombo. The government is seeking to reverse the decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons. Both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages.


HISTORY

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later 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. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

The island's contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as "Serendip," the root of the word "serendipity." Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island's coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy, last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948.

Post-Independence Politics

Sri Lankan politics since independence have been strongly democratic. Two major parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have generally alternated rule.

The UNP ruled first from 1948-56 under three Prime Ministers—D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley, and Sir John Kotelawala. The SLFP ruled from 1956-65, with a short hiatus in 1960, first under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and then, after his assassination in 1959, under his widow, Sirimavo, the world's first female chief executive in modern times. Dudley Senanayake and the UNP returned to power in 1965.

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike again assumed the premiership. A year later, an insurrection by followers of the Maoist "Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna" (JVP, or "People's Liberation Front") broke out. The SLFP government suppressed the revolt and declared a state of emergency that lasted 6 years.

In 1972, Mrs. Bandaranaike's government introduced a new constitution, which changed the country's name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, declared it a republic, made protection of Buddhism a constitutional principle, and created a weak president appointed by the prime minister. Its economic policies during this period were highly socialist and included the nationalization of large tea and rubber plantations and other private industries.

The UNP, under J.R. Jayewardene, returned to power in 1977. The Jayewardene government opened the economy and, in 1978, introduced a new constitution based on the French model, a key element of which was the creation of a strong executive presidency. J.R. Jayewardene was elected President by Parliament in 1978 and by nationwide election in 1982. In 1982, a national referendum extended the life of Parliament another 6 years.

The UNP's Ranasinghe Premadasa, Prime Minister in the Jayewardene government, narrowly defeated Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP) in the 1988 presidential elections. The UNP also won an absolute majority in the 1989 parliamentary elections. Mr. Premadasa was assassinated on May 1, 1993 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE" or "Tigers"), and was replaced by then-Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister.

The SLFP, the main party in the People's Alliance (PA) coalition, returned to power in 1994 for the first time in 17 years. The PA won a plurality in the August 1994 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Kumaratunga later won the November 1994 presidential elections and appointed her mother (former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to replace her as Prime Minister. President Kumaratunga won re-election to another 6-year term in December 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka was appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga remained as President. In November of 2003, President Kumaratunga suddenly took control of three key ministries, triggering a serious cohabitation crisis. In January 2004, the SLFP and the JVP formed a political grouping known as the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In February, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. In these elections, which took place in April 2004, the UPFA received 45% of the vote, with the UNP receiving 37% of the vote. While it did not win enough seats to command a majority in Parliament, the UPFA was able to form a government and appoint a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa

became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister.

Communal Crisis

Historical divisions continue to have an impact on Sri Lankan society and politics. From independence, the Tamil minority has been uneasy with the country's unitary form of government and apprehensive that the Sinhalese majority would abuse Tamil rights. Those fears were reinforced when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike triumphed in the 1956 elections after appealing to Sinhalese nationalism. His declaration that Sinhala was the country's official language—an act felt by Tamils to be a denigration of their own tongue—was the first in a series of steps over the following decades that appeared discriminatory to Tamils. Tamils also protested government educational policies and agriculture programs that encouraged Sinhalese farmers from the south to move to newly irrigated lands in the east. The decades following 1956 saw intermittent outbreaks of communal violence and growing radicalization among Tamil groups. By the mid-1970s Tamil politicians were moving from support for federalism to a demand for a separate Tamil state—"Tamil Eelam"—in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas on a platform of separatism. Other groups—particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers)—sought an independent state by force.

In 1983, the death of 13 Sinhalese soldiers at the hands of the LTTE unleashed the largest outburst of communal violence in the country's history. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, tens of thousands were left homeless, and more than 100,000 fled to south India. The north and east became the scene of bloodshed as security forces attempted to suppress the LTTE and other militant groups. Terrorist incidents occurred in Colombo and other cities. Each side in the conflict accused the other of violating human rights. The conflict assumed an international dimension when the Sri Lankan Government accused India of supporting the Tamil insurgents.

Indian Peacekeeping

By mid-1987, India intervened in the conflict by air-dropping supplies to prevent what it felt was harsh treatment and starvation of the Tamil population in the Jaffna Peninsula caused by an economic blockade by Colombo. Under a July 29, 1987, accord (the Indo-Lanka Accord) signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger—subject to later referendum—of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.

Within weeks, however, the LTTE declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and refused to disarm. The IPKF found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LTTE. Further complicating the return to peace was a burgeoning Sinhalese insurgency in the south. The JVP, relatively quiescent since the 1971 insurrection, began to reassert itself in 1987. Capitalizing on opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord in the Sinhalese community, the JVP launched an intimidation campaign against supporters of the accord. Numerous UNP and other government supporters were assassinated. The government, relieved of its security burden by the IPKF in the north and east, intensified its efforts in the south. The JVP was crushed but at a high cost in human lives.

From April 1989 through June 1990, the government engaged in direct communications with the LTTE leadership. In the meantime, fighting between the LTTE and the IPKF escalated in the north. India withdrew the last of its forces from Sri Lanka in early 1990, and fighting between the LTTE and the government resumed. Both the LTTE and government forces committed serious human rights violations. In January 1995, the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation of hostilities as a preliminary step in a government-initiated plan for peace negotiations. After 3 months, however, the LTTE unilaterally resumed hostilities. The government then adopted a policy of military engagement with the Tigers, with government forces liberating Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and moving against LTTE positions in the northern part of the country called the Vanni. An LTTE counteroffensive begun in October 1999 reversed most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna. Heavy fighting continued into 2001.

Peace Process

In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the LTTE and government declared unilateral cease-fires. In February 2002, with Norwegian Government facilitation, the two sides agreed to a joint cease-fire accord. The peace process has continued apace, affecting Sri Lankans politically, economically, and socially in numerous and overwhelmingly positive ways. After holding six rounds of talks, the LTTE withdrew from the negotiation process in April 2003. At this time, the informal peace process continues on the ground and both sides continue to observe the February 2002 ceasefire. In May 2004, the new UPFA government and the LTTE committed themselves in public and in discussions with the Norwegian facilitators to resuming the negotiation track.

LTTE violence, including the assassination of approximately 40 Tamil alleged opponents from 2002 through 2003, is largely confined to the north and eastern provinces, which are 6 to 8 hours by road from the capital. Before the advent of the peace process, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets were common in Colombo, Kandy, and elsewhere in the country. In July 2001, an LTTE suicide squad attacked the Bandaranaike International Airport outside of Colombo and destroyed a large number of military and civilian aircraft. In early March 2004, a faction of the LTTE from the east of the country broke off from the main organization and declared itself an independent body. In April, the main LTTE largely subdued this factional uprising in fighting that left up to 30 people dead.

In October 1997, the U.S. Government designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and has maintained this designation since then, most recently redesignating the group in October of 2003.


GOVERNMENT

Per the 1978 constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and 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. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.

Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation 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.

The 1978 constitution clearly envisaged a system where the president and the prime minister were from the same party. Following the December 2001 parliamentary elections, the president and the prime minister were from different parties. This led to serious cohabitation strains. In November 2003, for example, President Kumaratunga suddenly took over three key ministries (Defense, Interior, and Mass Communications), precipitating a serious cohabitation crisis between the two sides. In February of 2004, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. The UPFA, while receiving enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government, fell short of the 113 seats necessary for a majority in Parliament. Mahinda Rajapaksa of the SLFP became Prime Minister and former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe became Leader of the Opposition. Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister.

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.

Principal Government Officials

President: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE
Prime Minister: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE
Min. of Agriculture: Maithripala SIRISENA
Min. of Constitutional Affairs & National Integration: D. E. W. GUNASEKARA
Min. of Defense: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE
Min. of Disaster Management: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE
Min. of Education: Susil PREMAJAYANTHA
Min. of Finance: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE
Min. of Fisheries: A. L. M. ATHAULLA
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Mangala SAMARAWEERA
Min. of Heath, Nutrition, & Wellfare: Nimal Siripala DE SILVA
Min. of Highways: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE
Min. of Housing & Construction: Ferial ASHRAFF
Min. of Housing Development: A. L. M. ATHAULLA
Min. of Industries & Investment Promotions: Rohita BOGOLLAGAMA
Min. of Information & Media: Anura Priyadharshana YAPA
Min. of Irrigation: Maithripala SIRISENA
Min. of Justice & Law Reforms: Amarasiri DODANGODA
Min. of Labor & Foreign Employment: Athauda SENAVIRATNE
Min. of Local Government & Provincial Councils: Janaka B. TENNEKOON
Min. of Mahaweli Development: Maithripala SIRISENA
Min. of Petroleum Development: A. H. M. FOWZIE
Min. of Ports & Aviation: Mangala SAMARAWEERA
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: D. M. JAYARATNE
Min. of Power & Energy: John SENAVIRATNE
Min. of Public Administration & Home Affairs: Sarath AMUNUGAMA
Min. of Rural Industries Development: S. B. NAVINNA
Min. of Science & Technology: Tissa VITHARANA
Min. of Self-Employment: S. B. NAVINNA
Min. of Social Services & Social Welfare: Douglas DEVANANDA
Min. of Tourism: Anura BANDARANAIKE
Min. of Trade, Commerce, & Consumer Affairs: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE
Min. of Trains: A. H. M. FOWZIE
Min. of Transport: A. H. M. FOWZIE
Min. of Urban Development & Water Management: Dinesh GUNAWARDENA
Min. of Vocation Training: Piyasena GAMAGE
Min. of Women's Empowerment & Child Protection: Sumedha JAYASENA
Governor, Central Bank: Sunil MENDIS
Ambassador to the US: Bernard GOONETILLEKE
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Prasad KARIYAWASAM

Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-4834025).


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sri Lanka's two major political parties—the UNP and the PA—embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.

Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys considerable stability despite relatively high levels of political violence. LTTE terrorist activities, generally aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka politically and economically, have included assassination of politicians—killing the Industrial Development Minister by suicide bombing in June 2000; the December 1999 attempted assassination of President Kumaratunga; bombing of economic targets such as the central bank in January 1996, the World Trade Center in October 1997, and the airport in July 2001; as well as attacks on Buddhist religious sites. In January 1998, the LTTE detonated a truck bomb in Kandy, damaging the Temple of the Tooth relic, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country.


ECONOMY

With an economy of $18.4 billion (est. August 2004), and a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about $950, Sri Lanka enjoyed strong growth rates in recent years. Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in 1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing, and opening the economy to international competition. The ethnic disputes of 1983 precipitated a slowdown in economic diversification and liberalization. The JVP uprising in the late 1980s caused extensive upheavals and economic uncertainty.

Following the quelling of the JVP, increased privatization, reform, and a stress on export-oriented growth helped revive the economy's performance, taking GDP growth to 7% in 1993. Economic growth has been uneven in the ensuing years as the economy faced a multitude of global and domestic economic and political challenges. Overall, average annual GDP growth was 5.2% over 1991-2000. In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%—the first contraction since independence. Growth recovered to 4.0% in 2002 and 5.2% in 2003.

Foreign exchange reserves, which fell by 11% in 1999, decreased further in 2000. In response, the government floated the rupee on January 23, 2001. This led to a significant nominal depreciation in 2001, but the rupee has since stabilized and reserves have been replenished.

In 2003, continued peace allowed further progress on macroeconomic stabilization during the first half of the year. Some progress was reversed, however, during the political uncertainty in November and December 2003. Growth in 2003 was largely driven by the services sector (particularly telecom and tourism) and trade. Both exports and imports rose over 9% in the first 10 months. Interest rates declined. The inflation rate fell under 9%. External reserves were sufficient to cover 5.6 months of imports. The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) rebounded to become one of the better performers in the area. The CSE rose 45% in 2002 and hit a record high in June 2003 but performance declined at the end of the year. Fortunately, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic did not spread to Sri Lanka, and tourism was not severely affected. Sri Lanka's garment exporters reported a surge in orders, shifted from China due to SARS. On the negative side, in mid-2003 Sri Lanka experienced its worst floods in 50 years, which caused extensive damage in south and southwestern parts of the country.

Projections for 6.5% growth in 2004 did not account for political instability, which negatively impacted performance. The December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage in Sri Lanka. The human and environmental tragedy was enormous: over 30,000 people were killed and another 500,000 were displaced, and the bulk of the coastline was affected, leaving most fishing fleets destroyed. The United States is leading the international effort on relief and reconstruction, with damages estimated at $1.5 billion in Sri Lanka.

The future of Sri Lanka's economic health is uncertain but is primarily dependent on continued tsunami relief and reconstruction, political stability, continuation of the peace process, and continued policy reforms—particularly in the area of fiscal discipline and direct management. Implementation of major reforms in the civil service and education sectors and more disciplined spending and improved revenue collection would help generate stronger economic growth. If export orientation strengthens, weaknesses in government will have less impact on growth.

A strong global economy should help Sri Lanka maintain and even expand its export base, while effective aid utilization will be critical in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort. Rising oil costs in 2004, coupled with lower government revenue, held Sri Lanka's fiscal deficit at about 9% of GDP. The government has indicated it intends to focus on better revenue collection mechanisms to deal with the problem. Post-tsunami investment needs may challenge government deficit reduction strategies over the coming years. Sri Lanka has a high debt burden (105% of GDP) and is reforming and modernizing its debt management structures.

Other challenges include diversification from Sri Lanka's key exports—tea and garments. Garment exports face increased competition in a quotafree era with the 2005 expiration of the Multi Fiber Arrangement. The future of the tea industry is threatened by a shortage of plantation labor and growing competition. There are new efforts to diversify exports, explore tourism potential, and improve competitiveness. The previous government had an ambitious information and communications technology strategy to connect and service every corner of the country. This project, if continued and implemented successfully, could change Sri Lanka's economy and social fabric and would take it into the information age. The government hopes to take advantage of Sri Lanka's strategic location on shipping routes, make use of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, and sign free trade agreements with other countries to achieve regional trading hub status. If peace returns and all these efforts bear fruit, real growth could be in the 6%-7% range beyond 2004, and will help realize the government's intention of making Sri Lanka the gateway to South Asia.

The service sector is the largest component of GDP (54%). In 2003, the service sector continued its strong expansion, fueled primarily by strong growth in telecom, tourism, and financial services. Public administration and defense expenditures have remained steady. Repatriated earnings of Sri Lankans working abroad continued to be strong. There also is a small but growing information technology sector, especially information technology training and software development and exports.

Manufacturing accounts for about 16% of GDP. The textile, apparel, and leather products sector is the largest, accounting for 44% of total industrial output. The second-largest industrial sector, at 24% of total manufacturing output, is food, beverages, and tobacco. The third-largest industrial sector is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products. Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It accounts for 20.1% of GDP and provides employment to 33% of the working population. Rice, the staple cereal, is cultivated extensively. The plantation sector consists of tea, rubber, and coconut; in recent years, the tea crop has made significant contributions to export earnings and saw production slightly decrease in 2003. Tea prices have remained stable. The construction sector accounts for 7.4% of GDP and mining and quarrying 1.8%. In recent years, the government has eliminated many price controls and quotas, reduced tariff levels, eliminated most foreign exchange controls, and sold more than 55 state-owned companies and 20 estate-holding companies. Colombo boasts one of the most modern stock exchanges in the region, and the Sri Lankan Government offers a range of tax and other incentives to attract potential investors.

Trade and Foreign Assistance

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most important market, were estimated at $1.8 billion in 2003, or 38.5% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market for garments, taking more than 63% of the country's total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, with exports of $835 million in 2002. Japan, traditionally Sri Lanka's largest supplier, was its fourth-largest in 2002 with exports of $355 million. Other leading suppliers include Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. United States exports amounted to $155 million in 2003. Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, and several high-profile assistance projects were launched in 2003. The most significant of these resulted from an aid conference in Tokyo in June 2003; pledges at the summit, which included representatives from the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan, the European Union, and the United States totaled $4.5 billion. This funding was in response to a poverty reduction strategy program laid out in "Regaining Sri Lanka," an action paper authored by the Sri Lankan Government, and a number of studies commissioned by the donor community that, together, provide a basic framework for economic revival. While implementation of previous aid projects has been spotty, the government believes it can improve this record by streamlining tender processes and improving project management skills.

The United States is currently leading the international efforts for tsunami relief and reconstruction. In addition to pledging $350 million to tsunami-affected countries, more than 15,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in providing relief support in the affected region. Twenty-five ships and 94 aircraft were participating in the effort. The U.S. military had delivered about 2.2 million pounds of relief supplies to affected nations, including 16,000 gallons of water, 113,000 pounds of food, and 140,500 pounds of relief supplies. USAID disbursed an additional $78 million.

Labor

More than 20% of the 6.1 million-strong labor force, excluding the north and east, is unionized. Trade union membership is on the decline. There are more than 1,650 registered trade unions, many of which have 50 or fewer members, and 19 federations. Many unions have political affiliations. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and Lanka Jathika estate workers union are the two largest unions representing workers in the heavily unionized plantation sector. The president of the CWC also is Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure. The CWC's agenda includes political issues, such as citizenship status for stateless Indian Tamils. Some of the stronger and more influential trade unions include the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Jathika Sevaka Sangayama, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers, Conference of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, and the JVP-aligned Inter-Company Trade Union. The unemployment rate has declined in recent years and hovers at 10%. The rate of unemployment among high school and college graduates, however, remains proportionally higher than the rate for lesseducated workers. The government has embarked on educational reforms it hopes will lead to better preparation of students and fewer mismatches between graduates and jobs. In addition, it also has begun a youth corps program to provide employment skills to the unemployed.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a nonaligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 2001. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.


U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS

The United States enjoys cordial relations with Sri Lanka that are based, in large part, on shared democratic traditions. U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka is characterized by respect for its independence, sovereignty, and moderate nonaligned foreign policy; support for the country's unity, territorial integrity, and democratic institutions; and encouragement of its social and economic development. The United States is a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the peace process that began in December 2001.

U.S. assistance has totaled more than $1.63 billion since Sri Lanka's independence in 1948. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it has contributed to Sri Lanka's economic growth with projects designed to reduce unemployment, improve housing, develop the Colombo Stock Exchange, modernize the judicial system, and improve competitiveness. At the June 2003 Tokyo Donors' Conference on Sri Lanka, the United States pledged $54 million, including $40.4 million of USAID funding.

In addition, the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB)—formerly Voice of America (VOA)—operates a radiotransmitting station in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Armed Forces maintain a limited military-to-military relationship with the Sri Lanka defense establishment. By February 2005, the U.S. had contributed $67 million to Sri Lankan relief following the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO (E) Address: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3; Phone: 94-11-244-8007; Fax: 94-11-243-7345; Workweek: M-Th:0800-1730, F:0800-12:00; Website: http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka/.

AMB:Jeffrey J. Lunstead
AMB OMS:Sue Rowell
DCM:James F. Entwistle
DCM OMS:Sheila Romine
POL:Patricia Mahoney
COM:Rick Merrin
CON:Marc H. Williams
MGT:Jane Ross
AFSA:Philip Cargile
AID:Carol Becker
CLO:Alda Kauffeld
DAO:James Oxley
ECO:Dean R. Thompson
EEO:Patricia Mahoney
FMO:James E. Hostetler
GSO:James Oden
IBB:Glenn Britt
ICASS Chair:Dean Thompson
IMO:Craig A. Zimmerman
ISO:Kinam Kim
ISSO:Craig A. Zimmerman
PAO:Philip A. Frayne
RSO:Pittman Orr
State ICASS:Dean Thompson
Last Updated: 12/5/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 4, 2005

Country Description:

Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. A civil war and related urban terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983. On February 22, 2002, The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed an indefinite cease-fire agreement. Peace talks have stalled, but the cease-fire has largely held to date. In the past, however, the LTTE have abandoned peace talks and reverted to terrorist activities. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches and archeological sites attract tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), all have good tourist facilities. The Tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused severe damage to several hotels and tourism facilities in many coastal areas of eastern, southern and southwestern Sri Lanka. Due to the varied localized impact of the tsunami, several resorts have ceased or severely curtailed operations, while others are operating normally. Many areas of the country such as the Cultural Triangle and the Hill Country, as well as Colombo, have not been affected at all by this catastrophe.

Travelers planning to visit Sri Lanka should consult with travel agencies or the Sri Lankan Tourist Board to ensure their itineraries take this recent event into account and plan accordingly.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visitor visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka. Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. Sri Lankan law requires all persons, including foreigners, who are guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station.

Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses.

Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 26, fax numbers (202) 232-7181, e-mail address: [email protected], home page: http://www.slembassy.org, the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210, or the U.N. Mission in New York City, telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States. They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy web site.

Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka web site at http://www.slembassyusa.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security:

Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. The LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have not engaged militarily over the past sixteen months; however, the LTTE have assassinated Sri Lankans. No suicide bombings or truck bombs have been directed at civilian targets since the cease-fire; however, on July 7, 2004, a suicide bomber detonated in a police station in Colombo, killing herself, 4 policemen and critically injuring 11 people.

On July 24, 2001, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. In 2003, the LTTE also attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE have attempted or carried out numerous political assassinations. They have in the past also carried out many suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings and major economic targets. In addition to using individual suicide bombers, the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs. In the past they have detonated bombs near major hotels, a tourist site in Kandy, and have targeted buses and trains. Except for one incident in 2004, there have been no suicide bombings since the ceasefire went into effect in 2003.

Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners might be killed or injured. American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In April 2001, grenade fragments seriously injured an American citizen when she was caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.

American citizens should be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugambay, killing or injuring three tourists. In October 2002, riots between Muslim and Sinhala factions in the Greater Colombo area precipitated short-term curfews. In May 2001 a disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy reportedly resulted in one death during a police shootout and extensive property damage.

Americans are advised to avoid political rallies and other mass gatherings, limit exposure to government and military installations and avoid public transportation if possible. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. U.S. citizens of any ethnic heritage are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times. In the event of a terrorist attack, Americans should monitor local radio and television, seek cover away from windows and return to their homes or hotels when it is safe to do so. The Government has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television.

American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nilaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka does not exercise effective control of the civil administration in many sections of the north, where the LTTE operate openly. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to this area is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nilaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to Batticaloa is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited due to factional fighting within the LTTE. Roads are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. Because of these factors, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and other Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Sri Lanka has a rising crime rate, and criminal incidents may well rise in many of the areas affected by the tsunami. Violent crime is increasing, and there have been reports of police inaction in certain cases. In February 2002, a British couple was kidnapped and robbed near the Polonnaruwa ruins. In recent years, the Embassy has received reports of violent criminal incidents, including attempted sexual assault, in the towns of Negombo, Hikkaduwa and Dambulla. American citizens should exercise caution in these towns, especially at night. Children should not be left unattended, even on hotel/resort premises.

Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pick-pocketing is common, especially on crowded local public transportation, in transportation hubs, and in public markets. Travelers should keep money or jewelry, when not in immediate use, in hotel safe deposit boxes. Cases of credit card fraud have been reported. Travelers are encouraged to either pay with cash or to watch when a merchant "swipes" the card during a transaction to ensure it is not swiped more than once.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special medications with them. There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service—Asiri Hospital, Apollo Hospital, and the government General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sri Lanka is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, dangerously-driven buses, overloaded trucks and the variety of conveyances on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous. Many visitors hire cars and drivers or use taxicabs.

Visit the website of Sri Lanka's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lanka.net.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lanka's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Special Circumstances:

Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Consulate General in Los Angeles, or the U.N. Mission in New York City.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.

Persons violating Sri Lanka's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(11) 244 8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(11) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-243-6943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is [email protected] The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1997: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Sri Lankan orphans adopted abroad - 1; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Sri Lankan orphans adopted in the U.S. - 4

FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 1; IR-4 Visas - 1
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 3; IR-4 Visas - 2
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 5; IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-2001: IR-3 Visas - 4; IR-4 Visas - 0

Sri Lankan Adoption Authority:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Sri Lanka is the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, 95 Sir Chittampalam Gardiner Mawtha, P O Box 546, Colombo 02, Sri Lanka. Telephone No. 94-1-327600 or 94-1-448577, Fax No. 94-1-327600. The Department's hours of operation are from 8.30 a.m. to 4.15 p.m.

Every application for adoption must be in conformity with the provisions of the Adoption of Children's Ordinance (Chapter 61) as amended as it relates to restricts in making of adoption orders, terms and conditions of adoption orders and court requirements.

Sri Lankan Adoption Procedures:

The District Court of Colombo and the District Court of Colombo South that have the appropriate jurisdiction, are empowered to make orders of adoption of Sri Lankan children by persons not resident and domiciled in Sri Lanka. Foreign applicants cannot find children for adoption privately. Allocation of children can only be made from the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children's Homes that are registered by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years and only by specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.

  • Have a home study prepared in the U.S.
  • Gather together all your supporting documents.
  • Send your formal application and all the supporting documents to the Sri Lankan Embassy for authentication and transmission to the Department of Probation and Child Care Services in Sri Lanka.
  • Wait for the letter of allocation from the Sri Lankan adoption agency.
  • Upon receipt of the Commissioner's letter, the prospective parents should make arrangements to travel to Sri Lanka. Expect to stay at least 4 to 5 weeks since court action for an adoption must take place in Sri Lanka.
  • On arrival in Sri Lanka, contact the social worker assigned to the case by the Commissioner of Probation & Child Care Services to schedule an interview at the Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
  • After the interview, the prospective parents will be issued a letter from the Commissioner authorizing them to see the child at the specified children's home. However, the applicants will not be allowed to take the child out of the custody of the person in charge for any purpose without the prior approval of the Commissioner. Authority can be given to the applicants for the purpose of medical examination of the child.
  • Engage a Sri Lankan attorney to represent you at the legal proceedings. The attorney will petition for the adoption.
  • Obtain the Certificate of Adoption using the adoption order from the courts by registering it with the Registrar General.
  • Obtain a Sri Lankan passport for the adopted child.

Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for more exact details.

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

Under Sri Lankan law adoption by single persons is not permitted. An application for adoption to the courts must be made jointly by husband and wife. Each of the applicants must be over the age of 25 years and not less than 21 years older than the child for whom the application is made. Both husband and wife must be present during the court proceedings unless the court waives personal appearances on the grounds of ill health supported by a medical practitioner recognized by the US Government. In such cases a power of attorney will also be necessary.

Residential Requirements:

The adoptive parents should be prepared to stay for a period of about 4 weeks for the court procedures to be finalized. Once an IV is issued the child could leave the country the very next day.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE COMMISSIONER OF CHILD CARE SERVICES AND PROBATION IN COLOMBO HAS ADVISED THE U.S. EMBASSY THAT, UNDER SRI LANKAN LAW, WHILE FOREIGN NATIONALS ARE RESIDING IN SRI LANKA THEY CANNOT ADOPT A CHILD FROM THAT COUNTRY.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

Foreign applicants cannot find children for adoption privately. Allocation of children can only be made from the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children's Homes that are registered by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years and only by specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.

Doctors:

The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Documentary Requirements:

Final Adoption Decree issued by the District Court, birth certificate issued to the biological parents or hospital records and medical reports issued by the Embassy panel physician.

Authentication Process:

All documents above must be authenticated. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

A Sri Lankan child adopted by an U.S. citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Sri Lanka Embassy in the United States:

Embassy of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: 202-483-4026 to 28
Fax: 202-232-7181
Email address: [email protected]

U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka:

U.S. Embassy
210, Galle Road
Colombo 03, Sri Lanka
Tel: 94-1-448007
Fax: 94-1-437345, 436943
Home page: http://www.usia.gov/posts/sri-lanka or www.travel.state.gov

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Sri Lanka may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818,
Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Sri Lankans

35 Bibliography

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya

CAPITAL : Colombo

FLAG : The national flag contains, at the hoist, vertical stripes of green and saffron (orange-yellow) and, to the right, a maroon rectangle with yellow bo leaves in the corners and a yellow lion symbol in the center. The entire flag is bordered in yellow, and a narrow yellow vertical area separates the saffron stripe from the dark maroon rectangle.

ANTHEM : Sri Lanka Matha (Mother Sri Lanka).

MONETARY UNIT : The Sri Lanka rupee (r) of 100 cents is a paper currency with one official rate. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 and 2 rupees, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 rupees. r1 = $0.00998 (or $1 = r100.19) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is the national standard, but British weights and measures and some local units also are used.

HOLIDAYS : Independence Commemoration Day, 4 February; May Day, 1 May; National Heroes Day, 22 May; Bank Holiday, 30 June; Christmas Day, 25 December; Bank Holiday, 31 December. Movable holidays include Maha Sivarathri Day, Milad-an-Nabi, Good Friday, ‘id al-Fitr, Dewali, and ‘id al-’Adha’; in addition, the day of the rise of the full moon of every month of the Buddhist calendar, called a Poya day, is a public holiday.

TIME : 5:30 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Sri Lanka is an island of southeast Asia located in the indian Ocean, south and slightly east of the southernmost point of india and separated from that country by the Palk Strait, which is 23 kilometers (14 miles) wide. Sri Lanka has a total area of 65,610 square kilometers (25,332 square miles), slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. The total coastline length is 1,340 kilometers (833 miles). Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, is located on the Gulf of Mannar coast.

2 Topography

The south-central part of Sri Lanka is a rough plateau cut by a range of mountains whose highest peak is Pidurutalagala, 2,524 meters (8,281 feet). Narrow coastal plains skirt the mountainous

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq mi)

Size ranking: 119 of 194

Highest elevation: 2,524 meters (8,281 feet) at Pidurutalagala

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the indian Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 14%

Permanent crops: 15%

Other: 71%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 239.7 centimeters (94.4 inches)

Average temperature in January: 26.2°c (79.2°f)

Average temperature in July: 27.1°c (80.8°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

section on the east, south, and west, but in the north the extensive coastal plain fans out, reaching from the eastern to the western shores of the island. Five-sixths of the land is less than 300 meters (1,000 feet) in elevation. The longest river, flowing northeastward, is the Mahaweli Ganga, with a total length of 332 kilometers (206 miles). The largest lake is the manmade Meduru Oya Reservoir, which covers an area of 63 square kilometers (24 square miles).

3 Climate

Sri Lanka has neither summer nor winter but only rainy and dry seasons. Average rainfall varies from 63 centimeters (25 inches) to 510 centimeters (200 inches), with most of the rain coming during the monsoon season. The average temperature is 27°c (80°f).

4 Plants and Animals

Most plants and animals are those common to southern india, but there are additional varieties. Tree ferns, bamboo, palm, satinwood, ebony, and jak trees abound. The wide range of mammals, birds, and reptiles once found in Sri Lanka has been reduced by the conversion of forests into rice fields. Water buffalo, elephants, monkeys, and leopards are among the larger animals still present. The Ceylon elk (sambhur) and the polonga snake are unique to Sri Lanka. Birds are numerous, with many varieties from colder countries wintering on the island. Sri Lanka has well-organized game and bird sanctuaries. insects abound and numerous fish are found in the shallow offshore waters.

5 Environment

Sri Lanka’s principal environmental problem has been rapid deforestation, leading to soil erosion, destruction of wildlife habitats, and reduction of water flow. The nation lost an additional 21.4% of its forest and woodland between 1983 and 1993. The nation’s water has been polluted by industrial, agricultural, and mining by-products along with untreated sewage. Air pollution from industry and transportation vehicles is another significant environmental concern.

Although laws to protect animals and plants and to conserve forests have been passed, there has been inadequate enforcement of the laws, and the nation’s wildlife population has been reduced by poaching. As of 2006, threatened species included 21 types of mammals, 16 types of birds, 8 types of reptiles, 44 species of amphibians, 23 species of fish, 2 species of invertebrates, and 280 species of plants. Threatened species include the Asian elephant and four species of turtle. Over a dozen species of amphibians have become extinct.

6 Population

The 2005 population totaled an estimated 19,722,000. A population of 22,208,000 is forecast for 2025. The population density was 300 persons per square kilometer (777 persons per square mile), one of the highest among non-industrial countries.

Colombo, the commercial capital and chief city, had an estimated population of 648,000 in 2005.

7 Migration

In recent years, many Sri Lankan workers have migrated to work in Middle Eastern countries. Others—more than 200,000 in all—have emigrated to Western Europe, Australia, and North America, in part as a result of the Tamil uprising. Due to the military activities in 1995 and 1996, an estimated 650,000 people have been internally displaced. in 2000, there were 397,000

migrants living in Sri Lanka. in 2005, the estimated net migration rate was -1.27 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

According to official 2002 data, the Sinhalese account for the largest population group with 74% of the total population. Sri Lankan Tamils (descendants of medieval invaders from india) totaled 18%; Sri Lankan Moors, 7%; Burghers (descended from the Dutch), Malays (mostly of Arab extraction), and Veddas account for 1%. The Veddas are a small aboriginal tribe located in the most inaccessible forest regions of southeastern Sri Lanka.

9 Languages

The 1978 constitution recognized Sinhala as the official language but also recognized Tamil as a national language. Sinhala is spoken by approximately 74% of the population; Tamil is spoken by 18%. English is also commonly used in government and is spoken by about 10% of the population.

10 Religions

Nearly 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Almost all the Buddhists are ethnic Sinhalese. Hindus account for 15% of the total population and are almost exclusively ethnic indian Tamils. Muslims account for 7% (and may or may not be Tamil speakers) and include the Moor and Malay communities. Christians, accounting for 7%, are found in the Sinhalese, Burgher/Eurasian, and Sri Lankan Tamil communities. A majority of Christians are Roman Catholic, but Anglicans and Baptists are also significant groups.

11 Transportation

In 2002, the country had an estimated 11,650 kilometers (7,246 miles) of highways, of which 10,068 kilometers (6,884 miles) were paved. Registered motor vehicles numbered 695,330 in 2003, including 321,330 passenger cars and 374,000 commercial vehicles. As of 2004, there were 1,449 kilometers (901 miles) of broad-gauge railroad, state-owned and state operated.

Colombo, the major port, is one of the world’s greatest artificial harbors. in 2005, the merchant fleet consisted of 23 ships with a capacity of 120,924 gross registered tons (GRT).

Sri Lanka had 14 airports in 2004, all of which had paved runways. The principal international airport is Katunayaka, 39 kilometers (24 miles) north of Colombo. in 2003, about 1,958,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.

12 History

Colonial Times—Ceylon The earliest indo-European-speaking settlers, the Sinhalese, came late in the sixth century bc, probably from northern india. Later arrivals from india, beginning about 240 bc, brought Buddhism. At cities such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the Sinhalese developed a great civilization. Much of that civilization was later destroyed by civil wars and by the invasion of Hindu Dravidian-speakers from across the Palk Strait, who established a Tamil kingdom in the northern part of the island.

The Portuguese East india Company brought the first of Ceylon’s European rulers in the early 16th century. The Portuguese quickly conquered almost the entire island. By the middle of the 17th century, the Portuguese were driven out of Ceylon by the Dutch East india Company, which governed for more than one hundred years. They introduced plantation agriculture and developed trade. But they too soon found themselves displaced.

The British laid claim to Ceylon at the end of the 18th century after the Netherlands fell under French control. Ceylon was designated a crown colony in 1802 and, by 1815, the entire island was united under British rule. The British introduced coffee, tea, coconut, and rubber plantations, and a more efficient government.

Independence—Sri Lanka With the development of india’s nationalist movement in the 20th century, nationalists in Ceylon also pressured for greater self-rule. Democratic political reforms were enacted in 1910, 1920, 1924, 1931, and 1947. in 1947 india became independent with little actual struggle, and one year later, Ceylon became a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth.

The period from 1948 through 1970 saw the evolution of Ceylon’s multiparty parliamentary system in which orderly and constitutional elections and changes of government took place. Beginning in 1970, executive power began to be highly centralized under Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. From 1971 to 1977 she ruled through the use of unpopular emergency powers in support of her socialist, Sinhalese policies. She introduced a new constitution in 1972, changing the dominion of Ceylon to the republic of Sri Lanka.

A constitutional amendment in the fall of 1977 established a presidential form of government. Junius Richard Jayewardene of the more moderate United National Party (UNP) became Sri Lanka’s first elected executive president in February 1978. Seven months later, a new, more liberal constitution came into effect, rejecting many of the authoritarian features of the 1972 constitution and introducing proportional representation.

1980–87 Since 1978, rising tensions and violence between the majority (mostly Buddhist) Sinhalese and minority (mostly Hindu) Tamil communities have dominated Sri Lankan political life. By the early 1980s, peaceful efforts by moderate Sri Lankan Tamils to make changes in the government to protect their cultural heritage failed. Their participation in parliament as a responsible opposition had brought no changes. An outbreak of violence in the summer of 1983 left hundreds, if not thousands, dead in Colombo and elsewhere. By 1984–85, Sri Lankan Tamil leadership fell into the hands of extremists advocating violence.

Fighting between the Sinhalese-dominated army and well-armed Sri Lankan Tamil separatists grew worse in 1986 and 1987. in the spring of 1987, the government began a war against Tamil forces in the Jaffna Peninsula in the Northern Province. india airlifted food and supplies to the Tamils, creating considerable tension between the two countries.

On 29 July 1987, Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of india signed an agreement by which the Sri Lankan government reluctantly agreed to give official status to the Tamil language, and to create a separate, independently governed area for the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces. An indian peacekeeping force that eventually grew to more than 100,000 troops was sent to Sri Lanka to make sure the agreement was followed and to enforce a cease-fire.

In the fall of 1987, Tamil separatists led by the extremist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) resumed their attacks, killing about 300 people. When they refused the protection of the indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF), the IPKF attacked the rebel stronghold in Jaffna. Fighting continued between the IPKF and the LTTE for 18 months with heavy casualties on both sides.

1988–2005 Throughout 1988 and 1989, the government was under attack from the militant Sinhalese nationalist political party, Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna (JVP), for agreeing to the presence of indian forces in Sri Lanka. The rebellion was put down firmly and brutally by President Ramasinghe Premadasa, who succeeded Jayewardene in 1988 in a close race against former prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

By 1990, it was clear that the indian peace-keeping force was unable to stop the Tamil rebellion (at the cost of an estimated 1,200 indian lives alone). The indian forces withdrew from Sri Lanka. President Premadasa tried to achieve a negotiated settlement, but new LTTE violence led him to order an all-out war against the north in the second half of 1990. Guerrilla warfare resumed. Th rough 1991 and 1992, Premadasa’s government continued to pursue the possibility of a negotiated settlement, but the LTTE rejected most government terms.

Tamil rebels assassinated President Premadasa on May Day 1993. The warfare, and the search for a solution, continued under Premadasa’s successor, President Wijetunga, with frequently announced cease-fires followed by new outbreaks of fighting.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, daughter of former prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became president in November 1994. She arranged to partially lift the economic blockade of the rebel-held Jaffna peninsula and offered unconditional talks for a resolution of the dispute. Talks were scheduled for mid-October 1994, but civil war continued in early 1995. Fighting continued in 1997 despite Kumaratunga’s repeated offers of a limited sovereignty for the Tamils within a greater Sri Lankan state.

The Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, was bombed in January 1998. The government accused the Tamil Tigers of committing the bombing.

In 1999, President Kumaratunga returned to office for a second term.

Parliamentary elections were held 7 December 2001. They were the most violent in 53 years. The army prevented tens of thousands of Tamil voters from traveling out of rebel-controlled areas to vote. it was a victory for the opposition United National Party (UNP) and its candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe, defeating President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance. Muslim and Tamil parties backed the UNP.

The Sri Lankan government’s war against the LTTE has fared badly. As of February 2003, the number of people killed in the fighting was approximately 65,000 and the number displaced was 1.6 million. in February 2002, Sri Lanka and the LTTE signed a cease-fire agreement. in early September 2002, the Sri Lankan government lifted its ban on the LTTE and later that month formal peace talks were held in Th ailand. in peace talks held in Oslo, Norway in December 2002, the government and the LTTE agreed to share power in a federal system.

Despite repeated threats of a renewal of violence, the fragile cease-fire held through 2005. However, the LTTE continued to press for an independent Tamil homeland, much to the frustration of the Sinhalese majority government. On 26 December 2004, the indian Ocean tsunami hit Sri Lanka, leaving more than 30,000 people dead and devastating much of the area that the LTTE controlled. Elections were held in November 2005. The new president, Mahinda Rajapakse, promised to take a hardline stance against the LTTE. The rebels responded in late December with a series of attacks that prompted Hagrup Haukland, head of a cease-fire monitoring team, to warn that if the violence did not stop, “war may not be far away.”

13 Government

The constitution of September 1978 established the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as a free, sovereign, independent state based on universal suffrage (voting) at 18 years of age. The president of the republic is directly elected for a six-year term and serves as head of state and as executive head of government, appointing and heading the cabinet of ministers. A prime

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

.

Name: Mahinda Rajapakse

Position : President of a republic

Took Office : 19 November 2005

Birthplace : Weeraketiya, Sri Lanka

Birthdate : 18 November 1945

Religion : Buddhist

Education : Law degree from the Columbo Law College

Spouse : Shiranthi Rajapaksa

Children : Three sons

Of interest : Both his father and uncle were also involved in politics.

minister, similarly selected, serves mainly as parliamentary leader. The normal business of legislation is in the hands of a single-chamber parliament consisting of 225 members elected for six-year terms.

Sri Lanka is divided into eight provinces containing a total of 25 districts.

14 Political Parties

The United National Party (UNP) was the main party of the independence movement. its widely respected leader, D. S. Senanayake, became Ceylon’s first prime minister after independence. in 1951, Solomon Bandaranaike left the UNP to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Over the years, the SLFP became the island’s other major political party. The UNP was friendlier to the West while the SFLP related more to the former Eastern bloc.

After President Premadasa was killed by a Tamil bomber on 1 May 1993, the parliament unanimously elected Prime Minister Wijetunga as his successor on 7 May 1993. A “snap” (unscheduled) election called six months early by President Wijetunga as part of his campaign for reelection backfired on 16 August 1994, when the voters rejected the UNP by a small margin. in its place, they elected to office a seven-party, leftist coalition-now dubbed the People’s Alliance—led by the SLFP’s mother-and-daughter team of Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. More vigorous but less experienced, the younger Kumaratunga promptly became prime minister, and shortly thereafter, president.

President Kumaratunga called for presidential elections ahead of schedule in December 1999. She was returned to office (after an assassination attempt a few days before the election) with 51.1% of the votes.

In the parliamentary elections held 7 December 2001, Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNP took 109 seats, and united with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress’s (SLMC) five seats to take control of parliament. Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance (PA) coalition took 77 seats, and the People’s United Liberation Front, uniting with the PA, took 16 seats. The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) took 15 seats, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) took two seats, and the Democratic People’s Liberation Front secured one seat.

The results of the 2 April 2004 parliamentary elections were as follows: SLFP and Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna (JVP), 105 seats; UNP, 82 seats; Tamil National Alliance (TNA), 22 seats; National Heritage Party (JHU), 9 seats; SLMC, 5 seats; Up-country People’s Front (UPF), 1 seat; and EPDP, 1 seat. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2010. Mahinda Rajapakse became president in November 2005.

15 Judicial System

Sri Lanka’s judicial system includes district courts, magistrates’ courts, courts of request (restricted to civil cases), and rural courts. in criminal cases, the supreme court has appeals jurisdiction. Under the 1978 constitution, the other high-level courts are the court of appeal, the high court, and courts of first instance.

Tamils and Muslims have their own laws governing property and certain observances.

16 Armed Forces

In 2005 the armed forces of Sri Lanka totaled 111,000 active personnel with 5,500 reservists. The army numbered 78,000. The navy had personnel numbering 15,000, and the air force had 18,000 members. The paramilitary consisted of around 88,600 personnel in a police force, national guard, and home guard. The opposition forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have numbered around 7,000 armed troops. in 2005 defense expenditures amounted to $564 million.

17 Economy

While Sri Lanka remains a primarily agricultural country, expansion of the economy since 1980 has been fueled by strong growth in industry and services.

In the latter half of the 1980s, the national economy faced several grave problems: rising defense costs as a result of the civil war, a series of droughts, and sharply lowered prices for the country’s major export crops, tea and coconut-based goods. These conditions led to a rise in inflation, increasing unemployment, and stagnating economic growth.

From 1990 to 1999, annual economic growth averaged 4.7%. in 1996, strong demand for tea and higher rubber prices benefited the economy. Th at year, however, inflation exceeded 9%, as civil war and a drought took their toll.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

Economic expansion has been led by manufactures, particularly textiles and apparel, which is also the leading earner of foreign exchange. Tourism is the second-largest foreign exchange earner.

The conflict between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil Tigers of the north and east for a largely independent homeland overshadows the economy.

18 Income

In 2005, Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $86.7 billion, or about $4,300 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 11.2%.

19 Industry

Since 1977, the government’s market-oriented economic policies have encouraged industrial

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

growth, particularly in textiles, wood products, rubber and plastics, food and beverages, and other consumer goods. industry accounted for about 28% of GDP in 2004, of which manufacturing accounted for 16%. Sri Lanka’s industries produce cement, paper and paperboard, tea, cotton fabric, cotton yarn, plywood, rubber tires, refined petroleum products, and cigarettes.

Textiles and apparel is the largest industrial sector, accounting for 40% of manufacturing output. There are 350,000 textile workers. Food, beverages, and tobacco, the second-largest manufacturing sector, accounts for 22% of industrial output. The third largest industrial sector—chemicals, petroleum, and rubber products—accounts for 19% of industrial output.

20 Labor

In 2005, the number of employable people was estimated at 8.08 million. Th at year, the agricultural sector accounted for 34.3% of employment, industry accounted for 23.4%, and 38.7% were sales and service workers. Unemployment in 2005 was estimated at 8.4%. Approximately

25% of the nationwide labor force are union members, with over 70% of agricultural workers unionized as well. There is no national minimum wage, but there are minimum wages set in individual sectors and industries. The average such wage was $33.52 per month in industry, commerce, and the service sector, and $1.42 per day in agriculture as of 2001.

It is estimated that about 16,500 children younger than the minimum age of 14 are employed, with many thousands more employed in domestic service.

Thousands of Sri Lankan workers are employed abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Many of them are housemaids and nannies valued for their literacy and English-language skills.

21 Agriculture

Agriculture, the main support of the economy, employs about 35% of the working population and contributes 18% to gross domestic product (GDP). About 75% of those working in agriculture are engaged in the production of tea, rubber,

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

and coconuts, the three crops that represent nearly 60% of Sri Lanka’s agricultural land. Tea production in 2004 was 303,000 tons. Rubber production was 92,000 tons and coconut production totaled 1,950,000 tons. Rice is the major staple crop, produced over much of the country. The maha rice crop (63% of production) is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring, while the yala rice crop (37%) is planted in the summer and harvested in the fall. Production of rice reached 2.5 million tons in 2004. Lesser crops include sugar, pepper, cinnamon, chilies, sesame, cardamom, tobacco, cashew nuts, betel leaves, coffee, and cocoa.

22 Domesticated Animals

Sri Lanka’s livestock population is relatively small. in 2005 there were 1,218,000 head of

cattle, 316,000 water buffalo, 425,000 goats, 83,000 hogs, 12,000 sheep, and 11,600.000 chickens. Animals are not of high quality, partly because of primitive agricultural conditions. The natural pasturage lacks nutritional value and prospects for new pastures are not promising. in 2005, milk output was 174,100 tons and 52,000 tons of eggs were produced.

23 Fishing

Fishing produces less than the country’s needs and yields a meager income to fishers, most of whom use primitive boats and gear in the shallow waters surrounding the island. in 2003, the total fish catch was estimated at 289,949 tons. Exports of fish products were valued at nearly $99.5 million in 2003.

24 Forestry

Nearly 30% of the total land area consists of woodland. in 2004, about 6,340,000 cubic meters (224 million cubic feet) of roundwood were cut. Forestry products included 61,000 cubic meters (2.1 million cubic feet) of sawn timber and 5,646,000 cubic meters (199 million cubic feet) of firewood for domestic use.

25 Mining

The mining industry in Sri Lanka produces mostly colored gemstones and graphite. Graphite production in 2003 totaled 3,387 tons. The island’s gem industry is world famous. in 2003, gemstone production included 45,228 carats of cat’s-eye, 12,934 carats of rubies, 773,547 carats of sapphire, and 1,828,400 carats of other precious and semiprecious gemstones other than diamond. Figures for the production of star rubies and star sapphires were not available for 2003.

Limestone is quarried from the Jaffna peninsula and used in the manufacture of cement. The beach sands contain large quantities of ilmenite, rutile, monazite, and zircon.

26 Foreign Trade

Textiles and clothing are now the country’s leading foreign exchange earners. Sri Lanka’s traditional exports have been tea, natural rubber, and coconut products, especially dried coconut and coconut oil. However, these three commodities earned less and less between 1972 and 1995; tea decreased from its 58% share of total export value in 1972 to only 8.2% in 1995. Tea increased to 12.8% of export value in 2004, however.

Lower percentages of export income for the country’s agriculturally based exports are due to bad weather in recent years as well as rapid growth in the export earnings of industrial products. in 2004, garments accounted for 48.8% of Sri Lankan exports; tea, 12.8%; diamonds and gems, 4.3%; and petroleum products, 1.7%. Sri Lanka currently produces 25% of world tea exports. imports include textiles, mineral products, basic manufactures, machinery, transport equipment, and chemicals.

Principal trading partners in 2004 included the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, india, Singapore, and China.

27 Energy and Power

In 2002, electric power generation totaled 6.669 billion kilowatt-hours, of which 59.9% was from fossil fuels and 39.96% from hydropower. The country’s heavy dependence on hydropower creates shortfalls in times of drought, so the government plans to diversify the power sector. Sri Lanka meets all of its crude oil requirements with imports. Sri Lanka does not produce or consume natural gas. it has limited coal reserves and consumes a minimal amount of coal.

28 Social Development

Despite low per-person income, Sri Lankans have enjoyed a relatively high standard of living because of generous social welfare programs. The government gives monthly payments to the aged, sick, and disabled; to poor widows; and to wives of imprisoned or disabled men. To increase private efforts, the government gives grants to volunteer agencies engaged in various welfare activities, particularly orphanages, homes for the aged,

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorSri Lanka Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNi)*$4,210 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate0.9% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land300 803032
Life expectancy in years: male72 587675
female77 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.5 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)23 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)90.7% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people117 84735938
internet users per 1,000 people14 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)421 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)0.55 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNi is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

and institutions for the mentally and physically handicapped.

Although women have equal rights under law, their rights in family matters, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, are often dictated by their ethnic or religious group.

Sri Lanka’s 1 million ethnic Tamils, who are entitled to neither indian nor Sri Lankan citizenship, experience discrimination. Human rights abuses have been committed by both government and Tamil separatist forces.

29 Health

The government provides medical service for free or at a nominal cost to almost everyone, but there is a shortage of trained personnel and hospital beds. As of 2004, there were an estimated 50 doctors, 79 nurses, 3 dentists, and 5 pharmacists per 100,000 people.

Malnutrition, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal diseases are the chief medical problems. it has been estimated that 38% of children under five years of age were considered malnourished. As of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was estimated at 3,500 and deaths from AIDS in 2003 were estimated at 200. Average life expectancy in 2005 was 72 years for men and 77 years for women.

Rapid population growth, along with a slowdown in construction during and immediately following World War ii (1939–45), led to a serious housing shortage, high rents, high building costs, and many unsanitary and unfit houses in Sri Lanka’s first decades after independence.

Preliminary results from the 2001 census indicated a total of 4,687,157 housing units nationwide. As of 2000, the average household had 4.5 members. About 64% of all households were nuclear families. About 96% of urban dwellings and 73% of rural dwellings had access to safe drinking water. Only 73% of all households had access to safe sanitation systems. in the indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, about 88,544 housing units were completely destroyed or severely damaged.

31 Education

All education from kindergarten up to and including university training is free. Education is compulsory for ten years, except when schools are not within walking distance of the pupil’s home. There are five years of elementary, three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary school, and two years of preparatory school for those wishing to attend university. Student-to-teacher ratios average 23 to 1 in primary school and 20 to 1 in secondary school. An estimated 99% of primary-school-age children enroll in school.

There are nine universities. More than 60,000 students attend universities and equivalent institutions. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 90.7%, with 92.2% for men and 88.6% for women.

32 Media

In 2003, there were an estimated 49 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 257,700 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 73 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. As of 1999, there were 12 AM and 5 FM radio stations and 21 television stations. in 2003 there were 215 radios and 117 televisions for every 1,000 people. Th at same year, there were 13.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 14 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

As of 2002, Sri Lanka had more than ten daily newspapers. The principal morning and evening dailies (with 2002 daily circulation) were the following: Daily Lankadeepa, 259,172; Dinamina, 140,000; Divaina, 100,000; Dawasa, 108,000; and The Island, 80,000.

33 Tourism and Recreation

The tourism industry took a big hit in 2004 when a tsunami severely damaged hotels and facilities, causing many resorts to close.

Europeans accounted for 53% of the 500,642 tourists in 2003. Tourism receipts were estimated at $692 million that year. The country had 16,973 hotel rooms with 31,331 beds and a 53% occupancy rate.

The principal tourist attraction is the sacred city of Anuradhapura, home of Buddhist temples and palaces. Other popular sites include the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Kandy, where a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is preserved in the Dalada Maligawa temple. The botanical gardens near Kandy and the Dehiwela Zoo at Colombo also are popular.

Sri Lanka’s recreational facilities include the beach resorts of Bentota and Negombo, which, like Colombo, have modern hotels. Popular water sports are swimming, fishing, sailing, surfing, water skiing, and skin diving. The island has excellent facilities for golf, tennis, squash, soccer, rugby, and cricket.

34 Famous Sri Lankans

One of the great rulers was Dutugemunu (fl. 100 bc), who is famous for having saved Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from conquest by indian invaders. Mahasen, a king in the third century ad, built many fine dagobas (shrines) and other monuments that delight and amaze visiting art lovers. The classic period of Ceylonese art flourished under Kassapa, a king of the 5th century. The most famous political figure was Don Stephen Senanayake (1884–1952), leader of the independence movement. Solomon West Ridgway Dias Bandaranaike (1899–1959), prime minister from 1956 to 1959, is regarded as the founder of Ceylon as a socialist state. Junius Richard Jayewardene (1906–1996), who helped usher in economic reforms and a free enterprise system, became Sri Lanka’s first president in 1978 and served until 1982. Science-fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke (b. England, 1917) is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous expatriate residents. Born in Sri Lanka, Canadian author and poet Michael Ondaatje (b.1943) received the 1992 Booker McConnell Prize for his novel The English Patient.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Guruswamy, Krishnan. Sri Lanka. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2002.

Lee, Vanessa. Welcome to Sri Lanka. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2003.

Wanasundera, Nanda Pethiyagoda. Sri Lanka. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2002.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/sri_lanka/index.stm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Commonwealth Country Profiles. www.thecommonwealth.org/Templates/YearbookHomeInternal.asp?NodeID=139452. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/ce/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. www.priu.gov.lk/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/lk. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.

Cities: Capital—Colombo (pop. est. 1.3 million—urban area). Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte is the officially designated capital and is the site of Parliament, but it is currently only an administrative center. Other cities—Kandy (150,000), Galle (110,000), Jaffna (100,000).

Terrain: Coastal plains in the northern third of country; hills and mountains in south-central Sri Lanka rise to more than 2,133 meters (7,000 ft.).

Climate: Tropical. Rainy seasons—light in northeast, fall and winter, with average rainfall of 50 in.; heavy in southwest, summer and fall, with average rainfall of 200 in.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sri Lankan(s).

Population: (2005) 19.7 million.

Annual growth rate: 1.1%.

Ethnic groups: (2002) Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%), others (1%).

Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Languages: Sinhala and Tamil (official), English.

Education: Years compulsory—to age 14. Primary school attendance—96.5%. Literacy—91%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—14/1,000. Life expectancy—72 yrs. (male); 77 yrs. (female).

Work force: 8.1 million.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: February 4, 1948.

Constitution: August 31, 1978.

Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Government branches: Executive—president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative—unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, subordinate courts.

Political subdivisions: Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts. (The northern and eastern provinces, however, have been technically jointly administered since 1988.) Political parties: Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Jathika Hela Uru-maya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Tamil National Alliance, United National Party, several small Tamil and Muslim parties, and others.

Economy (2005)

GDP: $23.5 billion.

Annual growth rate: 6.0%.

Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.

Agriculture: (17.2% of GDP) Major products—rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.

Services: (55.8% of GDP) Major types—tourism, transport, telecom, banking and finance.

Industry: (27.9% of GDP) Major types—garments and leather goods, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, wood products, basic metal products, and paper products.

Trade: Exports—$6.3 billion: garments, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets—U.S. ($2 billion), U.K., India Imports—$8.9 billion. Major suppliers—India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Iran, Malaysia, Japan, UK, UAE, Belgium, Indonesia, South Korea, U.S. ($200 million).

PEOPLE

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country’s main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Sinhalese make up 74% of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Ceylon Tamils, citizens whose South Indian ancestors have lived on the island for centuries, total about 12% and live predominantly in the north and east.

Indian Tamils, a distinct ethnic group, represent about 5% of the population. The British brought them to Sri Lanka in the 19th century as tea and rubber plantation workers, and they remain concentrated in the “tea country” of south-central Sri Lanka. In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 “stateless” Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, some 200,000 of whom now live in India. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, now wish to remain in Sri Lanka. The government has stated these Tamils will not be forced to return to India, although they are not technically citizens of Sri Lanka. In October of 2003, an act of Parliament granted citizenship to several thousand of these “tea estate” Tamils.

Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.); and aboriginal Veddahs. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu. The majority of Sri Lanka’s Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Sizable minorities of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholic. The 1978 constitution, while assuring freedom of religion, grants primacy to Buddhism.

Sinhala, an Indo-European language, is the native tongue of the Sinhalese. Tamils and most Muslims speak Tamil, part of the South Indian Dravidian linguistic group. Use of English has declined since independence, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle and upper middle classes, particularly in Colombo. The government is seeking to reverse the decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons. Both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages.

HISTORY

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later 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. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

The island’s contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as “Serendip,” the root of the word “serendipity.” Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island’s coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy, last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948.

Post-Independence Politics

Sri Lankan politics since independence have been strongly democratic. Two major parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have generally alternated rule.

The UNP ruled first from 1948-56 under three Prime Ministers—D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley, and Sir John Kotelawala. The SLFP ruled from 1956-65, with a short hiatus in 1960, first under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and then, after his assassination in 1959, under his widow, Sirimavo, the world’s first female chief executive in modern times. Dudley Senanayake and the UNP returned to power in 1965.

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike again assumed the premiership. A year later, an insurrection by followers of the Maoist “Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna” (JVP, or “People’s Liberation Front”) broke out. The SLFP government suppressed the revolt and declared a state of emergency that lasted 6 years.

In 1972, Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government introduced a new constitution, which changed the country’s name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, declared it a republic, made protection of Buddhism a constitutional principle, and created a weak president appointed by the prime minister. Its economic policies during this period were highly socialist and included the nationalization of large tea and rubber plantations and other private industries.

The UNP, under J.R. Jayewardene, returned to power in 1977. The Jayewardene government opened the economy and, in 1978, introduced a new constitution based on the French model, a key element of which was the creation of a strong executive presidency. J.R. Jayewardene was elected President by Parliament in 1978 and by nationwide election in 1982. In 1982, a national referendum extended the life of Parliament another 6 years.

The UNP’s Ranasinghe Premadasa, Prime Minister in the Jayewardene government, narrowly defeated Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP) in the 1988 presidential elections. The UNP also won an absolute majority in the 1989 parliamentary elections. Mr. Premadasa was assassinated on May 1, 1993 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (“LTTE” or “Tigers”), and was replaced by then-Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister. The SLFP, the main party in the People’s Alliance (PA) coalition, returned to power in 1994 for the first time in 17 years. The PA won a plurality in the August 1994 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Kumaratunga later won the November 1994 presidential elections and appointed her mother (former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to replace her as Prime Minister. President Kumaratunga won re-election to another 6-year term in December 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka was appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga remained as President. In November of 2003, President Kumaratunga suddenly took control of three key ministries, triggering a serious cohabitation crisis. In January 2004, the SLFP and the JVP formed a political grouping known as the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In February, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. In these elections, which took place in April 2004, the UPFA received 45% of the vote, with the UNP receiving 37% of the vote. While it did not win enough seats to command a majority in Parliament, the UPFA was able to form a government and appoint a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister.

Communal Crisis

Historical divisions continue to have an impact on Sri Lankan society and politics. From independence, the Tamil minority has been uneasy with the country’s unitary form of government and apprehensive that the Sinhalese majority would abuse Tamil rights. Those fears were reinforced when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike triumphed

in the 1956 elections after appealing to Sinhalese nationalism. His declaration that Sinhala was the country’s official language—an act felt by Tamils to be a denigration of their own tongue—was the first in a series of steps over the following decades that appeared discriminatory to Tamils. Tamils also protested government educational policies and agriculture programs that encouraged Sinhalese farmers from the south to move to newly irrigated lands in the east. The decades following 1956 saw intermittent outbreaks of communal violence and growing radicalization among Tamil groups. By the mid-1970s Tamil politicians were moving from support for federalism to a demand for a separate Tamil state—”Tamil Eelam”—in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas on a platform of separatism. Other groups—particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers)—sought an independent state by force.

In 1983, the death of 13 Sinhalese soldiers at the hands of the LTTE unleashed the largest outburst of communal violence in the country’s history. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, tens of thousands were left homeless, and more than 100,000 fled to south India. The north and east became the scene of bloodshed as security forces attempted to suppress the LTTE and other militant groups. Terrorist incidents occurred in Colombo and other cities. Each side in the conflict accused the other of violating human rights. The conflict assumed an international dimension when the Sri Lankan Government accused India of supporting the Tamil insurgents.

In October 1997, the U.S. Government designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and has maintained this designation since then, most recently redesignating the group in October of 2003.

Indian Peacekeeping

By mid-1987, India intervened in the conflict by air-dropping supplies to prevent what it felt was harsh treatment and starvation of the Tamil population in the Jaffna Peninsula caused by an economic blockade by Colombo. Under a July 29, 1987, accord (the Indo-Lanka Accord) signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger—subject to later referendum—of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.

Within weeks, however, the LTTE declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and refused to disarm. The IPKF found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LTTE. Further complicating the return to peace was a burgeoning Sinhalese insurgency in the south. The JVP, relatively quiescent since the 1971 insurrection, began to reassert itself in 1987. Capitalizing on opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord in the Sinhalese community, the JVP launched an intimidation campaign against supporters of the accord. Numerous UNP and other government supporters were assassinated. The government, relieved of its security burden by the IPKF in the north and east, intensified its efforts in the south. The JVP was crushed but at a high cost in human lives.

From April 1989 through June 1990, the government engaged in direct communications with the LTTE leadership. In the meantime, fighting between the LTTE and the IPKF escalated in the north. India withdrew the last of its forces from Sri Lanka in early 1990, and fighting between the LTTE and the government resumed. Both the LTTE and government forces committed serious human rights violations. In January 1995, the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation of hostilities as a preliminary step in a government-initiated plan for peace negotiations. After 3 months, however, the LTTE unilaterally resumed hostilities. The government then adopted a policy of military engagement with the Tigers, with government forces liberating Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and moving against LTTE positions in the northern part of the country called the Vanni. An LTTE counteroffensive begun in October 1999 reversed most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna. Heavy fighting continued into 2001.

Peace Process

In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the LTTE and government declared unilateral cease-fires. In February 2002, the Government (GSL) and LTTE signed a ceasefire agreement sponsored by peace process facilitator Norway. Peace talks began in Norway in December 2002. The Tigers dropped out of talks in February 2003, however, claiming they were being marginalized. In July 2004, the first suicide bomb since 2001 struck Colombo.

In March 2004, Eastern Tiger commander Karuna broke with the LTTE, going underground with his supporters. In March 2006, the Karuna faction registered a political party, the Tamil People’s Liberation Tigers. The main LTTE and the Karuna faction have targeted each other in low-level attacks since that time.

Over 30,000 Sri Lankans died in the December 2004 tsunami, and hundreds of thousands of others fled their homes. In June 2005, the GSL and LTTE reached an agreement to share $3 billion in international tsunami aid. However, the agreement was challenged in court and was never implemented. In August 2005, the LTTE assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil. Parliament passed a state of emergency regulation that has been renewed every month since then.

During the November 2005 presidential election, the LTTE enforced a voting boycott in areas under its control. As a result, perceived hard-liner Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Mahinda Rajapaksa won by a narrow margin. Low-level violence between the LTTE and security forces escalated. In December 2005, pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance MP Joseph Pararajasingham was assassinated within a GSL high security zone in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

In February 2006, exactly four years after the ceasefire agreement was signed, the GSL and LTTE renewed their commitment to the agreement at talks in Geneva. There was a lull in violence until April, when an explosion rocked a Sinhalese market in Trincomalee, followed by limited Sinhalese backlash against Tamils. Several days later, an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the main army compound in Colombo, killing eight soldiers and seriously wounding Army Commander General Fonseka. The government retaliated with air strikes on Tiger targets. In June, an LTTE suicide bomber succeeded in killing Army third-in-command General Kulatunga in a suburb of Colombo.

The European Union banned the LTTE as a terrorist organization on May 30, 2006. In June 2006, GSL and LTTE delegations flew to Oslo to discuss the future of the Scandinavian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The Tigers refused to sit for talks with the GSL and instead demanded the SLMM remove any monitors from EU-member nations.

Heavy fighting in August 2006, the worst since the 2002 ceasefire, killed hundreds of people and caused tens of thousands to flee their homes when the Tamil Tiger rebels clashed with government forces in the north and east. In September 2006, the government carried out the first major seizure of enemy territory by either side since the 2002 ceasefire when it drove Tamil Tiger rebels from the entrance of the strategic Trincomalee harbor. Despite the fighting, both sides still claim to adhere to the ceasefire.

GOVERNMENT

Under the 1978 constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and 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. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.

Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation 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.

The 1978 constitution clearly envisaged a system where the president and the prime minister were from the same party. Following the December 2001 parliamentary elections, the president and the prime minister were from different parties. This led to serious cohabitation strains. In November 2003, for example, President Kumaratunga suddenly took over three key ministries (Defense, Interior, and Mass Communications), precipitating a serious cohabitation crisis between the two sides. In February of 2004, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. The UPFA, while receiving enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government, fell short of the 113 seats necessary for a majority in Parliament. Mahinda Rajapaksa of the SLFP became Prime Minister and former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe became Leader of the Opposition. Presidential elections were held in November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa became President, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake became Prime Minister.

Sri Lanka’s judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka’s legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province’s chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/4/2007

President: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE

Prime Minister: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE

Min. of Agriculture, Irrigation, & Mahaweli Development: Maithripala SIRISENA

Min. of Child Development & Women’s Empowerment: Sumedha JAYASENA

Min. of Constitutional Affairs & National Integration: D. E. W. GUNASEKARA

Min. of Defense: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE

Min. of Disaster Management & Human Rights: Mahinda SAMARASINGHE

Min. of Education: Susil PREMAJAYANTHA

Min. of Enterprise Development & Investment Promotion: Rohitha BOGOLLAGAMA

Min. of Environment: Maithripala SIRISENA

Min. of Finance & Planning: Mahinda RAJAPAKSE

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Mangala SAMARAWEERA

Min. of Heathcare & Nutrition: Nimal Siripala DE SILVA

Min. of Highways: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE

Min. of Housing & Construction: Ferial ASHRAFF

Min. of Industries & Investment Promotions: Rohita BOGOLLAGAMA

Min. of Infrastructure Development & Fisheries Housing: A. L. M. ATHAULLA

Min. of Internal Administration: Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE

Min. of Justice & Law Reforms: Amarasiri DODANGODA

MIn. of Labor Relations & Foreign Employment: Athauda SENAVIRATNE

Min. of Local Government & Provincial Councils: Janaka B. TENNEKOON

Min. of Mass Media & Information: Anura Priyadharshana YAPA

Min. of Petroleum & Petroleum Resources Development: A. H. M. FOWZIE

Min. of Ports & Aviation: Mangala SAMARAWEERA

Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: D. M. JAYARATNE

Min. of Power & Energy: John SENAVIRATNE

Min. of Public Administration & Home Affairs: Sarath AMUNUGAMA

Min. of Railways & Transport: A. H. M. FOWZIE

Min. of Rural Economic Development: D. M. JAYARATNE

Min. of Rural Industries & Self-Employment Promotion: S. B. NAVINNA

Min. of Science & Technology: Tissa VITHARANA

Min. of Social Services & Social Welfare: Douglas DEVANANDA

Min. of Tourism: Anura BANDARANAIKE

Min. of Trade, Commerce, Consumer Affairs, & Marketing Development: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE

Min. of Urban Development & Water Supply: Dinesh GUNAWARDENA

Min. of Vocational & Technical Training: Piyasena GAMAGE

Governor, Central Bank: Ajith Nivard CABRAAL

Ambassador to the US: Bernard GOONETILLEKE

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Prasad KARIYAWASAM

Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-4834025).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sri Lanka’s two major political parties—the UNP and the SLFP—embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.

Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys considerable stability despite relatively high levels of political violence. LTTE violence is largely confined to the north and eastern provinces, which are 6 to 8 hours by road from the capital. Before the advent of the peace process, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets were common in Colombo, Kandy, and elsewhere in the country. LTTE terrorist activities have generally been aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka politically, economically, and socially. LTTE attacks on key political figures include the assassination of Army General Kulatunga in June 2006, the attempted assassination of Army Commander General Fonseka in April 2006, the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005, the killing of the Industrial Development Minister by suicide bombing in June 2000, and the December 1999 attempted assassination of President Kumaratunga. Economic targets included the airport in July 2001, the Colombo World Trade Center in October 1997, and the central bank in January 1996. In January 1998, the LTTE detonated a truck bomb in Kandy, damaging the Temple of the Tooth relic, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country.

ECONOMY

Sri Lanka is a lower-middle income developing nation with a Gross Domestic Product of about $23.5 billion. This translates into a per capita income of $1,200. Sri Lanka’s 90 percent literacy rate in local languages, and life expectancy of 72 years rank well above those of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. English language ability is relatively high but has declined significantly since the 1970s.

Sri Lanka’s income inequality is severe, with striking differences between rural and urban areas. About a quarter of the country’s population of 19.7 million remains impoverished. Civil conflict, falling agricultural labor productivity, lack of income-earning opportunities for the rural population, and poor infrastructure outside the Western Province are impediments to poverty reduction.

In 1978, Sri Lanka shifted away from a socialist orientation and opened its economy to foreign investment. But the pace of reform has been uneven. A period of aggressive economic reform under the UNP-led government that ruled from 2002 to 2004 was followed by a more statist approach under former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and current President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Despite a brutal civil war that raged from 1983 until 2001, economic growth averaged around 4.5% in the last ten years. In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%—the only contraction since independence. Growth recovered to 4.0% in 2002. Following the 2002 ceasefire and subsequent economic reforms, the economy grew more rapidly, recording growth rates of 6.0% in 2003 and 5.4% in 2004.

The economic situation in Sri Lanka in 2005 was remarkably stable, despite the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 32,000 people, displaced 443,000, and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage. The tsunami’s overall economic impact was less severe than originally feared, with the economy growing by 6% in 2005 as the damage was offset by the reconstruction effort. GDP grew by 8% in the first half of 2006.

President Rajapaksa’s broad economic strategy was outlined in his election manifesto “Mahinda Chin-tana” (Mahinda’s Thoughts), which now guides government economic policy. Mahinda Chintana policies focus on poverty alleviation and steering investment to disadvantaged areas; developing the small and medium enterprise sector (SME); promotion of agriculture; and expanding the already enormous civil service. The Rajapaksa Government rejects the privatization of state enterprises, including “strategic” enterprises such as state-owned banks, airports, and electrical utilities. Instead, it plans to retain ownership and management of these enterprises and make them profitable.

The future of Sri Lanka’s economic health primarily depends on political stability, return to peace, and continued policy reforms—particularly in the area of fiscal discipline and budget management. Rising oil costs have contributed to Sri Lanka’s high public debt load (94% of GDP in 2005). Sri Lanka needs economic growth rates of 7-8% and investment levels of about 30% of GDP for a sustainable reduction in unemployment and poverty. In the past 10 years, investment levels have averaged around 25% of GDP.

Sri Lanka depends on a continued strong global economy for investment and for expansion of its export base. The government plans an ambitious infrastructure development program to boost growth. It hopes to diversify export products and destinations to make use of the Indo-Lanka and Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreements, GSP+ treatment by the European Union and other regional and bilateral preferential trading agreements.

The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 55.8%. In 2005-6, the service sector continued its strong expansion, fueled primarily by strong growth in telecom, trading and financial services. Public administration and defense expenditures have remained steady in 2005, but likely to have increased in 2006. There also is a growing information technology sector, especially information technology training and software development and exports. The tourism sector suffered in 2005 following the tsunami. While beach resorts have rebuilt, tourism remains well below potential.

Manufacturing accounts for about 16% of GDP. The textile, apparel, and leather products sector is the largest, accounting for 39.5% of total industrial output. The second-largest industrial sector, at 22.4% of total manufacturing output, is food, beverages, and tobacco. The third-largest industrial sector is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products. The construction sector accounts for 7.2% of GDP and has posted strong growth rates in 2005-6. Mining and quarrying accounts of 1.9%.

Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It employs 33% of the working population, but accounts for only 17.2% of GDP. Rice, the staple cereal, is cultivated extensively. The plantation sector consists of tea, rubber, and coconut; in recent years, the tea crop has made significant contributions to export earnings.

Trade and Foreign Assistance

Sri Lanka’s exports (mainly apparel, tea, rubber, gems and jewelry) were $6.3 billion and imports (mainly oil, textiles, food, and machinery) were $8.8 billion in 2005. The resulting large trade deficit was financed primarily by foreign assistance and by remittances from Sri Lankan expatriate workers. Sri Lanka must diversify its exports beyond garments and tea. Garment exports face increased competition following the 2005 expiration of the worldwide Multifiber Arrangement. The tea industry is challenged by a shortage of plantation labor and by growing competition.

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka’s most important market, were $2.1 billion in 2005, or 32.8% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka’s biggest market for garments, taking almost 60% of total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka’s largest supplier, with exports of $1.8 billion in 2003. The United States exported approximately $160 million to Sri Lanka in 2005 (plus about $20 million of tsunami related exports), consisting primarily of industrial machinery, as well as medical instruments, pharmaceuticals and specialized fabrics and textiles for the garment industry.

Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Japan, and other donors lending or giving over $1.2 billion annually. While implementation of aid projects has been spotty over the years, the government is trying to improve this record by streamlining tender processes and increasing project management skills. The United States led international efforts for tsunami relief and reconstruction, committing a total of $134 million to Sri Lanka.

Labor

The unemployment rate has declined in recent years and hovers around 7.5%. The rate of unemployment among women and high school and college graduates, however, has been proportionally higher than the rate for less-educated workers. The government has embarked on educational reforms it hopes will lead to better preparation of students and better matches between graduates and jobs.

More than 20% of the 7.5 million-strong work force is unionized, but union membership is declining. There are more than 1,650 registered trade unions, many of which have 50 or fewer members, and 19 federations. Many unions have political affiliations. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and Lanka Jathika estate workers union are the two largest unions, representing workers in plantation sector. The president of the CWC also is Minister of Youth Empowerment and Socio Economic Development. Other strong and influential trade unions include the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Jathika Sevaka Sangayama, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers, Conference of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, and the JVP-aligned Inter-Company Trade Union.

Public sector trade unions have recently resisted Government moves to restructure the state-owned electrical utility board and the petroleum company. Private sector workers are also agitating for a “living wage” significantly higher than the current minimum wage.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a non-aligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 2001. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.

U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS

The United States enjoys cordial relations with Sri Lanka that are based, in large part, on shared democratic traditions. U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka is characterized by respect for its independence, sovereignty, and moderate nonaligned foreign policy; support for the country’s unity, territorial integrity, and democratic institutions; and encouragement of its social and economic development. The United States is a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the peace process that began in December 2001. U.S. assistance has totaled more than $1.63 billion since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it has contributed to Sri Lanka’s economic growth with projects designed to reduce unemployment, improve housing, develop the Colombo Stock Exchange, modernize the judicial system, and improve competitiveness. At the June 2003 Tokyo Donors’ Conference on Sri Lanka, the United States pledged $54 million, including $40.4 million of USAID funding. In addition, the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB)—formerly Voice of America (VOA)—operates a radio-transmitting station in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Armed Forces maintain a limited military-to-military relationship with the Sri Lanka defense establishment. By February 2005, the U.S. had contributed $67 million to Sri Lankan relief following the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

COLOMBO (E) Address: 210, Galle Road, Colombo 3,; Phone: 94-11-249-8500; Fax: 94-11-243-7345; Workweek: M-Th: 0800–1730, F: 0800–12:00; Website: http://colombo.usembassy.gov/.

AMB:Robert O. Blake, Jr.
AMB OMS:Sue Rowell
DCM:James R. Moore
DCM OMS:Karie Ennis
POL:Michael DeTar
COM:Rick Merrin
CON:Philip Cargile
MGT:Maria E. Brewer
AFSA:Philip Cargile
AID:Rebecca Cohn
CLO:Alda Kauffeld
DAO:James Oxley
ECO:Robert Gabor
EEO:Neil Brans
FIN:Alboino Deulus
FMO:Joe Ellingson
IBB:Glenn Britt
ICASS Chair:Rebecca Cohn
IMO:Mark Brewer
ISO:Kinam M. Kim
ISSO:Mark Brewer
PAO:Terry White
RSO:Pittman Orr
State ICASS:Robert Gabor

Last Updated: 1/27/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 26, 2007

Country Description: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. Civil war and terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983. On February 22, 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed an indefinite cease-fire agreement. Over the past several years, incidents of violence have increased. From December 2005 to January 2007 over 3700 persons, including combatants and civilians, were killed in the conflict, and the cease-fire agreement remains at risk. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka’s beaches, hill country, and archeological sites continued to attract thousands of visitors each year from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and many southern beach towns all have good tourist facilities.

The Asian Tsunami on December 26, 2004 caused severe damage and loss of life to several coastal areas of eastern, southern, and southwestern Sri Lanka. Many affected resorts have completely recovered. Travelers planning to visit Sri Lanka should consult with travel agencies or the Sri Lankan Tourist Board, however, to ensure their itineraries travelers should take this event into account, and plan accordingly.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visitor visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka. Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. Sri Lankan law requires all persons, including foreigners, who are guests in private households, to register in person at the nearest local police station. Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses. Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 26, fax numbers (202) 232-7181, e-mail address: [email protected], home page: http://www.slembassy.org, the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Los Angeles at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1405, Los Angeles, CA 90010, telephone (213) 387-0210, or the U.N. Mission in New York City, telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States. They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy web site. Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka website at http://www.slembassyusa.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Due to the outbreak of hostilities in July 2006, the Department of State issued a Travel Warning for Sri Lanka that strongly advises American citizens not to travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka. Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities such as suicide bombings and targeted assassinations in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. The LTTE have targeted many Tamil moderates, Sri Lankan military and government officials, and the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka. As the conflict continues, the U.S. Embassy expects that targeted assassinations and bombings in the Colombo area will continue. We strongly advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Throughout their history, the LTTE have engaged in numerous terrorist acts, including suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings, and major economic targets. In December 2006 the LTTE attacked the motorcade of Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in downtown Colombo. On June 17, 2006, LTTE frogmen were apprehended north of Colombo; they may have been trying to attack ships in the port of Colombo. On July 7, 2004, a suicide bomber detonated in a police station in Colombo, killing herself, 4 policemen, and critically injuring 11 people. In 2003, the LTTE attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka. In 2001, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. The LTTE have also engaged in political assassinations, including the August 12, 2005 assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar at his residence in Colombo.

Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners might be killed or injured. American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In the past the LTTE has detonated bombs near major hotels, a tourist site in Kandy, and has targeted buses and trains. In January 2007, two bombs on public buses outside Colombo killed more than 20 people and injured dozens more. In May 2006, seven people were killed when a jeep carrying Sri Lankan tourists hit a landmine in Wilpattu National Park in the northwest of the country. The park reopened in 2003, after being closed for 17 years due to the ongoing conflict. While most national parks are quite safe, tourists should be aware that the LTTE has the capability to operate in many national parks located in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Travelers should also be aware that the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs. In April 2001, grenade fragments seriously injured an American citizen when she was caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.

We advise all Americans to stay away from military bases and vehicles in Sri Lanka. In October 2006 the LTTE attacked military targets in Galle and Habarana. On June 6, 2006 a claymore mine exploded 50 meters from the Welisara Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) camp in Ragama, on Colombo-Negombo Road. On April 25, 2006, a female suicide bomber attacked the vehicle of the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army at army headquarters in Colombo, killing several members of his staff and injuring many more bystanders. While these targets were near tourist areas, foreign tourists were not the target of these attacks and none were injured.

American citizens should also be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugam Bay. In October 2002, riots between Muslim and Sinhala factions in the Greater Colombo area precipitated short-term curfews. In May 2001 a disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy reportedly resulted in one death during a police shootout and extensive property damage.

Americans are advised to avoid entirely political rallies and other mass gatherings, public transportation, and to limit their exposure to government buildings if possible. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. U.S. citizens of any ethnic heritage are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times. In the event of a terrorist attack, Americans should monitor local radio and television, seek cover away from windows, and return to their homes or hotels when it is safe to do so. The Government has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television. Travelers in Colombo are often the subject of searches by the police, as security forces increase their vigilance. American citizens should comply with instructions from the security forces.

American citizens are strongly advised not to travel north of a line from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nilaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. Americans are also advised against travel to the city of Jaffna in the North. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka does not exercise effective control of the civil administration in many sections of the north, where the LTTE operate openly. On April 18, 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka urged all American citizens to avoid travel to any location in the Jaffna Peninsula or the Trincomalee area and urged Americans in these parts to give serious consideration to departing. Furthermore, Americans are advised that travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nilaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and areas south to Arugam Bay) poses significant safety risks. The security forces have bombed several areas in LTTE-controlled areas. Additionally, fighting between government and LTTE forces may pose severe hazards to American citizens traveling in this region. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to these areas in the North and East is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Americans should consider their personal security foremost before considering traveling or working in eastern Sri Lanka.

In addition, roads in these areas are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. Because of these factors, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special medications with them. There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service—Asiri Hospital, Apollo Hospital, and the government-run General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sri Lanka is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, dangerously-driven buses, overloaded trucks and the variety of conveyances on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel- drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous.

Many visitors hire cars and drivers for long trips through the country. Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations. Visit the website of Sri Lanka’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lanka.net.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Consulate General in Los Angeles, or the U.N. Mission in New York City.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sri Lanka’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Sri Lanka are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy’s telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 249 8500. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94) (11) 249 8888. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(11)-249 8590. The Embassy’s Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The Consular Section has a specific email address dedicated to American Citizens Services at [email protected] state.gov. The general email address for the consular section is [email protected] The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives.

International Adoption : February 2007

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

General: The Sri Lankan Department of Probation and Sri Lankan Child Care Services may, as the need arises, amend the adoption procedures. Specific questions regarding adoptions in Sri Lanka should be addressed to either directly to the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, or to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Please review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Sri Lanka is the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, 95 Sir Chittampalam Gardiner Mawtha, P.O Box 546, Colombo 02, Sri Lanka. Telephone No. 94-1-327600 or 94-1-448577, Fax No. 94-1-327600. The Department’s hours of operation are from 8.30 a.m. to 4.15 p.m.

Every application for adoption must be in conformity with the provisions of the Adoption of Children’s Ordinance (Chapter 61) as amended as it relates to restricts in making of adoption orders, terms and conditions of adoption orders and court requirements.

Adoption Procedures: The District Court of Colombo and the District Court of Colombo South that have the appropriate jurisdiction, are empowered to make orders of adoption of Sri Lankan children by persons not resident and domiciled in Sri Lanka. Foreign applicants cannot find children for adoption privately. Allocation of children can only be made from the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children’s Homes that are registered by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years and only by specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.

  • Have a home study prepared in the U.S.
  • Gather together all your supporting documents.
  • Send your formal application and all the supporting documents to the Sri Lankan Embassy for authentication and transmission to the Department of Probation and Child Care Services in Sri Lanka.
  • Wait for the letter of allocation from the Sri Lankan adoption agency.
  • Upon receipt of the Commissioner’s letter, the prospective parents should make arrangements to travel to Sri Lanka. Expect to stay at least 4 to 5 weeks since court action for an adoption must take place in Sri Lanka.
  • On arrival in Sri Lanka, contact the social worker assigned to the case by the Commissioner of Probation & Child Care Services to schedule an interview at the Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
  • After the interview, the prospective parents will be issued a letter from the Commissioner authorizing them to see the child at the specified children’s home. However, the applicants will not be allowed to take the child out of the custody of the person in charge for any purpose without the prior approval of the Commissioner. Authority can be given to the applicants for the purpose of medical examination of the child.
  • Engage a Sri Lankan attorney to represent you at the legal proceedings. If all is in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations, the court issues an order of adoption.
  • Obtain the Certificate of Adoption using the adoption order from the courts by registering it with the Registrar General.
  • Obtain a Sri Lankan passport for the adopted child.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Under Sri Lankan law adoption by single persons is not permitted. An application for adoption to the courts must be made jointly by husband and wife. Each of the applicants must be over the age of 25 years and not less than 21 years older than the child for whom the application is made.

Both husband and wife must be present during the court proceedings unless the court waives personal appearances on the grounds of ill health supported by a medical practitioner recognized by the U.S. Government. In such cases a power of attorney will also be necessary.

Residential Requirements: The adoptive parents should be prepared to stay for a period of about 4 weeks for the court procedures to be finalized. Once an IV is issued the child could leave the country the very next day.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE COMMISSIONER OF CHILD CARE SERVICES AND PROBATION IN COLOMBO HAS ADVISED THE U.S. EMBASSY THAT, UNDER SRI LANKAN LAW, WHILE FOREIGN NATIONALS ARE RESIDING IN SRI LANKA THEY CANNOT ADOPT A CHILD FROM THAT COUNTRY.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Foreign applicants cannot find children for adoption privately. Allocation of children can only be made from the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children’s Homes that are registered by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years and only by specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Sri Lanka.

Documentary Requirements:

Final Adoption Decree issued by the District Court, birth certificate issued to the biological parents or hospital records and medical reports issued by the Embassy panel physician.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Embassy of Sri Lanka:
2148 Wyoming Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: 202-483-4026 to 28
Fax: 202-232-7181
Email address: [email protected]

U.S. Embassy:
210, Galle Road
Colombo 03, Sri Lanka
Tel: 94-1-448007
Fax: 94-1-437345, 436943
Home page:
http://www.usia.gov/posts/srilanka or www.travel.state.gov

Additional Information: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Sri Lanka may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. You may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

Travel Warning : October 23, 2006

This Travel Warning provides security information and alerts American citizens traveling to or living in the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka of the heightened potential for terrorist actions, including attacks against civilians. This situation is likely to continue for some time. Over the last several months, acts of terrorism including bombings and political assassinations have occurred in Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan military forces have clashed on several occasions, and this fighting has escalated in recent weeks. While most of the country remains largely unaffected, the Department warns Americans against traveling to areas in the North and East of the country given the dangers caused by the ongoing fighting between LTTE, other armed groups, and Sri Lankan military forces. This Travel Warning expires on April 19, 2007.

The Department of State alerts American citizens to the dangers posed by recent acts of terrorism throughout Sri Lanka, and warns against travel to the most seriously affected regions. Although there is no specific indication that American citizens or institutions are targets, there is a general risk of American citizens being victims of violence simply by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Politically motivated assassinations have taken place throughout Sri Lanka, including several in the Colombo area. In many cases, these assassinations involve the use of fragmentation bombs. American citizens in Sri Lanka should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices. Americans should avoid large crowds or public gatherings and should particularly stay away from political rallies and military bases in Sri Lanka.

The areas in the North and East are of special concern. These areas are defined as the regions north of a line following the highway from Puttalam through Anuradhapura to Trincomalee, and east down to Batticaloa. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens that travel to these areas and into any LTTE-controlled territory may pose severe hazards. U.S. government personnel are generally prohibited from traveling in these areas, and American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately as their safety cannot be effectively guaranteed. We have no indication at this time of a threat to tourist areas in the Cultural Triangle, including territory around Anaradhapura and Polonnoruwa.

In areas outside of the North and East, Sri Lankan nationals have been the targets of assassinations and bombings. On October 18, the LTTE targeted a Sri Lankan naval facility in Galle, on the southwest coast. Foreign tourists were not the objects of this attack and none were injured. Americans should comply with all instructions from security forces and police when traveling in Sri Lanka.

American citizens, including those of Sri Lankan origin, living in Sri Lanka or traveling there for even a few days are strongly urged to register with the Embassy. Registration will allow the embassy to provide direct information on the security situation as necessary. Registration is done online and can be done in advance of travel at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/.

Information on registering can also be found at the Embassy website: http://srilanka.usembassy.gov or at the Department of State’s Consular Affairs website: http://travel.state.gov.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its consular information documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Type of Government

Sri Lanka is a democratic socialist republic with power divided between executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch consists of the president, the prime minister, and the cabinet. The legislative branch is a unicameral parliament. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals function independently of the executive and legislative branches.

Background

Sri Lanka is an island nation in the Indian Ocean near the southern coast of India. Though archaeologists believe that humans have occupied Sri Lanka since 500,000 BC, recorded history begins in approximately 540 BC, when immigrants from southern India established the Thammana Kingdom. In the following centuries Indo-Aryan immigrants intermarried with the island’s tribal inhabitants to become the Sinhalese, the founders of the country’s native dynasties.

In the fifth century BC Sinhalese King Pandukhabhaya built Anuradhapura, the nation’s first major city. Buddhism, the official state religion, was an inspiration for its architecture and culture: Shrines and stupas—mound-shaped religious monuments—were prominent.

Anuradhapura endured through a succession of monarchs but was strategically vulnerable to coastal invasion. In AD 1017 armies from India’s Chola region occupied Anuradhapura and captured King Mahinda V (982–1029). After taking control of the city, the Chola armies moved the capital to the northwestern city of Pollanaruwa.

Sinhalese King Vijayabahu I (1055–1110) defeated the Chola in 1070 and established the next major Sinhalese dynasty at Pollanaruwa. He left no successor to the throne, so civil war erupted after his death. The kingdom was eventually united under Parakramabahu I (1153–1186), who transformed Pollanaruwa into one of the most culturally advanced kingdoms in Asia. He is especially known for establishing irrigation and reservoir systems that revolutionized agricultural production.

The Pollanaruwa era ended in 1215 with the invasion of an army from eastern India, under the command of Kalinga Magha. During the following two centuries the nation was fragmented into a series of transient kingdoms until Sinhalese King Parakramabahu VI (1415–1476) reunified the country and established a new capital in Kotte on the west coast. Portuguese traders arrived in Sri Lanka in the early sixteenth century and made commercial agreements with the Sinhalese rulers. By 1600 the Portuguese had assumed political control through economic dominance and the threat of military force.

While the Europeans ruled the west coast, a new dynasty, known as the Kandyan, developed in the central regions. The Portuguese attempted to expand their territory, but the Kandyans resisted militarily and, in 1617, formed an alliance with the Dutch government, one of Portugal’s major rivals. With Dutch help the Kandyans captured the Portuguese city of Colombo and temporarily interrupted European control of the nation. Then in 1795 the British arrived in Sri Lanka. By 1815 they had defeated the native military and annexed Sri Lanka as a royal territory.

After establishing an administrative center in Colombo, the British transformed Sri Lanka into a key trading port while simultaneously developing the agricultural industry: Sri Lanka became a major producer of coffee, coconuts, and spices. The British also updated the nation’s cities with improved transportation systems, established an industrial sector, and modernized the educational system, which was eventually opened to natives.

An independence movement developed soon after the British took control, but remained underground until the twentieth century. It surfaced in the 1930s, citing the denial of civil rights and labor exploitation. Between 1930 and 1940 the British reformed the constitution to allow native representation in the colonial government and to provide additional rights for citizens.

During World War II Sri Lanka was an important military base for allied operations against Japan; thousands of Sri Lankans provided labor. When the war ended in 1945 native representatives again resumed their petitions for independence. Through a series of negotiations a new constitution emerged, providing a timeline for independence while guaranteeing the British rights to military and economic operations in the region. On February 4, 1948, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) was granted full independence as a democratic republic.

Government Structure

The Sri Lankan constitution, adopted in 1978, provides universal suffrage for all persons eighteen years of age and older and specifies a proportional representation system for elections.

The executive branch of the government consists of the president, the prime minister, and the cabinet. The president, who functions as chief of state, head of government, and commander of the armed forces, is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two terms of six years each. Among the president’s duties are appointing government officials and initiating legislative proposals. The president also has the power to suspend or dissolve the parliament in the event of a government deadlock.

The prime minister, who serves as the president’s chief deputy, is the leader of the majority party in parliament. Many of the prime minister’s duties are executive in nature. For example, the prime minister nominates members of parliament to serve as cabinet ministers. The ministers, who are then appointed by the president, lead the nation’s various agencies.

Sri Lanka has a unicameral parliament whose 225 members are elected for six-year terms. Voters in the twenty-five multimember electoral districts elect 196 legislators; the remaining 29 are allocated to the various parties according to their share of the national vote. Parliament is the sole lawmaking body and has oversight over most executive decisions, including the decision to declare war. The parliament can also impeach the president, dissolve the cabinet, and dismiss executive officers. The parliament functions through a system of committees that work with and advise the ministries.

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all lower courts and consists of eleven justices, including a chief justice, appointed by the president. They serve until retirement at age sixty-five. The Supreme Court is responsible for ensuring that laws do not violate the constitution. Sri Lankan law is based primarily on the British legal system but also incorporates elements of Roman, Dutch, Sinhalese, and Islamic law.

Political Parties and Factions

By the 1950s two major parties dominated national and regional elections, effectively making Sri Lanka a two-party state. Because of the prevalence of minor parties, however, neither major party has ever secured a majority without forming a coalition. In the twenty-first century, two major coalitions—the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UFPA) and the United National Front (UNF)—became major contenders in national elections.

UFPA was founded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which has been one of Sri Lanka’s largest political parties since its establishment in 1951. SLFP is a moderate socialist party that also represents Sinhalese nationalism. It is considered the more leftist or liberal of the major parties. The UFPA also includes the People’s Liberation Front, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, and the Muslim National Unity Alliance.

The UNF coalition was formed by the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka’s oldest political party. UNP was the first party to head the Sri Lankan government and has held majorities during thirty-three of the country’s fifty-seven years as an independent republic. Though UNP is a socialist democratic party, it is viewed as the more conservative party because of its focus on economic initiatives and military investment. The coalition also includes the Western People’s Front and the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, both of which represent the nation’s labor unions.

One of the major issues in Sri Lankan politics is the status of the country’s Tamil ethnic group, which makes up 18 to 20 percent of the population. Ethnic divisions are now primarily political, though historically there has been a religious split between the predominantly Hindu and Muslim Tamil and the mostly Buddhist and Christian Sinhalese.

Militant factions, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), have been waging a secessionist struggle against the Sri Lankan government since the 1970s. Though the government considers LTTE to be a terrorist organization and has banned it from participation in politics, the Tamil have developed a political coalition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), to lobby for legislation and for the establishment of an independent Tamil state. Some analysts believe LTTE or other militant factions covertly control the TNA. In any case, the coalition exacts some influence over legislative developments.

Major Events

In 1956 SLFP won the general election with a platform based on Sinhalese nationalism. Soon after it took control of the legislature, SLFP made Sinhalese the official language of Sri Lanka, despite the fact that 25 percent of the people spoke some form of the Tamil language. Tamil representatives protested, and the lobby for Tamil independence intensified. The subsequent debates led to increased factionalism and sparked incidents of racial violence.

In May 1958 mobs of Sinhalese nationalists attacked Tamil immigrants traveling through Pollonaruwa. The gangs then spread to the rural areas, where they attacked Tamil farm and plantation workers. As the mobs grew—they quickly numbered in the thousands—dozens of Tamil were killed, as were police who tried to intervene. Violence spread to Colombo, where Hindu temples were looted and burned and hundreds of Tamil were attacked in the streets. Sinhalese gangs committed acts of arson, rape, and murder. In the eastern province Tamil gangs began to commit revenge attacks, leading to the deaths of a number of Sinhalese.

The government declared a state of emergency and sent troops to Colombo. Thousands of Tamil were evacuated to Jaffna, the principal city in Sri Lanka’s northern province. Although the violence ended within a few days, the divisions between ethnic groups had intensified. Militant Tamil factions developed, leading to a civil war in 1983. Government sources estimate that between 1983 and 2007 the civil war resulted in more than seventy thousand deaths. Thousands of others were left homeless or displaced.

LTTE is officially credited with starting the war by assassinating the mayor of Jaffna in 1975; however, LTTE’s 1983 attack on the military near Colombo precipitated the first major counteroffensive from the government. Faced with the government’s superior military force, the Tamil began using assassinations and suicide bombings to disrupt military operations.

The Republic of India played a controversial role in the civil war by giving military and medical aid to Tamil rebels in the city of Jaffna. It parachuted tons of food into areas that were under siege by government forces. Some observers say the intervention was aimed at appeasing India’s large Tamil population, which supported the independence movement in Sri Lanka. In 1987 Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene (1906–1996) met with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1944–1991) to negotiate a peace treaty. Among other minor concessions, the Sri Lankan government agreed to merge the northern and eastern provinces; to give additional governmental powers to the provinces; and to make Tamil an official language of the region.

By 1991 the disarmament agreement had failed, and racial violence erupted in Colombo, Jaffna, and surrounding areas. Military clashes led to thousands of deaths on both sides while gangs of militants roamed the country killing those believed to be enemy sympathizers. In 1993 a suicide bomber killed President Ranasinghe Premadasa (1924–1993).

Late in 2001 representatives from Norway mediated a cease-fire and arranged negotiations between the government and LTTE, which resulted in tentative agreements between combatants. When Sri Lanka was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the government and Tamil representatives maintained the cease-fire to allow rescue and reconstruction operations.

Violence resumed in the northeast in 2005. In 2006 diplomatic intervention from the United States, Japan, and Norway led to a new cease-fire and plans for further negotiations. When peace talks came to a halt late in 2006, LTTE bombed a civilian bus, prompting the military to launch a series of air strikes. Fighting continued into 2007, as the military launched repeated naval and aerial assaults against Tamil strongholds. In April 2007 the Tamil revealed a newly formed aerial unit when they launched their first air strike against a government military installation.

Twenty-First Century

Sri Lanka’s major challenge in the twenty-first century is the ongoing civil war. The military effort continues to drain the economy, prevents new investment, and contributes to unemployment and homelessness. The civil war has also weakened Sri Lanka’s ability to conduct foreign relations because of the numerous human-rights violations committed by both the Tamil and the government.

Sri Lanka’s economy and infrastructure were heavily damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which left more than four hundred thousand people displaced. The economy showed signs of growth in 2005 and 2006, spurred by the national reconstruction effort and the influx of foreign aid. The nation faces significant environmental issues, including rapid deforestation and the loss of native species because of population expansion and pollution.

Clarance, William. Ethnic Warfare in Sri Lanka and the UN Crisis . London: Pluto Press, 2007.

De Silva, K. M. A History of Sri Lanka . Rev. ed. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2005.

Hennayake, Nalani. Culture, Politics, and Development in Postcolonial Sri Lanka . Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.

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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka is home to the world's oldest continuing Buddhist civilization. Brāhmī inscriptions etched in stone on drip ledges above natural caves in the country's North-Central province indicate that hermitages have been dedicated by Buddhist laity for the meditation needs of monks since the third century b.c.e. Moreover, the fourth- and fifth-century c.e. monastic chronicles, the Dīpavaṃsa (Chronicle of the Island) and the Mahāvaṃsa (Great Chronicle), contain a series of myths in which the Lankan king Devanāṃpiya Tissa (third century b.c.e.), a contemporary of the Indian emperor AŚoka, is said to have been converted to the Buddha's teachings by Aśoka own missionary son, Mahinda. Thus, from inscriptions and monastic literary traditions, it is known that by the third century b.c.e. lineages of forest monks supported by Buddhist laity were established on the island in the region that became Lanka's political center for thirteen subsequent centuries. Since Aśoka is also thought to have provided support for Devanāṃpiya Tissa's abhiṣeka (coronation), it would seem that Buddhism became formally associated with Lanka's kingship by this time as well. For more than two millennia, until the British dethroned the last Lankan king in 1815, a symbiotic relationship entailing mutual support and legitimation between the Lankan kings and the Buddhist saṆgha (community) was sustained, either as an ideal or in actual practice.

Over the course of this long history, other forms of Buddhism joined the predominant TheravĀda bhikkhu (monk) and bhikkhunī (nun) saṇhas, which the Mahāvaṃsa asserts were established by Aśhoka's children, Mahinda and his sister Saśghamittā, respectively, and whose lineages were preserved by the Theravāda Mahāvihāra nikāya. These included the cults of MahĀyĀna bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteśvara, and the teachings of several Mahāyāna schools and of tantric Buddhist masters associated with Mahāvihāra's rival in Anurādhapura, the Abhayagiri nikāya, which were established and thrived, particularly during the seventh through the tenth centuries c.e.

The Anurādhapura period

Faxian (ca. 337–ca. 418 c.e.), the itinerant Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, has provided a valuable description of fifth-century Anurādhapura, reporting that approximately eight thousand Buddhist monks then resided in the capital city. Faxian also reports that a public ritual procession of the Daḷada (tooth-relic of the Buddha) was celebrated annually, that the cult of Śri Mahābōdhi (a graft of the original bodhi tree at Bodh gayĀ in India) was regularly venerated and lavishly supported by the laity and the king, and that Lankan kings had built massive stŪpas to commemorate the Buddha and his relics. Well before Faxian's time and long thereafter, the city of Anurādhapura had become a politically powerful and cosmopolitan center whose successful economy had been made possible through the development of sophisticated hydraulic engineering and through the establishment of trade with partners as far flung as China in the east and Rome in the west. Furthermore, the city had become the administrative pivot of the three great monastic nikāyas (chapters) of the Lankan Buddhist saṅgha: the Theravāda Mahāvihāra; and the more doctrinally eclectic Abhayagiri and Jetavana chapters, each of which systematically established a vast array of affiliated village monasteries and forest hermitages throughout the domesticated rice-growing countryside. During the first millennium c.e., the three nikāyas in Anuradhapura and their affiliated monasteries dominated every facet of social, economic, educational, and cultural life. Some have argued that just as Lankan polity was expected to be the chief patron supporting the saṅgha functioned as a "Department of State" for the kingship. Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, that assertion does point to the extent to which Buddhist institutions became the basic social infrastructure in Lanka for many centuries.

Given the congenial relationship between polity and religion, the Anurādhapura period witnessed the fluorescence of an economically advanced and artistically sophisticated culture. Although the only surviving examples of painting are the frescos of heavenly maidens (perhaps apsaras) found at Sīgiriya, thousands of free-standing stone sculptures of the Buddha, scores of stone-carved bas-reliefs, and hundreds of bronzes are still extant, including the famous colossal images at Avukana and the meditative Buddhas that remain within the ruins of the Abhayagiri monastic complex at Anurādhapura. Early anthropomorphic images of the Buddha in Lanka bear a stylistic, and sometimes material, affinity with Buddha images created at Amāravatī in south India, while images from the later Anurādhapura period, such as the eighth-century Avukana image, reflect the development of a distinctive Lankan style that emphasized the significance of the Buddha as a mahāpuruṣa (cosmic person).

The Mahāvaṃsa asserts that the Buddhist canon (Tripiṭaka; Pāli, Tipiṭaka) was first committed to writing during the reign of King VaṭṭagāmiṇĪ Abhaya in the first century b.c.e. at Aluvihara just north of Matale, inaugurating, perhaps, the tradition of inscribing Buddhist texts on to ola leaves, a tradition of committing the dharma to handwriting that continued into the nineteenth century. In rare instances, texts were also inscribed on gold or copper plates, such as the gold leaves bearing an eighth-century fragment of a Sanskrit Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra (Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra), found within the massive stŪpa at Jetavana in Anurādhapura in the early 1980s.

In addition to the Pāli Tipiṭaka and the Pali monastic chronicles Dīpavamsa and Mahāvaṃsa, the fifth and sixth centuries were the backdrop for the commentaries produced by Buddhaghosa. His Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification), an elaborate and precise exegesis of sīla (śīla; English, morality), samādhi (meditation), and paññā or prajÑĀ (wisdom)—the three elemental principles of practice that Buddhaghosa regarded as the bases of the Buddha's "noble eightfold path"—eventually became an enduring centerpiece of normative orthodoxy for Theravada in Sri Lanka and later in Southeast Asia. The Visuddhimagga stressed the interrelated and dependent nature of sīla, samādhi, and paññā, and the fundamental reality of paticcasamupāda or pratĪtyasamutpĀda (dependent origination).

The Polonnaruva era

Beginning with the Polonnaruva era (eleventh through thirteenth century c.e.), and especially during the reign of Parākramabahu I (1153–1186 c.e.), when the saṅgha was reunified after its demise by south Indian Cōḷa invaders who had demolished Anurādhapura in the late tenth century, Theravāda became the exclusive form of doctrinal orthodoxy patronized by the kingship in Sri Lanka. It was specifically this reconstituted Theravada that was exported to Burma (Myanmar) in the eleventh century and subsequently into northern Thailand, spreading from those regions to become the dominant religion of mainland Southeast Asia. What was not reconstituted at Polonnaruva, however, was the bhikkhunīsaṅgha, a sorority that had thrived during the Anurādhapura centuries and had spread its lineage as far as China. Yet Polonnaruva became a marvelous city for a span of about 150 years before it was sacked by another south Indian invasion. Although its beautiful stūpas could not rival the size of the Abhayagiri, Jetavana, and Ruvanvälisa¨ya topes in Anurādhapura, and although its sculptures lacked the plastic fluidity of times past, the architecture, literature, and educational institutions of Polonnaruva were unparalleled anywhere in South or Southeast Asia at that time. The massive Alahena monastic university, a bastion of Theravāda orthodoxy, at one time housed as many as ten thousand monks.

It was also at Polonnaruva and in the courts of kings who soon followed, such as Parākramabāhu II at thirteenth-century Dam̆badeṇiya, that new literary innovations were cultivated, in part due to the stimulus and presence of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature, and in part due to the maturation of the Sinhala language itself. At Polonnaruva, the Hindu temples built by the Cōḷa invaders had not been destroyed by the reconquering Sinhalas in the eleventh century because the queens of the Sinhala kings, who were brought from south India, were nominally Hindu, as were their relations and retinues. Thus, the royal court headed by a Sinhala Buddhist king was heavily influenced by a classical Sanskritic or Hindu presence seen not only in the substance and style reflected in contemporary sections of the Cūḷavamsa (Minor Chronicles, the sequel to the Mahāvaṃsa), but also in the cultic life and sculptural creations of Polonnaruva, which included the veneration and depiction of Hindu deities such as ViṢṆu and Śiva. In this context, Gurulugomi, a Buddhist upāsaka (layman), composed the first Sinhala works of prose, including the Amāvatura (The Flood of Nectar), a reworking of the life of the Buddha aimed at demonstrating his powers to convert others to the truth of dharma. Since the Amāvatura seems to have been written in a conscious effort to avoid using Sanskrit words, some have suggested that his writings reflect an antipathy for an ever-growing Hindu influence on Sinhala Buddhist culture in general. The late Polonnaruva era also marks the creation of many other important Sinhalese Theravāda Buddhist classics, including the Butsaraṇa (Refuge of the Buddha), the Pūjūvaliya (The Garland of Offerings), and the Saddharma Ratnūvaliya (The Garland of Jewels of the Good Doctrine), all didactic and devotional works.

Hinduization of Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka

While the destruction of institutional Buddhism at Anurādhapura and the reconstruction of the saṅgha at Polonnaruva may have led in general to the eclipse of Mahāyāna and tantric cults in Lanka, invasions from south India beginning in the tenth century and the increasing numbers of military mercenaries who followed during the politically volatile thirteenth and fourteenth centuries only increased the presence and influence of Hindu cults in the Sinhala Buddhist religious culture of the era. During the fourteenth century, when a retreating Buddhist kingship established its capital in the Kandyan highlands at Gampola, Hindu deities such as Viṣṇu, Skanda, the goddess Pattin, and Ganesha, as well as a host of other local deities associated with specific regions and natural phenomena, were incorporated into an evolving pantheon of Sinhala deities. They were recast as gods whose warrants for acting in the world on behalf of Buddhist devotees were subject to the sanctioning of the Buddha's dharma. The highest of these deities, worshipped within the same halls where the Buddha was worshipped or in adjacent shrines (devālāyas), came to be styled as bodhisattvas, or "buddhas in-the-making," and a vast literature of ballads, poems, and sagas in Sinhala, some inspired by the Sanskrit purāṇas (mythic stories), was created to edify devotees over the ensuing several centuries.

By the fifteenth century, the island had been again reunified politically by Parākrāmabahu VI, whose capital at Kotte on the southwest coast became the hub of an eclectic renaissance of religious culture epitomized by the gamavāsi (village-oriented monk) Śrī Rāhula, whose linguistic dexterity (he was known as "master of six languages") and concomitant affinities for popular religious and magical practices, refracted the syncretic character of religion at the time. Śrī Rāhula is perhaps best remembered for writing two classical Sinhala sandēśaya poems styled after the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa's Meghadhūta (Cloud Messenger) that, while glorifying the Buddha as the "god beyond the gods," appealed directly to the gods for divine assistance in sustaining the wellbeing of the Buddhist kingship and its administration. Vīdāgama Maitreya, a wilderness monk (arañavāsi) and one of Parākramabāhu's childhood mentors, wrote the Buduguṇalāṃkāraya (In Praise of the Buddha's Qualities) as a scathing critique of the increasing Hinduization of Buddhist culture. These two great monks, both of whom were deeply involved in competing trajectories of court and monastic cultures, represent an ancient and continuing tension regarding the nature of the monastic vocation: as a matter of caring for the "welfare of the many" (the village monk) or engaging in the "rhinoceros-like solitary life" of a forest meditator.

Colonial and postcolonial eras

By the sixteenth century, the Portuguese had begun to interfere with the court at Kōṭṭe and eventually converted King Dharmapala to Christianity, exacerbating an increasingly fractious political context that led in the 1590s to the establishment of a new line of Sinhala Buddhist kings in highland Kandy, a new capital city replete with a supportive cast: a bhikkhusaṅgha whose lineage was imported from Burma, a new Daḷadā Maligāvā (Palace of the Tooth-Relic), and devālāyas for the gods who had emerged as the four protective guardian deities of the island. The Kandyans colluded with the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century to oust the Portuguese. Despite one war in the 1760s during the reign of Kīrti Śrī Rajasiṃha, the Kandyans and the Dutch managed to coexist for a century and a half producing, in effect, distinctive highland and lowland Sinhala cultures. The former styled itself as more purely Sinhala Buddhist, despite the fact that by this time the Kandyan kings were ethnically Tamil, owing to the continuing practice of securing queens from Madurai. But it is remarkable how "Buddhacized" this last line of Lankan kings became. Kīrti Śrī and his brother Rājādi who succeeded him, were responsible for the last great renaissance of Theravāda: first, by reconstituting what had become a decadent saṅgha by introducing a fresh lineage from Thailand that became known as the dominant Siyam Nikāya; second, by appointing a monastic head (saṅgharāja) in the person of the learned monk Saraṇamkara, who reemphasized the importance of monastic literary education and moral virtue; third, by providing the means to hold a calendar of Buddhist public rites, including the still annually held äsaḷa perahära procession of the Dalada and the insignia of the guardian deities in Kandy; and fourth, by refurbishing virtually every Buddhist monastery in the kingdom, a commitment that resulted in the artistic birth of the Kandyan school of Buddhist monastery painting.

After the British established their colonial hegemony in the early nineteenth century, Buddhist culture atrophied for several decades. Its revival toward the end of the century was catalyzed in part by the establishment of two new low-country monastic nikāyas, the Amarapura and the Ramañña. Both, in contrast to the Siyam Nikāya, established new lineages from Burma, claimed to be more doctrinally orthodox, emphasized the practice of meditation, and recruited novices without regard to caste. A series of public religious debates between Buddhist monks and Anglican clergy in the low country also fueled the revitalization. Moreover, the revival gained momentum with the arrival of Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), an American theosophist who organized and established many

Buddhist schools modeled on the successful missionary schools administered by the Anglicans. Olcott wrote a widely disseminated "Buddhist Catechism," designed and distributed a Buddhist flag, and helped to organize a liturgical year celebrating full moon days as Buddhist holidays. One of Olcott's early and enthusiastic followers, the AnagĀrika DharmapĀla (1864–1933), transformed the religious revival into a religio-nationalist cause by founding in 1891 the Mahābodhi Society, which sought to regain Buddhist control of Buddhist holy sites in India. In addition, Dharmapāla published his influential Return to Righteousness (a detailed excursus on lay Buddhist conduct and spiritual realization aimed at purifying Buddhism of its colonial and popular "contaminations"), and he inspired the laity to emulate their colonial masters' work ethic. Some have argued that Olcott and Dharmapāla successively set into motion a new lay Buddhist religious ethic comparable to the lay-oriented religious culture of Protestant Christianity, a "Protestant Buddhism," so called because of its emphasis on unmediated individual lay religious practice and the importance attached to integrating the significance of spiritual teachings into everyday life.

Aside from "Protestant Buddhism," at least three other features marked the character of Buddhism in twentieth-century Sri Lanka. The first is the reemphasis given to meditation for both monks and laypersons, especially methods of insight (vipassanĀ [Sanskrit, vipaŚyanĀ]) practice made popular by Burmese masters. The second is the establishment of Buddhist-inspired welfare institutions, such as Sarvodaya, founded in the 1950s by A. T. Ariyaratne (1931–) to reawaken village culture and to stimulate rural economies and social services. The third is the increasing politicization of Buddhism in the post-colonial era, most notably the patterns that can be traced to the pivotal national elections of 1956 when S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike (1899–1959) and his newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party won a landslide election on promises of "Sinhala only" as the national language and Buddhism as the state religion. This posture on language and religion (the basic constituents of ethnic identity in South Asia), as well as other subsequent "Sinhala Buddhist" based education and economic policies, were enacted to redress perceived inequalities resulting from earlier British colonial policies that had favored Tamil interests and disenfranchised the Sinhalese. In turn, these changes became reasons for Tamil alienation, feeding an enduring ethnic conflict dividing Sinhalas and Tamils during the final decades of the twentieth century. In this context, some influential Buddhist monks have colluded with Sinhala politicians to resurrect the ancient rhetoric of the Mahāvaṃsa and proclaim Lanka as the exclusive and predestined domain of the Buddhadharma. Others have marched for peace and coexistence.

See also:Mainstream Buddhist Schools; Sinhala, Buddhist Literature in; Sri Lanka, Buddhist Art in

Bibliography

Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Bond, George. The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka: Religious Tradition, Reinterpretation, and Response. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Carrithers, Michael. The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka: An Anthropological and Historical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Geiger, Wilhelm, ed. and trans. The Cūḷavaṃsa, 2 vols. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Government Printer, 1953.

Geiger, Wilhelm, ed. and trans. The Mahāvaṃsa. London: Pāli Text Society, 1964.

Gombrich, Richard. Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

Gombrich, Richard, and Obeyesekere, Gananath. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Gunawardana, R. A. L. H. Robe and Plough: Monasticism and Economic Interest in Early Medieval Sri Lanka. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Holt, John Clifford. Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Holt, John Clifford. The Religious World of Kīrti Śrī: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Kemper, Steven. The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

King, Winston Lee. Theravāda Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation of Yoga. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980.

Malalasekera, G. P. The Pāli Literature of Ceylon. Colombo, Sri Lanka: M. D. Gunasena, 1958.

Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750–1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Study. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Obeyesekere, Gananath. The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Seneviratne, H. L. The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Von Schroeder, Ulrich. Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, 1990.

John Clifford Holt

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

  • Area: 25,332 sq mi (65,610 sq km) / World Rank: 122
  • Location: An island in the Indian Ocean south of India, in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres
  • Coordinates: 7°00′N, 81°00′E
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 833 mi (1,340 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Pidurutalagala, 8,281 ft (2,524 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 270 mi (435 km) N-S, 140 mi (225 km) E-W
  • Longest River: Mahaweli, 206 mi (341 km)
  • Largest Lake: Maduru Oya Reservoir, 24 sq mi (63 sq km)
  • Natural Hazards: Floods, droughts, cyclones, tornadoes
  • Population: 19,408,635 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 51
  • Capital City: Colombo, on the southeast coast.
  • Largest City: Colombo, 2,409,000 (2002 est.)

OVERVIEW

At one time the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka was part of the Indian subcontinent. Barely 18 mi (29 km) of shallow sea now separates the island from India. Situated on the Indian Tectonic Plate, the island is a teardrop-shaped mass of crystalline rock on which three levels can be distinguished: a coastal belt that rises from sea level to 100 ft (30 m); a belt of rolling plain corrugated with ridges rising to 500 ft (152 m) in the south; and, in the center, an irregularly shaped mass of hills and mountains having heights of over 6,000 ft (1,829 m).

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Mountains

The island's southwest is a series of ridges and valleys. Close to the sea the ridges are low and parallel to the coast, but inland they become mountain chains alternating with long, narrow depressions. The Sabaragamuwa Ridges cover nearly the entire southern region of the country.

The central highlands (also known as the hill country) are distinguished by high mountain walls. Elevations of more than 5,000 ft (1,524 m) above sea level are the rule; Adam's Peak, a pilgrimage destination, rises to 7,360 ft (2,243 m). The Piduru Ridges comprise the central mass of the hill country. This formidable, nearly inaccessible mountain fortress includes Sri Lanka's highest mountain, Pidurutalagala, with a summit of 8,281 ft (2,524 m).

The northernmost sections of the central highlands are the Dumbara, or Knuckles, group of mountains, including Knuckles Peak that rises to a height of 6,112 ft (1,863 m). The Dolosbage mountain group is separated by the valley of the Mahaweli River from the rest of the central highlands.

Plateaus

The Hatton Plateau is one of a series of high plains of the central highlands. Its height is between 3,000 and 4,000 ft (914 to 1,219 m) above sea level. The rivers that flow between its ridges ultimately form the Mahaweli. Nearly all of the Hatton Plateau is under tea cultivation. The ancient town of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated on the Kandy Plateau in the northwest central highlands. Horton Plains, a 12 sq mi (32 sq km) National Park in the southern central highlands is Sri Lanka's highest plateau at 6,988 ft (2,130 m).

Canyons

In the Dolosbage area of the central highlands, deep, narrow valleys lie between the ridges creating a rock maze. The Kandy Plateau is also cut by ridges and valleys and by the Mahaweli River gorge.

Hills and Badlands

The island's southeastern plain is interspersed with rounded hills that are the bare tops of eroded mountains. Gentler, grass-covered hills occur in the Uva Basin of the central highlands.

INLAND WATERWAYS

Lakes

Although Sri Lanka has few natural lakes, there are 12,000 bodies of water ranging from tiny ponds to human-made reservoirs several miles wide. The oldest of the traditional reservoirs, known as tanks, is believed to be Basawakkulam, more than 11 sq mi (30 sq km), built about 300 B.C. There are as many as 10,000 tanks of various sizes. There are also flood plain lakes, called villus, which are generally truncated river bends.

Sri Lanka's largest lake, Maduru Oya (24 sq mi/63 sq km), is a modern reservoir in the central highlands. Other large reservoirs include Randenigala (10 sq mi/27 sq km), Victoria Falls (9 sq mi/23 sq km), and Kotmale (4 sq mi/10 sq km). These huge highlands reservoirs were formed by the damming of the Mahaweli for irrigation, hydroelectricity, and water supply projects completed between 1977 and 1983. Sri Lanka has 46 large dams, and many smaller hydopower projects. Nature sanctuaries have been established around the reservoirs to protect the watersheds, but tens of thousands of people were displaced for the projects, and valuable agricultural land was submerged. The reservoirs are suffering siltation and drops in water level.

Rivers

The rivers of Sri Lanka rise in the high mountains and flow over the plateaus to the plains in a ring of waterfalls. A survey found 272 waterfalls on the island. There are sixteen principal rivers. The Mahaweli, which flows northeast from the central highlands for 206 mi (341 km), is the longest. With the exception of the 104 mi (167 km) long Aruvi Aru in the northwest, the other chief rivers range from 62 to 97 mi (100 to 156 km) in length. They are not useful for navigation, being too wild in the mountains and too shallow on the plains. Inland navigation is made possible by 153 mi (246 km) of canals. The Yan flows from the center of the island northeast to the Bay of Bengal. In the southeast, the relatively short Gal runs eastward from Gal Oya National Park to the ocean, and just north of it the Maduru runs to the coast near Batticaloa. The southern end of the island has the Gin River, and the northwestern region has rivers at nearly even intervals running westward from the center to the coast. From north to south they are the Aruvi Aru, Kala, Mi, Deduru, and Maha.

Wetlands

Sri Lanka's wetlands include freshwater marshes such as Muthurajawela, a peat bog between Colombo and Negombo; rare swamp forest, such as the Walauwa Watta Wathurana in the south near Ratnapura; and 42 salt water lagoons. Two sites in Sri Lanka are declared Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention: Bundala National Park, a lagoon network abundant in waterbird species; and Annaiwilundawa Sanctuary, a 12th Century system of cascading water tanks.

THE COAST, ISLANDS AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

Sri Lanka lies in the northern Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to its east. The waters surrounding the island are so deep that Sri Lanka is almost unaffected by tidal variations. The Palk Strait and Palk Bay separate Sri Lanka's Jaffna Peninsula from India. To the south of Adam's Bridge, the Gulf of Mannar comes between Sri Lanka's northwest coast and India. Coral reefs extend around the Gulf of Mannar and sections of the southern and eastern coasts. Much of the coral is dying, however, from pollution, dynamite fishing, and changes in sea temperatures due to global warming. Sri Lanka is bordered on the southwest by the Laccadive Sea.

Major Islands

A few small islands extend from the north of Sri Lanka to the Indian mainland. Delft, 19 sq mi (50 sq km), and Velanai, 26 sq mi (68 sq km), are in Palk Bay. Mannar Island is part of Adam's Bridge, leading to India from the northwest.

The Coast and Beaches

The Jaffna Peninsula, a dry limestone extension, is Sri Lanka's northernmost region, with Point Pedro at its apex and Jaffna Lagoon to its south. Southwest of the Jaffna Peninsula, an elevated portion of the continental shelf forms the chain of rocky islands known as Adam's Bridge, nearly connecting Sri Lanka's northwest coast to India. Further south on the western coast, the Kalpitya Peninsula extends in a hook enclosing Puttalam Lagoon. The south/southwest coastline of Sri Lanka is famous for its many beautiful beaches, shared by tourist resorts and fishing communities. The southernmost point of the island is Dondra Head, marked with a lighthouse built in 1899. Koddiyar Bay indents the eastern coast, forming a superb natural harbor for the port of Trincomalee. A little further north Kokkilai Lagoon cuts into the coast near where the Yan River empties into the sea.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Sri Lanka receives the northeast monsoon in December-March and the southwest monsoon in June-October. In any one place, the temperature remains fairly constant year-round. The temperature in Colombo varies only from 77°F to 82.5°F (25°C to 28°C). The island's lowland areas have hot weather, with annual temperatures averaging 73°F to 88°F (23°C to 31°C), while the central mountains are cooler, averaging 57°F to 75°F (14°C to 24°C). Sri Lanka's humidity averages 70 percent to 90 percent.

Rainfall

A dry zone takes up three quarters of Sri Lanka, the northern and eastern regions, with an average annual rainfall of 50 to 75 in (127 to 190 cm), most of which comes from the northeast monsoon. The wet zone, the southwest region of the island, receives 100 to 200 in (254 to 508 cm) annual rainfall, mostly from the southwest monsoon.

Grasslands

Grasslands occur in the central highlands, the arid north, and along the eastern hills. The Uva Basin has distinctive wet grasslands called "patanas." Gal Oya, in the southeast, is a National Park, with tall grasses and monsoon forest. It has medicinal plants and is an elephant habitat. The Horton Plains are grasslands mixed with temperate forest, though they are dying off. Fires, livestock grazing, and invasive plant species degrade Sri Lanka's remaining grasslands.

Forests and Jungles

Sri Lanka is considered a biodiversity hot spot, as half of its species are endemic to the island. About 25 percent of Sri Lanka has forest cover of some type. About a fifth of that is tropical rainforest. Sinharaja, in the southern lowlands, is Sri Lanka's last significant primary rainforest, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Dry zone forests include thorn forests in the northwest and southeast, dry evergreen forests, and deciduous monsoon forests. The eastern slopes of the central highlands contain savannah forests, very susceptible to burning and droughts. Tropical evergreen rainforests are found at low and high elevations of the wet zone. Mangrove forests are declining along the coasts. Remaining forest cover exists mostly in disconnected patches of protected land.

HUMAN POPULATION

Sri Lanka has a very high population density, with 800 people per sq mi (309 per sq km). Consequently, family planning programs have been implemented to control population growth and this has stabilized the annual growth rate at 0.87 percent (2001), one of Asia's lowest rates. Thirty percent of Sri Lankans live in urban

Population Centers – Sri Lanka
(POPULATIONS FROM 2000 CENSUS)
Name Population Name Population
Colombo (capital) 642,020 Negombo 121,933
Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia 209,787 Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte 115,826
Moratuwa 177,190 Kandy 110,049
Jaffna 135,000    
SOURCE : Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka.
Districts – Sri Lanka
Name Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Amparai 1,778 4,604 Amparai
Anduradhapura 2,809 7,275 Anuradhapura
Badulla 1,090 2,822 Badulla
Batticaloa 1,017 2,633 Batticaloa
Colombo 268 695 Colombo
Galle 652 1,689 Galle
Hambantota 1,013 2,623 Hambantota
Jaffna 833 2,158 Jaffna
Kalutara 624 1,615 Kalutara
Kandy 833 2,158 Kandy
Kegalle 642 1,663 Kegalle
Kurunegala 1,844 4,776 Kurunegala
Mannar 778 2,014 Mannar
Matale 768 1,989 Mateale
Matara 481 1,247 Matara
Monaragala 2,188 5,666 Monaragala
Mullaitivu 798 2,066 Mullaitivu
Nuwara Eliya 555 1,437 Nuwara Eliya
Polonnaruwa 1,332 3,449 Polonnaruwa
Puttalam 1,172 3,036 Puttalam
Ratnapura 1,251 3,239 Ratnapura
Trincomalee 1,048 2,714 Trincomalee
Vavuniya 1,021 2,645 Vavuniya
SOURCE : Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.

areas (2001), and this number is expected to increase to 45 percent by 2015. One out of every eight Sri Lankans lives in the capital city of Colombo.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Being an island nation, Sri Lanka has developed a sizable fishing industry. It also produces and exports large amounts of clothing and textiles. The agricultural produce in the wet zones of the island include tea—which is grown heavily on the Hatton Plateau—rubber, coconuts, and potatoes. Sri Lanka also mines many mineral resources including graphite, heavy mineral sands, iron, salt, limestone, and clay. Precious gems are found in veins in the rock of the Sabaragamuwa Ridges south of Ratnapura. Sri Lanka has tapped into its many rivers through dams and waterfalls to produce hydropower, and also uses the monsoon winds to take advantage of wind energy.

FURTHER READINGS

Bradnock, Robert, and Rona Bradnock. Sri Lanka Handbook. Emeryville, Calif.: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2001.

Devendra, Tissa. Sri Lanka, the Emerald Island. Torrence, Calif.: Heian International, 2000.

Gunesekera, Romesh. Reef. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996.

Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. http://www.benthic.com/sri_lanka (accessed May 24, 2002).

Sri Lanka WWW Virtual Library. http://www.lankalibrary.com (accessed May 24, 2002).

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

At a Glance

Official Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Continent: Asia

Area: 24,996 square miles (64,740 sq. km)

Population: 19,408,635

Capital City: Colombo

Largest City: Colombo (1,994,000)

Unit of Money: Sri Lankan rupee

Major Languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English

Natural Resources: Limestone, graphite, gems

The Place

Sri Lanka is an island country about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of India. The Palk Strait separates the 2 countries. Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka covers 24,996 square miles (64,740 square kilometers). The central area of the country is mountainous. Plains surround the mountains and cover most of the northern half of the island. Many species of wild animals, including bears, birds, crocodiles, elephants, monkeys, and snakes, are native to Sri Lanka. More than 3,000 species of ferns and flowering plants also grow there. Some of the most common plants are bougainvillea, orchids, poinsettias, and fruit trees. A rain forest covers much of southwestern Sri Lanka. Temperatures in the low coastal areas average 80° F (27° C). Temperatures in the mountains average 60° F (16° C). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 50 inches (130 centimeters) in the northeast to about 200 inches (510 centimeters) in parts of the southwest.

The People

The people of Sri Lanka belong to several different ethnic groups. The largest groups are the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sinhalese, about 74% of the population, are descended from people from northern India. Most are Buddhists. Tamils, about 18% of the population, are descendants of people from southern India. Most are Hindus. Most Tamils live in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Violence between the 2 groups led to a civil war in the country that has continued since 1983. Most Sri Lankans are farmers. Houses with mud walls and thatched roofs are common in rural areas. Many Sri Lankans, especially rural people, live in extended families, in which more than 2 generations of the same family live together. Most rural Sri Lankan men wear a sarong—a garment wrapped around the waist to form a long skirt and a shirt. Sri Lankan women wear a redde, which is a skirt similar to a sarong, with a blouse or jacket. For more formal occasions, women may wear a sari, which is a straight piece of cloth draped around the body as a long dress. Life expectancy is 72 years.

Education

Education is highly-valued in Sri Lanka and is free from kindergarten through the university level. Sri Lanka has 8 universities. Most Sri Lankans 15 years of age or older can read and write, and the country has one of the highest literacy rates among the Asian nations. Sri Lanka's schools are considered the best of any non-industrial nation. Many Sri Lankans attend universities in the United States.

Government

Type: Republic

Structure: Executive

Leader: President

Defense

NA army personnel

NA tanks

NA major ships

NA combat aircraft

Popular Culture/Daily Life

Arts are very important to the life of Sri Lanka. Architecture, painting and sculpture, literature, music, and dance have flourished in Sri Lanka since its earliest history. Much ancient art can still be seen in ruins of some cities and in museums in Colombo, the capital. Dance is an important art form today among both Sinhalese and Tamils. Sri Lanka crafts people make jewelry and pottery, weave baskets and mats, and carve masks and other objects from wood.

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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Compiled from the January 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.

Cities: Capital—Colombo (pop. est. 1.3 million—urban area). Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte is the officially designated capital and is the site of Parliament, but it is currently only an administrative center. Other cities —Kandy (150,000), Galle (110,000), Jaffna (100,000).

Terrain: Coastal plains in the northern third of country; hills and mountains in south-central Sri Lanka rise to more than 2,133 meters (7,000 ft.).

Climate: Tropical. Rainy seasons—light in northeast, fall and winter, with average rainfall of 50 in.; heavy in southwest, summer and fall, with average rainfall of 200 in.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sri Lankan(s).

Population: (2003) 19.4 million.

Annual growth rate: 1.3%.

Ethnic groups: (2002) Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%), others (1%).

Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Languages: Sinhala and Tamil (official), English.

Education: Years compulsory —to age 14. Primary school attendance—96.5%. Literacy—91%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—15/1,000. Life expectancy—71 yrs. (male); 76 yrs. (female).

Work force: 7.2 million.


Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: February 4, 1948.

Constitution: August 31, 1978.

Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Branches: Executive—president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative—Unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, Subordinate Courts.

Administrative subdivisions: Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts. (The northern and eastern provinces, however, have been technically jointly administered since 1988.)

Political parties: United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Communist Party of Sri Lanka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, several ethnic Tamil and Muslim parties, and others.


Economy (2003)

GDP: $18.4 billion (est. 2003).

Annual growth rate: 5.5%.

Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.

Agriculture: (20.1% of GDP) Major products—rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.

Services: (53.6% of GDP) Major types – tourism, transport, telecom, banking and finance.

Industry: (26.3% of GDP) Major types—garments and leather goods, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, wood products, basic metal products, and paper products.

Trade: Exports—$5.1 billion: garments and footwear, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets—U.S. ($1.8 billion), U.K., Germany, Japan, Belgium. Imports—$6.4 billion. Major suppliers—India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, U.K., U.S. ($155 million). [U.S. data]



PEOPLE

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country's main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse.


Sinhalese make up 74% of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Ceylon Tamils, citizens whose South Indian ancestors have lived on the island for centuries, total about 12% and live predominantly in the north and east.


Indian Tamils, a distinct ethnic group, represent about 5% of the population. The British brought them to Sri Lanka in the 19th century as tea and rubber plantation workers, and they remain concentrated in the "tea country" of south-central Sri Lanka. In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 "stateless" Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, some 200,000 of whom now live in India. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, now wish to remain in Sri Lanka. The government has stated these Tamils will not be forced to return to India, although they are not technically citizens of Sri Lanka.


Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the Netherlands and the U.K.; and aboriginal Veddahs. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu. The majority of Sri Lanka's Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Sizable minorities of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholic. The 1978 constitution, while assuring freedom of religion, grants primacy to Buddhism.


Sinhala, an Indo-European language, is the native tongue of the Sinhalese. Tamils and most Muslims speak Tamil, part of the South Indian Dravidian linguistic group. Use of English has declined since independence, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle and upper middle classes, particularly in Colombo. The government is seeking to reverse the decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons. Both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages.



HISTORY

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later 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. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.


The island's contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as "Serendip," the root of the word "serendipity." Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island's coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy, last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948.


Post-Independence Politics

Sri Lankan politics since independence have been strongly democratic. Two major parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have generally alternated rule.


The UNP ruled first from 1948-56 under three Prime Ministers—D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley, and Sir John Kotelawala. The SLFP ruled from 1956-65, with a short hiatus in 1960, first under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and then, after his assassination in 1959, under his widow, Sirimavo, the world's first female chief executive in modern times. Dudley Senanayake and the UNP returned to power in 1965.

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike again assumed the premiership. A year later, an insurrection by followers of the Maoist "Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna" (JVP, or "People's Liberation Front") broke out. The SLFP government suppressed the revolt and declared a state of emergency that lasted 6 years.


In 1972, Mrs. Bandaranaike's government introduced a new constitution, which changed the country's name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, declared it a republic, made protection of Buddhism a constitutional principle, and created a weak president appointed by the prime minister. Its economic policies during this period were highly socialist and included the nationalization of large tea and rubber plantations and other private industries.


The UNP, under J.R. Jayewardene, returned to power in 1977. The Jayewardene government opened the economy and, in 1978, introduced a new constitution based on the French model, a key element of which was the creation of a strong executive presidency. J.R. Jayewardene was elected President by Parliament in 1978 and by nationwide election in 1982. In 1982, a national referendum extended the life of Parliament another 6 years.


The UNP's Ranasinghe Premadasa, Prime Minister in the Jayewardene government, narrowly defeated Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP) in the 1988 presidential elections. The UNP also won an absolute majority in the 1989 parliamentary elections. Mr. Premadasa was assassinated on May 1, 1993 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE" or "Tigers"), and was replaced by then-Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister.


The SLFP, the main party in the People's Alliance (PA) coalition, returned to power in 1994 for the first time in 17 years. The PA won a plurality in the August 1994 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Kumaratunga later won the November 1994 presidential elections and appointed her mother (former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to replace her as Prime Minister. President Kumaratunga won re-election to another 6-year term in December 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka was appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga remains as President. Thus, two politically opposed parties govern Sri Lanka in a delicate cohabitation situation.


Communal Crisis

Historical divisions continue to have an impact on Sri Lankan society and politics. From independence, the Tamil minority has been uneasy with the country's unitary form of government and apprehensive that the Sinhalese majority would abuse Tamil rights. Those fears were reinforced when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike triumphed in the 1956 elections after appealing to Sinhalese nationalism. His declaration that Sinhala was the country's official language—an act felt by Tamils to be a denigration of their own tongue—was the first in a series of steps over the following decades that appeared discriminatory to Tamils. Tamils also protested government educational policies and agriculture programs that encouraged Sinhalese farmers from the south to move to newly irrigated lands in the east. The decades following 1956 saw intermittent outbreaks of communal violence and growing radicalization among Tamil groups. By the mid-1970s Tamil politicians were moving from support for federalism to a demand for a separate Tamil state—"Tamil Eelam"—in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas on a platform of separatism. Other groups—particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers)—sought an independent state by force.


In 1983, the death of 13 Sinhalese soldiers at the hands of the LTTE unleashed the largest outburst of communal violence in the country's history. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, tens of thousands were left homeless, and more than 100,000 fled to south India. The north and east became the scene of bloodshed as security forces attempted to suppress the LTTE and other militant groups. Terrorist incidents occurred in Colombo and other cities. Each side in the conflict accused the other of violating human rights. The conflict assumed an international dimension when the Sri Lankan Government accused India of supporting the Tamil insurgents.


Indian Peacekeeping

By mid-1987, India intervened in the conflict by air-dropping supplies to prevent what it felt was harsh treatment and starvation of the Tamil population in the Jaffna Peninsula caused by an economic blockade by Colombo. Under a July 29, 1987, accord (the Indo-Lanka Accord) signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger—subject to later referendum—of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.


Within weeks, however, the LTTE declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and refused to disarm. The IPKF found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LTTE. Further complicating the return to peace was a burgeoning Sinhalese insurgency in the south. The JVP, relatively quiescent since the 1971 insurrection, began to reassert itself in 1987. Capitalizing on opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord in the Sinhalese community, the JVP launched an intimidation campaign against supporters of the accord. Numerous UNP and other government supporters were assassinated. The government, relieved of its security burden by the IPKF in the north and east, intensified its efforts in the south. The JVP was crushed but at a high cost in human lives.

From April 1989 through June 1990, the government engaged in direct communications with the LTTE leadership. In the meantime, fighting between the LTTE and the IPKF escalated in the north. India withdrew the last of its forces from Sri Lanka in early 1990, and fighting between the LTTE and the government resumed. Both the LTTE and government forces committed serious human rights violations. In January 1995, the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation of hostilities as a preliminary step in a government-initiated plan for peace negotiations. After 3 months, however, the LTTE unilaterally resumed hostilities. The government then adopted a policy of military engagement with the Tigers, with government forces liberating Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and moving against LTTE positions in the northern part of the country called the Vanni. An LTTE counteroffensive begun in October 1999 reversed most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna. Heavy fighting continued into 2001.


Peace Process

In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the LTTE and government declared unilateral cease-fires. In February 2002, with Norwegian facilitation, the two sides agreed to a joint cease-fire accord. The peace process has continued apace, affecting Sri Lankans politically, economically, and socially in numerous and overwhelmingly positive ways. After holding six rounds of talks, the LTTE withdrew from the talks in April 2003. Talks appeared likely to recommence in late 2003, but the cohabitation impasse between the President and the Prime Minister intervened and, as of December 2003, talks had not been rescheduled. Although the Norwegian-facilitated negotiations have stalled, the peace process continues on the ground and both sides continue to observe the February 2002 ceasefire.

LTTE violence, including the assassination of approximately 40 Tamil alleged opponents from 2002 through 2003, is largely confined to the north and eastern provinces, which are 6 to 8 hours by road from the capital. Before the advent of the peace process, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets were common in Colombo, Kandy, and elsewhere in the country. In July 2001, an LTTE suicide squad attacked the Bandaranaike International Airport outside of Colombo and destroyed a large number of military and civilian aircraft. In October 1997, the U.S. Government designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and has maintained this designation since then.



GOVERNMENT

Per the 1978 Constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and 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. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.


Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation 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.

The 1978 Constitution clearly envisaged a system where the president and the prime minister were from the same party. Since the December 2001 Parliamentary elections, however, the President and the Prime Minister have been from different parties. This has led to serious cohabitation strains. In November 2003, for example, President Kumaratunga suddenly took over three key ministries (Defense, Interior, and Mass Communications), precipitating the most serious cohabitation crisis yet between the two sides. As of January 2004, the impasse between the President and the Prime Minister had not yet been resolved.


Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.


Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 12/17/03


President: Kumaratunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike

Prime Minister: Wickremesinghe, Ranil

Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Dissanayake, S. B.

Min. of Central Region Development: Attanayake, Tissa

Min. of Constitutional Affairs: Peiris, G. L.

Min. of Cooperatives: Abdul Cader, Abdul Rahim Mohideen

Min. of Defense: Kumaratunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike

Min. of Eastern Development & Muslim Religious Affairs: Hakeem, Rauf

Min. of Economic Reform: Moragoda, Milinda

Min. of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, & Investment Promotion: Peiris, G. L.

Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: Senanayake, Rukman

Min. of Finance: Choksy, K. N.

Min. of Fisheries: Wijeysekera, Mahinda

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Fernando, Tyronne

Min. of Health, Nutrition, & Welfare: Dayaratne, P.

Min. of Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, & Local Government: Aluvihara, Alick

Min. of Housing & Plantation Infrastructure: Thondaman, Arumugam

Min. of Information & Mass Communication: Kumaratunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike

Min. of Interior: Kumaratunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike

Min. of Irrigation & Water Management: Perera, Gamini Jayawickrema

Min. of Justice, Law Reform, & National Reconciliation: Lokubandara, W. J. M.

Min. of Plantation Industries: Kiriella, Lakshman Bandara

Min. of Policy Development, Implementation, & Poverty Alleviation: Wickremasinghe, Ranil

Min. of Port Development & Shipping: Hakeem, Rauf

Min. of Power & Energy: Jayasuriya, Karu

Min. of Rural Economy: Gunawardena, Bandula

Min. of Science & Technology: Moragoda, Milinda

Min. of Southern Region Development: Kularatne, Ananda

Min. of Tourism: Lokuge, Gamini Kulawansa

Min. of Transport, Highways, & Aviation: Marapana, Tilak

Min. of Western Region Development: Mohamed, Mohamad Hanifa

Min. of Women's Affairs: Ratnayake, Amara Piyasiri

Governor, Central Bank: Jayawardena, A. S.

Ambassador to the US: Subasinghe, Devinda R.

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Mahendran, Chithambaranathan


Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-483-4025).



POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sri Lanka's two major political parties—the UNP and the PA—embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.


Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys considerable stability despite relatively high levels of political violence. LTTE terrorist activities, generally aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka politically and economically, have included assassination of politicians—the killing of the Industrial Development Minister by suicide bombing in June 2000 and the December 1999 attempted assassination of current President Kumaratunga. They also have included bombing of economic targets, such as the central bank in January 1996, the World Trade Center in October 1997, and the airport in July 2001. Buddhist religious sites also have been attacked; in January 1998, the LTTE detonated a truck bomb in Kandy, damaging the Temple of the Tooth relic, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country.



ECONOMY

With an economy of $18.4 billion (est.), and a per capita GDP of about $950, Sri Lanka has mostly enjoyed strong growth rates in recent years. Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in 1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing, and opening the economy to international competition. The ethnic disputes of 1983 precipitated a slowdown in economic diversification and liberalization. The JVP uprising in the late 1980s caused extensive up heavals and economic uncertainty.


Following the quelling of the JVP, increased privatization, reform, and a stress on export-oriented growth helped revive the economy's performance, taking GDP growth to 7% in 1993. Economic growth has been uneven in the ensuing years as the economy faced a multitude of global and domestic economic and political challenges. Overall, average annual GDP growth was 5.2% over 1991-2000. In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%—the first contraction since independence. The economy was hit by a series of global and domestic economic problems and affected by terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and the United States. The crises exposed the fundamental policy failures and structural imbalances in the economy and the need for bold reforms. The year ended in parliamentary elections in December, which saw the election of a more pro-business government.


The government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe of the United National Party (which also ruled the country from 1977 to 1994) has indicated a strong commitment to economic and social sector reforms, deregulation, and private sector development. In 2002, Sri Lanka commenced a gradual recovery. Early signs of a peace dividend were visible throughout the economy—Sri Lanka has been able to reduce defense expenditures and begin to focus on getting its large public sector debt under control. In addition, the economy has benefited from lower interest rates, a recovery in domestic demand, increased tourist arrivals, a revival of the stock exchange, and increased foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2002, economic growth bounced up to 4%, helped by strong service sector growth. Agriculture staged a partial recovery. Industrial sector growth, however, faltered for the second consecutive year due to weak demand and lower prices for Sri Lanka's exports. The government was able to exert fiscal control, and inflation trended down. Total FDI inflows during 2002 were about $246 million and were expected to exceed $300 million in 2003. The largest share of FDI has been in the services sector. Good progress was made under the Stand By Arrangement, which was resumed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These measures, together with peaceful conditions in the country, have helped restore investor confidence and created conditions for the government to embark on extensive economic and fiscal reforms and seek donor support for a poverty reduction and growth strategy.

Foreign exchange reserves, which fell by 11% in 1999, decreased further in 2000. In response, the government floated the rupee on January 23, 2001. This led to a significant nominal depreciation in 2001, but the rupee has since stabilized and reserves have been replenished.


Economic recovery consolidated during 2003, which was another eventful year for Sri Lanka. Continued peace allowed further progress on macroeconomic stabilization during the first half of the year. Some progress was reversed, however, during the political uncertainty in November and December 2003. Economic growth is estimated at 5.5% for the year. This growth was largely driven by the services sector (particularly telecom, tourism and trade.) Both exports and imports rose over 9% in the first 10 months. Interest rates declined. The inflation rate fell under 9%. External reserves were sufficient to cover 5.6 months of imports. The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) rebounded to become one of the better performers in the area. The CSE rose 45% in 2002 and hit a record high in June 2003, but performance declined at the end of the year. Fortunately, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic did not spread to Sri Lanka, and tourism was not severely affected. Sri Lanka's garment exporters reported a surge in orders, shifted from China due to SARS. On the negative side, in mid-2003 Sri Lanka experienced its worst floods in 50 years, which caused extensive damage in south and southwestern parts of the country. The government is relying on donor funding to reconstruct the flood-damaged areas, avoiding recourse to government finances. The adverse impact from floods on overall growth for 2003 is estimated to be marginal.

Early projections for 6.5% growth in 2004 did not account for political instability, which will negatively impact performance. The future of Sri Lanka's economic health is uncertain but is primarily dependent on resolution of the political cohabitation crisis, as well as the continuation of the peace process, political stability, and continued policy reforms—particularly in the area of fiscal discipline and direct management. Implementation of major reforms in the civil service and education sectors and more disciplined spending and improved revenue collection would help generate stronger economic growth. If privatization continues and export orientation strengthens, weaknesses in government will have less impact on growth. Real growth is expected to continue in the 4%-6% range beyond 2003 but may remain below the 8%-9% growth needed to move quickly into the status of a middle-income or newly developed country.


All major sectors of the economy are expected to expand. Recovery in the global economy also is important as well as effective aid utilization. According to the Finance Minister, the fiscal deficit was forecast to decline to 7.5% of GDP in 2003, with the government instituting more controls on fiscal management. Given Sri Lanka's high debt burden (101% of GDP), fiscal consolidation is central to budget planning and macroeconomic programming. Stagnant government revenue, however, remains a big worry in 2004.


Other challenges include diversification from Sri Lanka's key exports—tea and garments. Garment exports will face increased competition in a quota-free era when the Multi Fiber Arrangement expires in 2005. The future of the tea industry is threatened by a shortage of plantation labor and growing competition. There are new efforts to diversify exports, explore tourism potential, and improve competitiveness. The government has an ambitious information and communications technology strategy to connect and service every corner of the country. This project, if implemented successfully, could change Sri Lanka's economy and social fabric and would take it into the information age. The government hopes to take advantage of Sri Lanka's strategic location on shipping routes, make use of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, and sign free trade agreements with other countries to achieve regional trading hub status. If peace returns and all these efforts bear fruit, real growth could be in the 6%-7% range beyond 2004, and will help realize the government's intention of making Sri Lanka the gateway to South Asia.


The service sector is the largest component of GDP (54%). In 2003, the service sector continued its strong expansion, fueled primarily by strong growth in telecom, tourism, and financial services. Public administration and defense expenditures have remained steady. Repatriated earnings of Sri Lankans working abroad continued to be strong. There also is a small but growing information technology sector, especially information technology training and software development and exports.


Manufacturing accounts for about 16% of GDP. The textile, apparel, and leather products sector is the largest, accounting for 44% of total industrial output. The second largest industrial sector, at 24% of total manufacturing output, is food, beverages, and tobacco. The third-largest industrial sector is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products.


Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It accounts for 20.1% of GDP and provides employment to 33% of the working population. Rice, the staple cereal, is cultivated extensively. The plantation sector consists of tea, rubber, and coconut; in recent years, the tea crop has made significant contributions to export earnings and saw production slightly decrease in 2003. Tea prices have remained stable. The construction sector accounts for 7.4% of GDP and mining and quarrying 1.8%. In recent years, the government has eliminated many price controls and quotas, reduced tariff levels, eliminated most foreign exchange controls, and sold more than 55 state-owned companies and 20 estate-holding companies. Colombo boasts one of the most modern stock exchanges in the region, and the Sri Lankan Government offers a range of tax and other incentives to attract potential investors.


Trade and Foreign Assistance

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most import ant market, were estimated at $1.8 billion in 2003, or 38.5% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market for garments, taking more than 63% of the country's total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, with exports of $835 million in 2002. Japan, traditionally Sri Lanka's largest supplier, was its fourth-largest in 2002 with exports of $355 million. Other leading suppliers include Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. United States exports amounted to $155 million in 2003.


Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, and several high-profile assistance projects were launched in 2003. The most significant of these resulted from an aid conference in Tokyo in June 2003; pledges at the summit—which included representatives from the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan, the European Union, and the United States—totaled $4.5 billion. This funding was in response to a poverty reduction strategy program laid out in "Regaining Sri Lanka," an action paper authored by the Sri Lankan Government, and a number of studies commissioned by the donor community that, together, provide a basic frame work for economic revival. While implementation of previous aid projects has been spotty, the government believes it can improve this record by streamlining tender processes and improving project management skills.


Labor

More than 20% of the 6.1 million-strong labor force, excluding the north and east, is unionized. Trade union membership is on the decline. There are more than 1,650 registered trade unions, many of which have 50 or fewer members, and 19 federations. Many unions have political affiliations. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and Lanka Jathika estate workers union are the two largest unions representing workers in the heavily unionized plantation sector. The president of the CWC also is Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure. The CWC's agenda includes political issues, such as citizenship status for stateless Indian Tamils. Some of the stronger and more influential trade unions include the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Jathika Sevaka Sangayama, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers, Conference of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, and the JVP-aligned Inter-Company Trade Union. The unemployment rate has declined in recent years and hovers at 10%. The rate of unemployment among high school and college graduates, however, remains proportionally higher than the rate for less-educated workers. The government has embarked on educational reforms it hopes will lead to better preparation of students and fewer mismatches between graduates and jobs. In addition, it also has begun a youth corps program to provide employment skills to the unemployed.



FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a nonaligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 2001. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. Sri Lanka continues its active participation in the NAM, while also stressing the importance it places on regionalism by playing a strong role in SAARC.



U.S.-SRI LANKAN RELATIONS

The United States enjoys cordial relations with Sri Lanka that are based, in large part, on shared democratic traditions. U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka is characterized by respect for its independence, sovereignty, and moderate nonaligned foreign policy; support for the country's unity, territorial integrity, and democratic institutions; and encouragement of its social and economic development. The United States is a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the peace process that began in December 2001.


U.S. assistance has totaled more than $1.63 billion since Sri Lanka's independence in 1948. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it has contributed to Sri Lanka's economic growth with projects designed to reduce unemployment, improve housing, develop the Colombo Stock Exchange, modernize the judicial system, and improve competitiveness. At the June 2003 Tokyo Donors' Conference on Sri Lanka, the United States pledged $54 million, including $40.4 million of USAID funding.


In addition, the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB)—formerly Voice of America (VOA)—operates a radio-transmitting station in Sri Lanka. The U.S. Armed Forces maintain a limited military-to-military relationship with the Sri Lanka defense establishment.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Colombo (E), 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3 - P.O. Box 106, Tel [94] (1) 448007; Main Fax 437345; CON Fax 436943; ADM Fax 471091; AID: 44 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Tel 472855; Fax 472850; PAO: 44 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Tel 421270; Fax 449070; IBB Tel 032-55931/32; Fax 032-55822.

AMB: E. Ashley Wills
DCM: W. Lewis Amselem
POL: Joseph L. Novak
ECO: William H. Avery
COM/LAB: Teresa L. Manlowe
CON: Marc H. Williams
MGT: Long N. Lee
RSO: Stephen V. Wright
PAO: Bruce A. Lohof
DAO: LTC Richard S. Girven
AID: Carol R. Becker
IBB: Walter D. Patterson
IMO: Bruce R. Begnell
FAA: Ross Hamory
FAS: Chad R. Russell (res. New Delhi)
IRS: Dennis Melton (res. Singapore)


Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003



TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
August 1, 2003


Country Description: Sri Lanka is a presidential parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. A civil war and related urban terrorism have seriously disrupted the country since 1983. On February 22, 2002, The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed an indefinite cease-fire agreement. Peace talks have stalled, but the cease-fire has not been broken to date. In the past, however, the LTTE have abandoned peace talks and reverted to terrorist activities. Despite the armed insurgency, Sri Lanka's beaches and archeological sites attract tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. The capital city of Colombo, the Cultural Triangle (Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa), and the west and southwest coasts all have good tourist facilities.

Entry/Exit And Registration Requirements: A passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required. A no-cost visit visa, valid for 30 days, will be granted to tourists at the time of entry into Sri Lanka. Business travelers are required to have a visa prior to arrival. Visitors staying more than 30 days for any purpose must pay residency visa fees. Travelers need yellow fever and cholera immunizations if they are arriving from an infected area. All travelers departing Sri Lanka (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport tax, in cash. Sri Lankan law requires all persons, including foreigners, who are guests in private households to register in person at the nearest local police station. Individuals who stay in private households without registering may be temporarily detained for questioning. This requirement does not apply to individuals staying in hotels or guesthouses.


Specific inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 28, fax numbers (202) 232-7181 or 483-8017, e-mail address: [email protected], home page: http://www.slembassy.org. There is a Consulate General in Los Angeles at 5371 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90036, telephone (323) 634-0479 or (323) 634-1079 and a Consulate in New York City telephone (212) 986-7040. There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States. They can be located at the Sri Lankan Embassy website.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: Sri Lanka recognizes dual nationality in some cases. For further information, please contact either the Sri Lankan Embassy or one of the Consulates.


Safety/Security, Terrorism: Since 1997, the State Department has included the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities in the capital city of Colombo and other areas of the country remain a serious threat. The LTTE and the GOSL have not engaged militarily over the past sixteen months; however, the LTTE have assassinated Sri Lankans. No suicide bombings or truck bombs have been aimed at civilian targets since the cease-fire.


On July 24, 2001, the LTTE attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. In the past year, the LTTE have also attacked several foreign commercial ships in the waters off the north and east of Sri Lanka.


The LTTE have attempted or carried out numerous political assassinations. They have carried out many suicide bombings at political rallies, government buildings and major economic targets. In addition to using individual suicide bombers, the LTTE have employed vehicle-mounted bombs. Terrorist activities have directly affected major hotels, which might again be targets due to their proximity to important economic, government and military sites. In October 1997 a number of American citizens suffered minor injuries when a vehicle bomb was detonated near five-star hotels in Colombo. In January 1998, a truck bomb detonated near the Temple of the Tooth, an important religious and tourist site in Kandy. The explosion killed eight people and damaged the temple, nearby businesses and an historic hotel.

Terrorists have also targeted public buses and trains. In September 1999, they detonated bombs in buses in separate incidents in Negombo and Badula. In one week in February 2000, seven separate bomb explosions on public buses in Colombo and other cities killed three and wounded over 140 people. Bombs planted on trains and on train roadbeds have resulted in one death and injuries to over fifty people.


Although U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, LTTE operations have been planned and executed with the knowledge that Americans and other foreigners might be killed or injured. American citizens traveling or residing in Sri Lanka may be inadvertently caught up in random acts of violence. Travel in restricted areas is dangerous. In April 2001, grenade fragments seriously injured an American citizen when she was caught in a skirmish between government and insurgent forces in the eastern part of the country.


Communal Violence: American citizens should be alert to outbreaks of communal violence, such as that which occurred in April 2003 when two hand grenades were detonated in tourist hotels in Arugambay, killing or injuring three tourists. In October 2002, riots between Muslim and Sinhala factions in the Greater Colombo area precipitated short-term curfews. In May 2001 a disturbance between Buddhist and Muslim communities near Kandy reportedly resulted in one death during a


Americans are advised to avoid political rallies and other mass gatherings, limit exposure to government and military installations and avoid public transportation if possible. Non-Sri Lankan citizens of Tamil heritage have occasionally been detained during security operations. U.S. citizens of any ethnic heritage are encouraged to keep their passports with them at all times. In the event of a terrorist attack, Americans should monitor local radio and television, seek cover away from windows and return to their homes or hotels when it is safe to do so. The Government has periodically imposed curfews in Colombo; Americans should strictly observe curfew regulations and monitor local radio and television.


Travel Restrictions: American citizens are advised not to travel north of a line drawn from Puttalam on the west coast through Anuradhapura in the central north and Nivaveli (just north of Trincomalee) in the east. Areas north of this line contain many land mines, making travel off paved roads very dangerous. In addition, the Government of Sri Lanka does not exercise effective control of the civil administration in many sections of the north, where the LTTE operate openly. Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to this area is restricted, and their unofficial travel is prohibited. Travel in the east in the area south of the Anuradhapura-Nivaveli line (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa and points south) poses significant safety risks. Roads are often substandard, and police, medical and other emergency help is severely limited or not available. Communications within the eastern areas are also limited, with no cell phone accessibility and very limited landline telephone access. Because of these considerations, the U.S. Embassy may not be able to provide consular services in a timely manner to American citizens who travel to the north and east.


Crime Information: Sri Lanka has a rising crime rate. Violent crime is increasing, and there have been reports of police inaction in certain cases. In February 2002, a British couple was kidnapped and robbed near the Polonnaruwa ruins. In recent years, the Embassy has received reports of violent criminal incidents in the towns of Negombo and Hikkaduwa. American citizens should exercise caution in these towns, especially at night. Children should not be left unattended, even on hotel/resort premises. There have been reports of attempted child molestation by hotel staff.


Petty street crime such as purse snatching and pick pocketing is common, especially on crowded local public transportation, in transportation hubs, and in public markets. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to South Asia" for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Medical facilities outside Colombo are limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of private physicians who may be consulted. Medical supplies are uneven; travelers should carry any special drugs with them. There are six large hospitals in the Colombo area, including three with emergency trauma service—Asiri Hospital, Apollo hospital, and the government General Hospital. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the United States or to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment is available, usually Thailand or Singapore. Neither Thailand nor Singapore requires American citizens to have an entry visa.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), autofax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internetsite at http://www.cdc.gov.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sri Lanka is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor


Vehicular traffic moves on the left (British style). Traffic in Colombo is very congested. Narrow, two-lane highways, dangerously driven buses, overloaded trucks and the variety of vehicles on the road, ranging from ox carts, elephants and bicycles to new four-wheel drive jeeps, make driving a challenge and dangerous. Many visitors hire cars and drivers or use radio taxicabs.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. Additional information is available from the Sri Lankan national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.lanka.net.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such a service, between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sri Lanka's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.


For further information travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 256-4801.


Customs Regulations: Sri Lankan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Sri Lanka of items such as firearms, antiquities, business equipment, obscene materials, currency, gems and precious metals. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, D.C., or one of Sri Lanka's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sri Lankan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Persons charged with crimes may be remanded without possibility of bail for months prior to a trial date. Prison conditions in Sri Lanka do not meet international standards and prisons suffer from overcrowding, inadequate food and medical resources, poor sanitation and potential violence and extortion.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS call center can answer general inquiries regarding international adoptions and will forward calls to the appropriate country officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living in or visiting Sri Lanka are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Colombo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Sri Lanka. The U.S. Embassy in located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94)(1) 244-8007. The after-hours and emergency telephone number is (94)(1) 244-8601. The Consular Section fax number is (94)-(1)-436-943. The Embassy's Internet address is http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka. The e-mail address for the consular section is [email protected] The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of the Maldives. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register at the Embassy upon arrival in Sri Lanka or by e-mail.

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Ethnic groups in Sri Lanka have been at war since 1983. The war is dominantly ethnic in its construction but not genocidal in a strict sense of the definition of the term, in that the conflict or war is not directed toward the elimination of a population on ethnic or racial grounds. However, the passions of the war are fueled in an ideology of nationalism, given greater impetus through religious values that are one major basis for ethnic distinction. This ethnic distinction took on a destruction of genocidal quality not dissimilar from other conflicts of a genocidal character, in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, and increasingly in other parts of Africa.

The war in Sri Lanka has affected the lives of all communities in Sri Lanka. These include the major parties to the conflict, the dominant Sinhala-speaking largely Buddhist population (some two-thirds of the island's population) located mainly in the fertile central, western, and southern coastal zones of the island, and the Tamil-speaking, mainly Hindu, population (less than one-third of the total population) who live in the dry northern and eastern parts of the island. Both populations have significant minorities of Christians (mainly Catholic, but also Protestants). There is an important minority of Muslims who are mainly Tamilspeaking and these are found in communities throughout the island. They have been caught up in the fighting, sometimes the victims of violence from both Buddhist Sinhala and Hindu Tamils.

All of these populations have a history in the island stretching far back into precolonial times. Both Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils make claim to the island as their indigenous heritage and the often furious debate involving archaeological and other evidence is very much a part of the enduring crisis, legitimating the rival claims of the warring parties. However, the grounds for the war were largely established in recent colonial history starting with the arrival of the Portuguese in the early fifteenth century and ending with Dutch occupation, and from the late eighteenth century through to the mid-twentieth century, with the British. The political and economic changes that occurred in the island in these colonial periods and in the postcolonial aftermath created the structures within which the ethnic crisis and war of the early twenty-first century took form.

In the course of twenty years of open ethnic hostilities in Sri Lanka official statistics indicate that some sixty thousand individuals have lost their lives on both sides of the Sinhala/Tamil ethnic divide. Many of the deaths have been among Sri Lanka military and among combatants in various Tamil guerrilla groups, but especially the commanding Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Civilian populations and particularly Tamil Hindus (but also Tamil Christians and Muslims sometimes as a result of LTTE attacks) have suffered the greatest number of casualties and despair resulting from social, economic, and territorial dislocation and from the deprivations and rigors of confinement and restriction imposed by the ebb and flow of combat.

Sinhalese populations both directly and indirectly have also suffered. A serious spin-off from the intensification of ethnic hostilities and the changing fortunes and uncertainties of the war has been growing civilian unrest among the Sinhala population. A major insurrection organized in the late 1980s by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), also known as the Peoples Liberation Movement, and largely supported by unemployed rural and urban Sinhala youth, activated repressive military and paramilitary organizations of the Sri Lanka state. These, which had assumed much of their character because of the larger ethnic conflict, focused their acutely destructive capacities on the Sinhala civilian population (and not merely JVP supporters). Various clandestine operations by military and paramilitary forces resulted in an extremely high loss of life, which, as of the early 2000s, has received little in the way of open or serious investigation. Although tensions run high in the early twenty-first century, there are indications that the war is drawing to a close.

Ethnic Diversity

The ethnic/religious shape of the conflict and war has a long history of development. Undoubtedly, other forces of a nonethnic or religious character—often of a social class kind—also gave impetus to the struggle. Social-class issues have sustained the war even when ethnic and religious factors have declined in importance.

The hostility of mainly ethnic Sinhala majority toward the Tamil ethnic minority has its roots in colonial and postcolonial history. The ethnic categories and their political significance arose during the course of Western imperial intrusions into the island, known as Ceylon from the colonial era and until 1972, and especially under the British who subdued the entire island with their conquest of Kandy in 1815. Ethnic identity became a marker of cultural and social distinction in a colonial political order whose rigidity that was not typical of Ceylon's past. As various scholars have stressed, terms like "Sinhala" and "Tamil" used in ancient precolonial sources often described ruling lineages and structures of political allegiance that were often very fluid. The kings who defended largely Sinhala-speaking populations during the Western invasions (Portuguese, Dutch, and finally the British) were of Tamil lineage from South India. With colonial rule, ethnic distinctions served bureaucratic and governing interests and the social boundaries described ethnically became far less porous and situationally relative than before. Such ethnic boundaries informed the formation of constituencies of political interest and nationalist resistance leading to Independence in 1947 and the burgeoning of postcolonial nationalism.

Ethnically based political rhetoric of a powerfully nationalist kind further bolstered by appeals to common language and religious affiliation was integral in the formation of political communalism. Moreover, political parties in the postcolonial period expressed a variety of socioeconomic concerns and felt inequalities under cover of debates over ethnicity. The language issue was of supreme importance in the years following independence, when Sinhala (swabasha) became the main language of the state. The policy of Sinhala-only was promulgated by Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike in order to appeal to a largely Sinhalese-speaking peasantry and the lower middle class and working class in the central, western, and southern regions of the island. English, the language of colonialism, was generally seen as a means of exclusion, only available to educated elites and inhibiting the opportunities for employment and upward social mobility of hitherto depressed groups. Tamils were widely perceived as advantaged in the job market (especially in access to the professions and highly prized positions in government bureaucracies) because they were seen as better qualified in their English-speaking abilities (to some degree a legacy of missionary activity in the Tamil north). The postcolonial politics of language intensified ethnic division. Ethnically motivated restrictions on Tamil access to university places (especially in medicine) and to positions in the civil service were a major source of discontent among Tamils from the 1970s.

Anti-Tamil feeling was also apparent in a series of attempts to repatriate to India Tamils who had been brought as indentured laborers to work on the British and later largely Sinhala-owned tea estates in the highland areas of the island. These highly exploited estate workers attracted little help from the larger Tamil population on the island who, as with the dominant Sinhala population, saw themselves as indigenous to the island and distinct in certain cultural and linguistic ways from Tamils in India. A closer feeling of identity between tea-estate Tamils (who were also discriminated against in terms of caste) and the larger Tamil community in Sri Lanka is a late 1990s development and, perhaps, one positive outcome of the ethnic war.

Religious Factors

The misconception among Sinhalese that Sri Lanka was the last refuge of Buddhism was a further factor in the growth of ethnic hostility especially by Sinhala toward Tamils. British rule was regarded as instrumental in the reduction of the preeminence of the Buddhist religion. Sinhala nationalism from the late nineteenth century to the 2000s was largely motivated by a movement of Buddhist revitalization (linked to a reassertion of the value of Sinhala custom) against the effects of colonial domination. This was keenly supported by members of the urban merchant classes situated along the western and southern coasts. The various caste-based communities that formed around members of these classes were and continue to be forceful in the pursuit of Sinhala interests defined in opposition to Tamils. The engagement of religion (specifically Buddhism) to nationalist ethnic allegiance is a key factor in generating the passions of the conflict. It politicized the Buddha clergy, making them central to ethnically defined communal political and economic interest (a legacy of the revitalization movement that paradoxically made a doctrinally other worldly religion acutely this worldly). The assassination in 1959 of Prime Minister Bandaranaike, the chief architect of Sinhala ethnic nationalism, by a member of the Buddha clergy, is significant in this regard. In 1972 Bandaranaike's widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the then-elected prime minister, declared Buddhism to be the national religion.

Communalist rioting and killing of an ethnic kind was gathering force in Sri Lanka through to the early 1980s. Major attacks against ethnic Tamils occurred in 1947 soon after its independence, in 1956 and 1958, and there were incidents throughout the 1960s. The 1970s were full of ethnic tension and the capital, Colombo, as well as other urban centers became increasingly subject to curfews in order to dampen any ethnic disturbances. Ethnic tensions, especially in the south (a powerful region of Sinhala nationalism), precipitated a form of ethnic cleansing. Minority Tamil populations went to Tamil areas in the large urban centers such as Colombo. The participation of Sinhala in Tamil Hindu festival events—a feature of religious life in some centers in the south (and also in the Colombo areas)—declined and eventually stopped. The increasingly greater divisions of ethnicity that appeared in everyday social life heightened communal divisions.

All came to a head in August 1983 when a unit of Sinhalese soldiers was ambushed near the sacred Buddhist city of Anuradhapura. Anti-Tamil riots spread through major urban centers but were the most fierce in Colombo. There were attacks on middle-class Tamil residential areas but perhaps the strongest were in the abject shanty communities of the poor. Sinhalese attacked their Tamil neighbors, many of them refugees from the tea estates. Sinhalese thugs roamed the streets. Government authorities were slow to react and there were many stories of Sinhalese police standing by as atrocities were committed. Suggestions of government complicity were strong, as were rumors that President Jayawardena's conservative United National Party government had instigated the rioting as a type of pogrom. There is some evidence that gangs of thugs were bussed to Tamil zones (violence having a long history in political party rivalry). Indeed, prior to the rioting, serious threats urging Tamil independence had been directed at the then relatively small LTTE guerrilla movement and the Tamil population as a whole. The riots blazed for four days. Official estimates of Tamil deaths are in the vicinity of 300, although other estimates are far greater. There is only one recorded instance of a Sinhala death, a person fleeing rioters. Approximately 300,000 Tamils living in Sinhala-dominated areas fled their homes. The start of the ethnic war that has consumed Sri Lanka and in which Tamil civilians have been the greatest victims can be traced to these events of 1983.

Socioeconomic Factors

Violent nationalism of a genocidal kind can generally be shown to have its roots in socioeconomic crises. There was growing unemployment in Sri Lanka partly as a consequence of the liberalizing and opening up of a hitherto relatively closed economy. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to apply structural adjustment policies recommended by the World Bank and the IMF. Liberalization of the economy was accompanied by a paring down of state-supported welfare services, the laying off of staff in state bureaucracies (a major employer), and the winding down of state industries and their privatization. These changes seemed to coincide with the increase in ethnic tensions that were further exacerbated by the Jayawardena government's intensification of a populist rhetoric promoting Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

The Role of Nationalist Rhetoric

Much of the discussion regarding the violence toward Tamils by ethnic Sinhalese populations has rightly emphasized its similarity with ethnic nationalism elsewhere, especially in Europe. Scholars discovered parallels with Nazi Germany and blamed the invention of a tradition of postcolonial government-sponsored Sinhala history narratives (which drew on Western constructions of the colonial period). Powerful criticisms were made of those nationalist arguments that asserted a continuity of ancient historical experience into the present; for example, that contemporary violence was a modern manifestation of ancient enmity between Sinhala and Tamil or was the latest instance of a long cycle of revenge. The essentialism and primordialism of such arguments were attacked not only because they were empirically inaccurate but also because they displaced responsibility for the destruction and suffering away from the contemporary state and its ruling interests. The hatred that was unleashed was the result of the constructions and falsehoods of modernity. The inventions of ethnic nationalism on both sides (for the rhetoric of Tamil nationalists paralleled, if in distinct ways, those of the Sinhala) encouraged sentiments that gave emotional force to the destruction.

Perhaps the politics of ethnic hatred and exclusion and extermination in modern times carries a potent hierarchical force. But in Sri Lanka this potential gathered much energy through the mythologies of nationalist rhetoric as this found a degree of acceptance in everyday religious and ritual practices. In other words, a nationalist argument of hierarchy—that the Tamil others should exist in a generally subordinate relation to Sinhala—was more evident given the nature of the mythological sources of Sinhala nationalism. The ethnic violence during the rioting in 1983, as well as the violence of the ensuing war involving attacks on Tamil civilian populations, often took a marked hierarchical form. Incidents were recorded of victims being forced to submit their bodies after the manner of Tamil victims before Sinhala heroes of the past. Some of the fury of the destruction, the radical disordering, often dismemberment of victims and fragmentation of their possessions, carried the disordering passion of a ritual process restructuring of person and world. In many respects the direction of the ethnic war as it developed in terms of strategy and in the control and occupation of territory assumed symbolic values appropriate to the nationalist mythologies that gave it impetus. Leading politicians, including the president, and military commanders not only appealed to the ideas conveyed in ancient mythology but to a degree came to live and act them out.

The symbolic values born of nationalist discourse that have framed both ethnic conflict and war continue to have force into the 2000s. To some extent Sinhala often appear to be imprisoned in their dialectic even though there is an urgency among many sections of the population to break free. There is clear evidence that the urban and rural poor who have borne the greatest brunt of the tragedies of the war have grown tired of nationalist rhetoric. But it is still engaged by elites and this has complicated efforts by international groups (the Norwegians especially) to broker a settlement. Such an observation demands a stress on the social and economic lineaments underpinning the conflict, the almost total lack of trust that has developed between the warring parties notwithstanding.

There have been numerous shifts in elite formation, especially in relation to liberalization and contemporary globalization. To some extent this has driven an anxiety to achieve a settlement to the war, and was evident in the political tussle, given wide global media coverage, between the recently defeated prime minister and the elected president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, the daughter of Bandaranaike whose family is from the upper echelons of the still largely Kandyan-based ruling groups. The prime minister was closely associated with urban business and merchant groups with substantial local and international interests in peace. The general mood for peace was for a limited time encouraged by the U.S.–driven war on terrorism. This also produced a climate necessary for the highly successful guerrilla movement of the LTTE to come to the negotiating table. But this impetus to peace started to slow and became further hampered by the concern of powerful Sinhala elite groups to maintain a political and economic grip on the island, which the nationalist discourse they encouraged initially facilitated. It is the social dynamics of this elite (Sinhala and Tamil), many members of which have their roots in the colonial past and have spread their influence internationally (as a function of migration, some forced as a consequence of the war), that holds the much of the key to understanding the durability of the war and the persistence of suffering for all communities.

Conclusions

As the dominant population and in control of the machinery of power of the Sri Lanka government, much of the responsibility for reconciliation rests with Sinhala leaders. They, perhaps, have become weakened in responsibility with the growth in power of the LTTE. Overall, all sectors of Sri Lanka society have become subordinated to the logic of war in itself and this has driven other nationalist discourses among Tamil Hindus and the minority Muslim population alike. These paradigms in their own particular histories enlivened by the horrors of war, are making moves toward a peaceful solution.

The result of the conflict has had enormous polarizing effects on the society of Sri Lanka, creating a degree of division that was more imagined than real in the years leading to the war. The war has caused much death and suffering, which sometimes appeared to have genocidal ingredients. However, to label the events "genocidal" would be to indulge in a discourse that is part of the inflammatory rhetoric often used by members of the warring parties to justify the perpetration of violent acts.

SEE ALSO Death Squads; Ethnic Cleansing; Ethnic Groups; India, Modern; Nationalism; Refugees; Religion

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ali, Ameer (2001). Plural Identities and Political Choices of the Muslim Community. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Marga Institute.

Bastin, Rohan (2001). Globalization and Conflict. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Marga Institute.

Daniel, E. Valentine (1997). Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Dumont, Louis (1974). Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gunasinghe, Newton (1984). "Open Economy and Its Impact on Ethnic relations in Sri Lanka." In Sri Lanka: The Ethnic Conflict, ed. Committee for Rational Development. New Delhi, India: Navrang.

Gunatilleke, Godfrey (1984). "People of the Lion: Sinhala Consciousness in History and Historiography." In Ethnicity and Social Change in Sri Lanka. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Karunaratne for Social Sciences Association.

Hoole, Ranjan (2002). Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power. Jaffna, Sri Lanka: UTHR.

Kapferer, Bruce (1996). "Remythologizing Discourses: State and Insurrectionary Violence in Sri Lanka." In Legitimization of Violence, ed. David E. Apter. London: Macmillan.

Kapferer, Bruce (1997). The Feast of the Sorcerer: Practices of Consciousness and Power. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Kapferer, Bruce (1998). Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Moore, Mick (1993). "Thoroughly Modern Revolutionaries: The JVP in Sri Lanka." Modern Asian Studies 27(3): 593–642.

Ondaatjie, Michael (2001). Anil's Ghost. London: Picado.

Roberts, Michael, ed. (1979). Collective Identities, Nationalism, and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Marga Publications.

Roberts, Michael (1982). Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka 1500–1931. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Roberts, Michael (1993). "Nationalism, the Past and the Present: The Case of Sri Lanka." Ethnic and Racial Studies 16(1):133–166.

Tambiah, Stanley J. (1986). Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Tambiah, Stanley J. (1992). Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wilson, Jayaratnam (1988). The Break-Up of Sri Lanka: The Sinhala-Tamil Conflict. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Bruce Kapferer

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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

POPULATION 19,576,783
BUDDHIST 69 percent
HINDU 15 percent
CHRISTIAN 8 percent
MUSLIM 7 percent
OTHER 1 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

Sri Lanka (officially known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, formerly known to the colonial world as Ceylon, and known by its Sinhala name, Lanka, throughout history) is the island nation found just off the southern tip of India.

By about the third century b.c.e. Buddhist laity had begun to dedicate meditation retreats for Buddhist monks. A line of kingship supportive of Buddhist monks, who would later establish the orthodox Mahavihara tradition of Theravada Buddhism, gained political hegemony by the middle of the third century b.c.e. Over the next 13 centuries the capital city of Anuradhapura developed spectacularly into a thriving cosmopolitan city and international center of learning.

By the last half of the first millennium c.e., three major monastic sects (the orthodox Theravada Mahavihara and the more doctrinally eclectic Abhyagiriya and Jetavana) were headquartered in Anuradhapura and dominated cultural, social, economic, and political life throughout the country until the collapse of Anuradhapura, which was brought about by invasions from south India in the tenth century c.e. These invasions abetted the introduction of Hindu forms of religious practice in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Arab Muslim traders began to frequent the island from as early as the eighth century c.e., taking with them versions of Islam current in the locales of their origins. Over the centuries many other Muslims migrated to Sri Lanka from south India and Malaysia.

In the sixteenth century c.e. the Portuguese arrived with colonial designs and their militant Roman Catholicism. The Dutch, who succeeded the Portuguese, were ousted by the British. The British eliminated the last of the Lankan Buddhist kings in 1815 and revolutionized the political system before ceding independence in 1948.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Degrees of religious tolerance and intolerance have ebbed and flowed historically. But a dominant trait of Sinhala Buddhist culture has been its extraordinary pliability and inclusiveness. For example, the penchant for toleration and inclusiveness is signaled by a remarkable irony of history that occurred in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Kandyan king Kirti Sri Rajasimha (reigned 1752–81), ethnically a Tamil in origins, provided protection and sustenance to Sinhala Catholics in his kingdom after they fled the low country from Protestant Dutch oppression. Here, a Tamil Buddhist king protected one type of Christian from another. Muslims and Hindus were also thoroughly integrated into the social fabric of the Kandyan kingdoms (fifteenth through eighteenth century). Late medieval Sinhala literature and contemporary forms of popular religious practice are replete with evidence of this remarkable inclusiveness. The Sinhala Kotte kingdom (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) also witnessed extraordinary degrees of religious toleration and cultural conflations between Hindu and Buddhist communities. Periods of intolerance historically were almost always the by-product of political invasion or machination. Imperial invasions from south India in the tenth and thirteenth centuries destroyed Buddhist monastic infrastructures on the island. Portuguese militancy led to the wanton desecration of many, if not most, Hindu and Buddhist places of worship in the south and west. More recently, following the Sinhala violence against Tamil people in 1983, Sri Lanka's protracted ethnic conflict has been portrayed by some, especially in the Western media, as a religious conflict. While it was clearly not motivated by Buddhist causes, some of the more strident sections of the Sinhala population have appealed to a Buddhist sense of historical ownership of the island as a rationale for the need to defend the political unity of the island on the one hand and to purge popular aspects of religious culture on the other in order to regain a perceived original pristine purity of Theravada Buddhism.

Major Religion

THERAVADA BUDDHISM

DATE OF ORIGIN Third century b.c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 13 million

HISTORY

Sri Lanka is home to the oldest continuing Buddhist civilization in the world, dating back some 2,300 years. Although forms of Mahayana Buddhism were practiced in medieval Sri Lanka, especially from the eighth through the eleventh century, the predominant form of the religion that has been sustained is the Theravada (way of the elders), self-styled as conservative in nature and purporting to represent the original teachings of the Buddha (Tipitaka) as preserved in the Pali Tipitaka and its commentaries. Theravada claims an unbroken lineage of teaching from the time of the Buddha's formation of the monastic sangha to the present day.

The chronicles aver that a son (Mahinda) and a daughter (Sanghamitta) of the great third century b.c.e. Indian emperor Ashoka arrived on the island at this time to convert the Lankan king, Devanampiya Tissa, to the Buddha's dharma and to establish the Buddhist order of monks and nuns in the newly consecrated capital city of Anuradhapura. Sanghamitta is said to have brought with her a sapling of the original bodhi tree under which the Buddha had gained enlightenment. The same tree, one of the world's oldest, continues to be venerated by Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka to this day as a symbol of the Buddha's dharma.

According to monastic histories, the teachings of the Buddha were first committed to writing in the first century b.c.e.. Subsequently monastic controversies of two types began to assail the unity of the sangha (monastic community) in the early Common Era centuries: (1) doctrinal arguments over the nature of the Buddha (supramundane or not) and (2) arguments over the monastic vocation (whether the path of the Buddha's dharma is best pursued through mediation in isolated forest hermitages or through acquiring wisdom by scholarly learning in a village, a context in which the laity might also be better served).

After the demise of the Anuradhapura civilization (third century b.c.e. through tenth century c.e.), wherein the Mahavihara monastery had flourished as a bastion of the Theravada, and following the reestablishment of Sinhala kingship at Polonnaruva in the twelfth century under Parakramabahu I, the Buddhist sangha throughout the country was thereafter unified "under one umbrella," although the community of nuns (bhikkhunisangha) was not reestablished at that time. From this reestablished base of Theravada Buddhist monasticism in which the institution enjoyed lavish royal patronage, an orthodox form of Buddhism stressing the progressive path of sila (morality), prajna (wisdom), and samadhi (meditation) spread to Pagan (Myanmar [Burma]) and from there to northern Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia by the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to become the normative form of religion in mainland Southeast Asia to this day. In Sri Lanka, Theravada's historical condition has stood in reflexive relationship to the health of Lankan kingship—that is, whenever the kingship atrophied, so did the health of the religion, as the king was its chief patron. Monastic and temple culture flourished especially during the reigns of Parakramabahu I in Polonnaruva (twelfth century), Parakramabahu II in Dambadeniya (thirteenth century), Parakramabahu VI in Kotte (fifteenth century), and Kirti Sri Rajasimha in Kandy (eighteenth century). Following the disestablishment of Lankan kingship by the British in 1815, the religion atrophied until the closing decades of the nineteenth century, from which time it has reemerged as a vital force in Sri Lanka's cultural regeneration and the rise of nationalist politics.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

After decades of passive resistance to the Christian missionary efforts in the early to mid-eighteenth century, a small coterie of determined Buddhist monks, including Potuvila Indajoti, Kahave Nanananda, Mohottivatte Gunananda, and Valigama Sumangala, began to respond aggressively to the Christian missionary challenge by publishing a series of pamphlets defending the Buddhist tradition on philosophical grounds. Mohottivatte is especially well remembered for his stirring two-day debate with a Sinhalese Wesleyan minister at Panadura in 1873 amidst crowds of 5,000 to 10,000 people, an event that, in retrospect, may have marked the beginning of modern Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

In 1880 the American theosophist Henry Steele Olcott (1832–1907) arrived on the island, capitalized on the momentum initiated by these Buddhist monks and galvanized the efforts of supportive Buddhist laity by establishing modern curricula at many newly founded Buddhist schools, organizing the liturgical calendar of public Buddhist holidays (the full-moon Poya Day observances), and disseminating widely in print his Buddhist Catechism. One of Olcott's early followers was Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933), who wrote the voluminous Return to Righteousness and founded the Mahabodhi Society in an effort to promulgate Buddhist values based on morality and honest, diligent work within the everyday lives of lay Buddhists. Dharmapala also enlisted international support for his campaign to regain Buddhist control over holy places of pilgrimage in India associated with the birth, first sermon, enlightenment, and final nibbana (nirvana) of the Buddha. Since the late nineteenth century the mahanayakas (chief prelates) of the Malvatta and Asgiriya chapters of the Siyam Nikaya in Kandy (heirs to the Mahavihara traditions in Anuradhapura) and the mahanayakas of the Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas have served as important monastic spokesmen for the various Sinhala Theravada sects of the sangha. Since the 1990s the reformist Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero of Colombo, an outspoken social and political critic representing Sinhala nationalist fears and aspirations, has become a well-known, influential, and controversial television personality.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

The most important figure for defining Theravada orthodoxy (correct doctrine) and orthopraxy (correct practice) has been the monastic Indian commentator Buddhaghosa (fifth century c.e.), whose Visuddhimagga, among other works, remains the classic Theravada formulation of the path of dharma based on the cultivation of morality, wisdom, and meditation leading to the experience of nibbana (nirvana). The fifteenth-century gamavasi (village monk) Sri Rahula, a gifted linguist and aesthetician with a wide-ranging intellect, extended the scope of Buddhist monastic religious culture in numerous ways, as seen in his composition of several lyrical poetic tracts in which popular practices such as veneration of deities, the incantation of mantras, and other apotropaic practices were valorized. The eighteenth-century reformist monk Saranamkara reestablished the primacy of moral practice and deepened the practice of monastic learning through literary excellence in the Sinhala vernacular.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

There are 16 sacred places of pilgrimage often depicted within the visual liturgy of temple and cave paintings dating to the eighteenth century. Each of these 16 is associated with events depicted in the monastic chronicle Mahavamsa, in which three purported visits of the Buddha to Lanka took place following his enlightenment experience. The sapling of the original bodhi tree brought to Anuradhapura in the third century b.c.e. is also one of the holiest sacred places of pilgrimage on the island, as is Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), where the footprint of the Buddha is said to be embossed in stone. The shrines to the deities Kataragama Deviyo (also known as Skanda or Murugan, among others) in the deep south and east of Sri Lanka and Aluthnuvara Deviyo (also known as Dadimunda or Devata Bandara) in the Kandyan highlands attract thousands of pilgrims with petitions not for religious salvation but rather for more mundane reasons having to do with the alleviation of suffering (dukkha). Kalaniya Rajamahavihara, just northeast of Colombo, constructed on a site where the Buddha is said to have settled an ancient dispute between rival indigenous or mythical kings, and Devinuvara (the most southern point in Sri Lanka and therefore of the Indian subcontinent), where Vishnu is venerated, are also important sites of sacrality for Sri Lankan Buddhists, along with Mahiyangana in the east-central part of the country, where the Buddha is said to have first appeared in Lanka in the process of expelling yakkhas (demons) thereby rendering Lanka fit for the spread of his dharma.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Relics of the Buddha are enshrined at holy sites throughout Sri Lanka to commemorate his ancient hallowing presence. Of these sacred relics, the Dalada Maligava (Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy remains the holiest, insofar as the Dalada has been the veritable symbol of Sinhala Buddhist people since at least the Polonnaruva period (eleventh through thirteenth century). Until the British disestablished the last Lankan king in 1815, possession of and care for the Dalada was incumbent upon Lankan royalty. In turn, the presence of the Dalada legitimated a sovereign's reign.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Major public holidays and festivals occur on full-moon Poya Days. Poya Days provide opportunities for the laity to visit the local temple and to practice sil (observing the fivefold morality of abstaining from causing injury, from falsehood, from improper sex, from taking intoxicants, or from taking anything that is not given), in addition to practicing meditation, hearing sermons, and, in general, engaging in the monastic life for a day. The most popular poya celebration, the Asala Perahera, occurs in July–August in the old royal capital of Kandy when the Dalada of the Buddha and the insignia of the national guardian deities (Natha, Vishnu, Pattini, and Kataragama) are taken out from the sanctum sanctorum of their respective shrines, mounted on sacralized elephants, and processed through the streets of Kandy for a period of 10 nights. During the same time at the southern shrine of Kataragama, thousands of pilgrims perform often radical forms of body-piercing asceticism to express their devotion to this increasingly popular deity. Vesak Poya, usually held in May, celebrates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and parinibbana (final spiritual attainment at death). Colorful displays of lanterns adorn the homes of laity and commercial establishments, while white-clad young women sing bhakti gee (devotional songs) from mobile platforms mounted on trucks or in ensembles at public spaces in cities. Pandal s, which are popular pictorial displays of Jatakas (birth stories of the Buddha), are capped by spectacularly lighted Buddha images and erected in many small towns and in major cities. Poson Poya, held in June, with the major events taking place in Anuradhapura and nearby Mahintale, where Ashoka's son, Mahinda (third century b.c.e.), is said to have first preached the Buddha's dharma in Lanka, celebrates the introduction of Buddhism to the island with more than a million people in attendance each year. Kathina, held at the end of the rain retreat season when monks are given new robes for the year, is an important merit-making occasion for the laity. Other major holidays include the celebration of the New Year on 12–13 April and extending for several days thereafter during which the first meal, first bath, first visit, first work, and so forth are ritually enacted.

MODE OF DRESS

Buddhist monks, whether fully ordained or not, wear an orange or burnt-orange colored robe at all times. Dasa sil matas or sil maniyos (precept-holding lay women who have achieved a "nun's" status in the eyes of many) may wear yellow or orange robes. Laity who observe sil on Poya Days or who participate in any formal ritual occasion wear white shirts, white sarongs, or white saris.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Contrary to what many in the West believe, there are no absolute dietary restrictions for Buddhists. Many do follow a vegetarian diet on moral grounds (ahimsa), however, and some will not eat pork recalling the Mahaparinibbana Sutta's account of how the Buddha fell ill during his last meal from eating pork. In Sri Lanka rice with various curries is consumed copiously, but monks and "nuns" refrain, in accordance with the Vinaya monastic rules, from eating solids after noon.

RITUALS

Ancient monastic rites continue to be observed within the sangha. The Patimokkha, observed every two weeks at the new and full moon, consists of a collective recitation and affirmation of the 227 rules of monastic discipline as these have been preserved in the Vinaya Pitaka to ensure the community's moral purity. Monks also continue to chant pirith (Sanskrit, paritta) sutras, a form of blessing the laity, to offer protection and purification on a variety of occasions that need to be made auspicious. Bana (sermons) are regularly preached at the temple on Poya Days or on occasions when monks have been invited into the homes or neigh-borhoods of the laity for special events. Upasampada is a ritual performed during the month of Vesak (May) to ordain novice monks into the sangha. Buddha puja (worship of the Buddha) is usually performed at least twice a day in most Buddhist temples. Meditation is left to the discretion of the individual monk. Pindapata (morning alms rounds for food), which is practiced by Theravada monks in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, is rarely carried out in Sri Lanka. Laity regularly offer food to the monks of the temple as a means of gaining merit and also offer flowers and incense to the Buddha during Buddha puja, observe sil on Poya Days (as explained above under HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS), and undertake pilgrimages to specific sacred places at specific times throughout the calendar year. Peraharas (public processions), pujas (worship ceremonies) for deities at their shrines (devalaya s), and, less frequently, rites of exorcism and sorcery are also part of lay religious life.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Upasampada (as explained above under RITUALS) and funerals (cremations) are the only formal rites of passages observed in the sangha. At the cremation of a famous monk, an orange (robe colored) paper hut may be constructed over the body and the funeral pyre before incineration. Often, solemn testimonies are read and passages from the Pali scriptures distributed throughout the congregation before the pyre is lit. There is no specific Buddhist marriage ceremony per se in Sinhala Buddhist culture, though the trappings and symbols of Sinhala culture are found increasingly at the hotel venues marking middle-class Sinhala marriages. But marriage is not a sacrament. Funerals for laity are preceded by a three-or four-day period of visitation at the deceased's home, where the body lies in an open coffin. Food is not prepared in the house of the deceased for a seven-day period that ends with the ritual chanting of scriptures by monks and a merit transfer rite performed by the departed's kin for the benefit of the deceased. Merit-making and commemorative rites are performed as well on the occasions marking the end of three months and on each annual anniversary thereafter. Infant rites usually begin at three months, when children are taken to devalayas (shrines) to receive the blessing and protection of the gods. At puberty young women traditionally were isolated in a special room for the duration of their first menstruation, though this custom has atrophied in recent generations, particularly among the urban population.

MEMBERSHIP

Though the origins of Buddhism in Sri Lanka are linked to the missionary efforts of Ashoka, Theravada Buddhism, throughout its long history, has been decidedly nonmissionary and not evangelical in nature. Moreover, for most of its history Buddhists have coexisted peacefully with Hindus, Muslims, or Christians. Buddhism is a major index for Sinhala ethnicity in Sri Lanka. One is either born into a Buddhist family or elects, on the basis of personal motivations, to become a Buddhist. In Sri Lanka there has been little in the way of active proselytization. During the past few decades, however, some monks and laity have organized missions with the support of wealthy expatriates to take the dharma to the West. Modern technology has abetted this process. In addition to international information centers now established in Colombo, websites are ubiquitous on the Internet.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Buddhism often has been portrayed in the West as a mystical or otherworldly tradition. But early on Buddhist kingship was legitimated by a rich mythology that stressed the moral justice administered by a righteous king (cakravartin) who conquered by moral example rather than by force. Ashoka's rule of dharma became a paradigm for all Theravada-inclined kings to emulate, the physical and social well-being of the people being the paramount responsibility of the ruler. Since the disestablishment of kingship and the resurgence of indigenous culture and nationalism in the late nineteenth century, Buddhist concepts of morality have frequently fused with more secularly oriented initiatives to alleviate the suffering (dukkha) of the people. The Sigalovada Sutta is a good text illustrating the importance of social relations. In that text the Buddha puts forward the view that instead of cultivating important relations with the deities of the cardinal directions, Buddhists should concentrate on honoring and cultivating relationships with their parents, children, teachers, employers, and so forth. Sarvodaya, a Buddhist-inspired non-governmental organization founded in 1958 by a schoolteacher, A.T. Ariyaratne, aimed at uplifting village life through the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of sanitation and sustainable development, and the education of rural youth, remains an excellent example of how Buddhist values promote social justice in contemporary Sri Lanka. Though suicide is clearly condemned within Buddhist thought, Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

The nuclear and extended family remains the most powerful social unit in Sinhala Buddhist society. The sustained cohesion of the extended family is a consequence of how faithful most Sri Lankans are to the ritual life of the family, including New Year's observances, funerals, and weddings. Most marriages are arranged by weighing such factors as caste, religion, economy, and horoscope. Children frequently live with parents into their late 20s and early 30s, and parents can often rely upon children to care for them in their old age. Many Buddhists systematically practice family planning, a feature that has led some conservative elements within the community to worry about future population trends in relation to birth rates among Muslims and Catholics. Divorces are rare, though not as rare as among Muslims and Hindus.

POLITICAL IMPACT

Religion has become a distinctive marker of ethnic identity in Sri Lanka. Before the colonial incursions Sri Lanka was predominantly a political culture dominated by Buddhist kingship, values, and ideals. The introduction of democracy following independence in 1948 served to heighten awareness of the island's various ethnic identities as politicians searched for ways to generate affinities with the electorate. In 1956 the Sri Lanka Freedom Party candidate for prime minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who had only recently converted from Anglican Protestant Christianity to Buddhism, swept to power on a platform of "Sinhala only" and "Buddhism as religion of the state." Since that moment religion has been a powerful factor in the dynamics of national politics, creating a modest measure of cohesion among Sinhala Buddhists but also fostering fragmentation in the nation as a whole. While Buddhism was never made the official state religion, it has enjoyed a special status in the country's successive constitutions. Official preference for the Sinhala language and Buddhism by the majoritarian, Sinhala-dominated postindependence governments has led to various strains of alienation between the Sinhalese Buddhist and Tamil Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities, devolving finally into a mounting civil war along ethnic lines since 1983.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

The politicization of Buddhism and the rise of various militant Buddhist sections of Sri Lankan society is probably the most controversial issue current in Sinhala society. Various dimensions of the issue have raged in public debates, but the political involvement of monks advocating political positions from the extreme left to the extreme right has raised the old question about the appropriate vocation of Buddhist monasticism. Those favoring political involvement have interpreted the Buddha's teaching to "wander for the welfare of many" as a mandate to be politically and economically involved. Others have championed the view that the vocation of the monk is best served by the vocation of meditation and ritual performance. Reintroducing the ordaining of women to become full-fledged bhikkhunis (nuns) has also been controversial. After the establishment of many aramayas (retreats) for renouncing laywomen ascetics throughout the twentieth century, a few Sinhalese women have now taken the higher ordination in Sri Lanka, thereby ending a period of more than a thousand years in which the bhikkhunisangha (community of nuns) was absent.

CULTURAL IMPACT

The substance of virtually all Sinhala literature and art before the nineteenth century was Buddhist in nature, almost all of it penned or painted by Buddhist monks or religiously inspired laity. Buddhism remains an important theme in contemporary fiction as well. Premodern Sinhala prose was based substantially on Pali sources (Jatakas, vamsa s, sutras, and so forth), while temple and cave paintings represented the extended lives of Buddha within the mythology of the Buddhist cosmos. While Buddhist monks eschewed music, with the exception of chanting, the evolution of dance and music were the by-products of ritual observances (peraharas [public processions] and sokari and kohomba kankariya dramas) performed by the Buddhist laity.

Other Religions

The number of publicly observed holidays in Sri Lanka is 28, the largest number of any country in the world. Almost all public holidays are religious observances, eight of them non-Buddhist. Their official observance is testimony to the fact that Sri Lanka is a truly multireligious country. In addition to the Buddhist Poya Days, national patriotic days, and New Year's observances, the following religious holidays are also publicly observed: Thai-pongal in January; Mahasivaratri in February–March; Dipavali in October–November for Hindus; the Hajj, Ramadan, and Muhammad's birthday according to the shifting lunar calendar for Muslims; and Good Friday in March–April and Christmas in December for Christians. Because of the large number of holidays, it is impossible to live in Sri Lanka without becoming aware of the profoundly variegated religious roots and publicly recognized religious sentiments in Sri Lankan society—religion saturates Sri Lankan social life. Nevertheless, it is also surprising to learn how many Sri Lankans are almost totally ignorant about the basic beliefs and rites of traditions other than their own. In part this is a function of how religion is taught in public schools: Buddhists learn from Buddhists, Christians from Christians, Hindus from Hindus. Therefore, there is never a discussion of other religions, nor is there any type of developed discourse for talking about religion generically.

Historically Hindu practices have exercised a profound impact on the religious culture of Sri Lanka, even within the specific context of popular forms of Sinhala Buddhist ritual practice. Indeed, from the fourteenth century c.e., images of deities of Hindu origins (especially Vishnu) have been worshiped alongside the image of the Buddha within Buddhist halls of worship. More-over, the fact that the goddess Pattini and the gods Vishnu, Kataragama, and Natha (originally Avalokitesvara) are regarded as the highest and national guardian deities of the Sinhala pantheon indicates how Sinhala Buddhist religious culture has incorporated and transformed the major trajectories of religion (Sakta, Vaishnava, Saivite, and Mahayana Buddhist) prevalent in the history of south Indian religious culture. Increasingly the liturgical rites constitutive of worshiping these "Buddhist" deities in Sri Lanka reflect the influence of temple-based bhakti (devotional) Hindu practice. Hindu holy men, such as Sai Baba, also attract a considerable following among Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

At the same time, Hindu ritual and devotional practices within the Sri Lankan Tamil cultural context do not show many signs of assimilation from the Sinhala side. Religious practices among Sri Lankan Tamils do not seem to vary in many significant ways from the forms of Hindu practice found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. And it does not seem to be the case that militant forms of Hindu nationalism that arose in the 1980s and 1990s in India have exercised great influence upon the Tamil cause to establish an independent state of Eelam in Sri Lanka's north and east.

During Sri Lanka's protracted civil war of the late twentieth century, the Christian community on the island fragmented along ethnic lines. The Roman Catholic Church has been especially affected in this regard. For example, the National Seminary in Ampitiya, located just outside of Kandy, has become almost exclusively Sinhala, while some Tamil priests in the north and east of the island have actively promoted the separatist agenda of Eelam, rationalizing their activities by appealing to tracts of liberation theology.

In the closing decades of the twentieth century, the Muslim community experienced fundamental changes because of international and national religious and political dynamics. The spread of Sunni-based conservative practice from the Middle East has contributed to a homogenization process among Sri Lanka's Muslims. Local practices related to the idiosyncratic character of religion in Sri Lanka are increasingly eschewed by Muslim religious leaders in an effort to establish greater orthodoxy throughout the community. Muslim children are increasingly educated exclusively at Koranic-based schools or within the context of international schools, thus leading them to experience, in their youths, further separation from Hindu and Sinhala children. During the past 20 years Muslim females have begun to wear burkhas to cover their heads in public, further marking their identities as distinctively Muslim. At the same time, the civil war in the country has exacerbated relations between Tamils and Muslims. In the early 1990s Muslims were expelled from the northern region of the country by Tamil militants, and several episodes of communal violence between Muslims and Tamils, especially in eastern regions of the island, have created serious tensions. Muslims have also clashed periodically with Sinhalas in Colombo and in the Kandyan highlands, mostly over economic issues. Within the current context of political negotiations to settle the civil war, the Muslim community is demanding political representation separate from the Sinhala and Tamil communities in order to help secure a degree of autonomy within the possibility of a new federal political state.

The Vadda community, indigenous inhabitants of the island who have lived traditionally as hunters and gatherers, are nearly in a state of cultural extinction. They survive in waning pockets of wilderness in the island's east-central regions. Many of their myths and rites have been absorbed into late medieval popular Sinhala folklore, but their cultural survival, especially in a future likely to include more intensified rural economic development, remains questionable at best.

John C. Holt

See Also Vol. 1: Buddhism, Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism

Bibliography

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Bond, George. The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Carrithers, Michael. The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Gombrich, Richard. Buddhist Precept and Practice. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989.

Gombrich, Richard, and Gananath Obeyesekere. Buddhism Transformed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Gunawardana, R.A.L.H. Robe and Plough. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979.

Holt, John Clifford. Buddha in the Crown. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

——. The Religious World of Kirti Sri. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

King, Winston. Theravada Meditation. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980.

Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Obeyesekere, Gananath. The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Seneviratne, H.L. Rituals of the Kandyan State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

——. The Work of Kings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Tambiah, S.J. Buddhism Betrayed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

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Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Compiled from the February 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. mi.); about the size of West Virginia.

Cities: Capital—Colombo (pop. est. 1.3 million—urban area). Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte is the officially designated capital and is the site of Parliament, but it is currently only an administrative center. Other cities—Kandy (150,000), Galle (110,000), Jaffna (100,000).

Terrain: Coastal plains in the northern third of country; hills and mountains in south-central Sri Lanka rise to more than 2,133 meters (7,000 ft.).

Climate: Tropical. Rainy seasons—light in northeast, fall and winter, with average rainfall of 50 in.; heavy in southwest, summer and fall, with average rainfall of 200 in.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Sri Lankan(s).

Population: (2003) 19.4 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.08%.

Ethnic groups: (2002) Sinhalese (74%), Tamils (18%), Muslims (7%), others (1%).

Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.

Languages: Sinhala and Tamil (official), English.

Education: Years compulsory—to age 14. Primary school attendance—96.5%. Literacy—91%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—15/1,000. Life expectancy—71 yrs. (male); 76 yrs. (female).

Work force: 7.2 million.

Government

Type: Republic.

Independence: February 4, 1948.

Constitution: August 31, 1978.

Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Branches: Executive—president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative—unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial—Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, subordinate courts.

Administrative subdivisions: Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts. (The northern and eastern provinces, however, have been technically jointly administered since 1988.)

Political parties: Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Jathika Hela Urumaya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Tamil National Alliance, United National Party, several small Tamil and Muslim parties, and others. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, along with several small leftist parties, operate under an umbrella organization known as the "United People's Freedom Alliance." The United National Party and several other smaller parties operate as the "United National Front."

Economy (2003)

GDP: $18.4 billion (est. 2003).

Annual growth rate: 5.9%.

Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.

Agriculture: (20.1% of GDP) Major products—rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.

Services: (53.6% of GDP) Major types–tourism, transport, telecom, banking and finance.

Industry: (26.3% of GDP) Major types—garments and leather goods, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, wood products, basic metal products, and paper products.

Trade: Exports—$5.1 billion: garments and footwear, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets—U.S. ($1.8 billion), U.K., Germany, Japan, Belgium. Imports—$6.4 billion. Major suppliers—India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, U.K., U.S. ($155 million). [U.S. data]


PEOPLE

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean about 28 kilometers (18 mi.) off the southeastern coast of India with a population of about 19 million. Density is highest in the southwest where Colombo, the country's main port and industrial center, is located. The net population growth is about 1.3%. Sri Lanka is ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse.

Sinhalese make up 74% of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Ceylon Tamils, citizens whose South Indian ancestors have lived on the island for centuries, total about 12% and live predominantly in the north and east.

Indian Tamils, a distinct ethnic group, represent about 5% of the population. The British brought them to Sri Lanka in the 19th century as tea and rubber plantation workers, and they remain concentrated in the "tea country" of south-central Sri Lanka. In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 "stateless" Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, some 200,000 of whom now live in India. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, now wish to remain in Sri Lanka. The government has stated these Tamils will not be forced to return to India, although they are not technically citizens of Sri Lanka. In October of 2003, an act of Parliament granted citizenship to several thousand of these "tea estate" Tamils.

Other minorities include Muslims (both Moors and Malays), at about 7% of the population; Burghers, who are descendants of European colonists, principally from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.); and aboriginal Veddahs. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu. The majority of Sri Lanka's Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Sizable minorities of both Sinhalese and Tamils are Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholic. The 1978 constitution, while assuring freedom of religion, grants primacy to Buddhism.

Sinhala, an Indo-European language, is the native tongue of the Sinhalese. Tamils and most Muslims speak Tamil, part of the South Indian Dravidian linguistic group. Use of English has declined since independence, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle and upper middle classes, particularly in Colombo. The government is seeking to reverse the decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons. Both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages.


HISTORY

The actual origins of the Sinhalese are shrouded in myth. Most believe they came to Sri Lanka from northern India during the 6th century BC. Buddhism arrived from the subcontinent 300 years later 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. Invasions from southern India, combined with internecine strife, pushed Sinhalese kingdoms southward.

The island's contact with the outside world began early. Roman sailors called the island Taprobane. Arab traders knew it as "Serendip," the root of the word "serendipity." Beginning in 1505, Portuguese traders, in search of cinnamon and other spices, seized the island's coastal areas and spread Catholicism. The Dutch supplanted the Portuguese in 1658. Although the British ejected the Dutch in 1796, Dutch law remains an important part of Sri Lankan jurisprudence. In 1815, the British defeated the king of Kandy, last of the native rulers, and created the Crown Colony of Ceylon. They established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber, and coconuts. In 1931, the British granted Ceylon limited self-rule and a universal franchise. Ceylon became independent on February 4, 1948.

Post-Independence Politics

Sri Lankan politics since independence have been strongly democratic. Two major parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), have generally alternated rule.

The UNP ruled first from 1948-56 under three Prime Ministers—D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley, and Sir John Kotelawala. The SLFP ruled from 1956-65, with a short hiatus in 1960, first under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and then, after his assassination in 1959, under his widow, Sirimavo, the world's first female chief executive in modern times. Dudley Senanayake and the UNP returned to power in 1965.

In 1970, Mrs. Bandaranaike again assumed the premiership. A year later, an insurrection by followers of the Maoist "Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna" (JVP, or "People's Liberation Front") broke out. The SLFP government suppressed the revolt and declared a state of emergency that lasted 6 years.

In 1972, Mrs. Bandaranaike's government introduced a new constitution, which changed the country's name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, declared it a republic, made protection of Buddhism a constitutional principle, and created a weak president appointed by the prime minister. Its economic policies during this period were highly socialist and included the nationalization of large tea and rubber plantations and other private industries.

The UNP, under J.R. Jayewardene, returned to power in 1977. The Jayewardene government opened the economy and, in 1978, introduced a new constitution based on the French model, a key element of which was the creation of a strong executive presidency. J.R. Jayewardene was elected President by Parliament in 1978 and by nationwide election in 1982. In 1982, a national referendum extended the life of Parliament another 6 years.

The UNP's Ranasinghe Premadasa, Prime Minister in the Jayewardene government, narrowly defeated Mrs. Bandaranaike (SLFP) in the 1988 presidential elections. The UNP also won an absolute majority in the 1989 parliamentary elections. Mr. Premadasa was assassinated on May 1, 1993 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE" or "Tigers"), and was replaced by then-Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister.

The SLFP, the main party in the People's Alliance (PA) coalition, returned to power in 1994 for the first time in 17 years. The PA won a plurality in the August 1994 parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as Prime Minister. Prime Minister Kumaratunga later won the November 1994 presidential elections and appointed her mother (former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to replace her as Prime Minister. President Kumaratunga won re-election to another 6-year term in December 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka was appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunga remains as President. In November of 2003, President Kumaratunga suddenly took control of three key ministries, triggering a serious cohabitation crisis. In January 2004, the SLFP and the JVP formed a political grouping known as the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). In February, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. In these elections, which took place in April 2004, the UPFA received 45% of the vote, with the UNP receiving 37% of the vote. While it did not win enough seats to command a majority in Parliament, the UPFA was able to form a government and appoint a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

Communal Crisis

Historical divisions continue to have an impact on Sri Lankan society and politics. From independence, the Tamil minority has been uneasy with the country's unitary form of government and apprehensive that the Sinhalese majority would abuse Tamil rights. Those fears were reinforced when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike triumphed in the 1956 elections after appealing to Sinhalese nationalism. His declaration that Sinhala was the country's official language—an act felt by Tamils to be a denigration of their own tongue—was the first in a series of steps over the following decades that appeared discriminatory to Tamils. Tamils also protested government educational policies and agriculture programs that encouraged Sinhalese farmers from the south to move to newly irrigated lands in the east. The decades following 1956 saw intermittent outbreaks of communal violence and growing radicalization among Tamil groups. By the mid-1970s Tamil politicians were moving from support for federalism to a demand for a separate Tamil state—"Tamil Eelam"—in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas of traditional Tamil settlement. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas on a platform of separatism. Other groups—particularly the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers)—sought an independent state by force.

In 1983, the death of 13 Sinhalese soldiers at the hands of the LTTE unleashed the largest outburst of communal violence in the country's history. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in Colombo and elsewhere, tens of thousands were left homeless, and more than 100,000 fled to south India. The north and east became the scene of bloodshed as security forces attempted to suppress the LTTE and other militant groups. Terrorist incidents occurred in Colombo and other cities. Each side in the conflict accused the other of violating human rights. The conflict assumed an international dimension when the Sri Lankan Government accused India of supporting the Tamil insurgents.

Indian Peacekeeping

By mid-1987, India intervened in the conflict by air-dropping supplies to prevent what it felt was harsh treatment and starvation of the Tamil population in the Jaffna Peninsula caused by an economic blockade by Colombo. Under a July 29, 1987, accord (the Indo-Lanka Accord) signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger—subject to later referendum—of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.

Within weeks, however, the LTTE declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and refused to disarm. The IPKF found itself engaged in a bloody police action against the LTTE. Further complicating the return to peace was a burgeoning Sinhalese insurgency in the south. The JVP, relatively quiescent since the 1971 insurrection, began to reassert itself in 1987. Capitalizing on opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord in the Sinhalese community, the JVP launched an intimidation campaign against supporters of the accord. Numerous UNP and other government supporters were assassinated. The government, relieved of its security burden by the IPKF in the north and east, intensified its efforts in the south. The JVP was crushed but at a high cost in human lives.

From April 1989 through June 1990, the government engaged in direct communications with the LTTE leadership. In the meantime, fighting between the LTTE and the IPKF escalated in the north. India withdrew the last of its forces from Sri Lanka in early 1990, and fighting between the LTTE and the government resumed. Both the LTTE and government forces committed serious human rights violations. In January 1995, the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE agreed to a cessation of hostilities as a preliminary step in a government-initiated plan for peace negotiations. After 3 months, however, the LTTE unilaterally resumed hostilities. The government then adopted a policy of military engagement with the Tigers, with government forces liberating Jaffna from LTTE control by mid-1996 and moving against LTTE positions in the northern part of the country called the Vanni. An LTTE counteroffensive begun in October 1999 reversed most government gains and by May 2000 threatened government forces in Jaffna. Heavy fighting continued into 2001.

Peace Process

In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the LTTE and government declared unilateral cease-fires. In February 2002, with Norwegian Government facilitation, the two sides agreed to a joint cease-fire accord. The peace process has continued apace, affecting Sri Lankans politically, economically, and socially in numerous and overwhelmingly positive ways. After holding six rounds of talks, the LTTE withdrew from the negotiation process in April 2003. At this time, the informal peace process continues on the ground and both sides continue to observe the February 2002 ceasefire. In May 2004, the new UPFA government and the LTTE committed themselves in public and in discussions with the Norwegian facilitators to resuming the negotiation track.

LTTE violence, including the assassination of approximately 40 Tamil alleged opponents from 2002 through 2003, is largely confined to the north and eastern provinces, which are 6 to 8 hours by road from the capital. Before the advent of the peace process, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets were common in Colombo, Kandy, and elsewhere in the country. In July 2001, an LTTE suicide squad attacked the Bandaranaike International Airport out-side of Colombo and destroyed a large number of military and civilian aircraft. In early March 2004, a faction of the LTTE from the east of the country broke off from the main organization and declared itself an independent body. In April, the main LTTE largely subdued this factional uprising in fighting that left up to 30 people dead.

In October 1997, the U.S. Government designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and has maintained this designation since then, most recently redesignating the group in October of 2003.


GOVERNMENT

Per the 1978 constitution, the president of the republic, directly elected for a 6-year term, is chief of state, head of government, and 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. A parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the president.

Parliament is a unicameral 225-member legislature elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation 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.

The 1978 constitution clearly envisaged a system where the president and the prime minister were from the same party. Since the December 2001 parliamentary elections, however, the president and the prime minister have been from different parties. This has led to serious cohabitation strains. In November 2003, for example, President Kumaratunga suddenly took over three key ministries (Defense, Interior, and Mass Communications), precipitating a serious cohabitation crisis between the two sides. In February of 2004, President Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections. The UPFA, while receiving enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government, fell short of the 113 seats necessary for a majority in Parliament. Mahinda Rajapakse of the SLFP became Prime Minister and former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe became Leader of the Opposition.

Sri Lanka's judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and a number of subordinate courts. Sri Lanka's legal system reflects diverse cultural influences. Criminal law is fundamentally British. Basic civil law is Roman-Dutch. Laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, and inheritance are communal.

Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve significant authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's chief minister; a provincial governor is appointed by the president. The councils possess limited powers in education, health, rural development, social services, agriculture, security, and local taxation. Many of these powers are shared or subject to central government oversight. Predating the accord are municipal, urban, and rural councils with limited powers.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/12/05

President: Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA
Prime Minister: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA
Min. of Agricultural Marketing Development: Douglas DEVANANDA
Min. of Agriculture & Livestock: Anura Kumara DISSANAYAKE
Min. of Christian Affairs: Milroy FERNANDO
Min. of Constitutional Affairs: D. E. W. GUNASEKERA
Min. of Consumer Affairs: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE
Min. of Cultural Affairs & National Heritages: VIjitha HERATH
Min. of Defense: Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA
Min. of Eastern Province Education & Irrigation Development: Ferial ASHRAFF
Min. of Education: Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA
Min. of Environment & Natural Resources: A. H. M. FOWZIE
Min. of Estate Community Infrastructure: C. B. RATNAYAKE
Min. of Finance: Sarath AMUNUGAMA
Min. of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources: Chandrasena WIJESINGHE
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Lakshman KADIRGAMAR
Min. of Healthcare, Nutrition, & Uva Wellasa Development: Minal Siripala DE SILVA
Min. of Highways: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA
Min. of Hindu Affairs & Tamil Language Schools & Vocational Training (North): Douglas DEVANANDA
Min. of Home Affairs: Amarasiri DODANGODA
Min. of Housing & Construction Industry: Ferial ASHRAFF
Min. of Indigenous Medicine: Tissa KARALIYADDE
Min. of Industry: Anura BANDARANAIKE
Min. of Information & Media: Mangala SAMARAWEERA
Min. of Infrastructure Development in the Eastern Province: A. L. M. ATHAULLA
Min. of Investment Promotion: Anura BANDARANAIKE
Min. of Justice & Judicial Reforms: John SENAVIRATNE
Min. of Labor Relations & Foreign Employment: Athauda SENAVIRATNE
Min. of Land & Irrigation: Anura Kumara DISSANAYAKE
Min. of Parliamentary Affairs: Milroy FERNANDO
Min. of Plantation Industries: Anura Priyadharshana YAPA
Min. of Ports & Aviation: Mangala SAMARAWEERA
Min. of Posts & Telecommunications: D. M. JAYARATNE
Min. of Power & Energy: Susil PREMAJAYANTHA
Min. of Provincial Councils & Local Government: Janaka Bandara TENNAKOON
Min. of Public Administration: Amarasiri DODANGODA
Min. of Regional Infrastructure Development: S. B. NAWINNA
Min. of River Basin Development & Rajarata Development: Maithripala SIRISENA
Min. of Samurdhi & Poverty Alleviation: Pavithra WANNIARACHCHI
Min. of Science & Technology: Tissa VITHARANA
Min. of Skills Development & Vocational & Technical Education: Piyasena GAMAGE
Min. of Small & Rural Industries: K. D. Lal KANTHA
Min. of Sports & Youth Affairs: Jeewan KUMARANATUNGA
Min. of Tourism: Anura BANDARANAIKE
Min. of Trade & Commerce: Jeyaraj FERNANDOPULLE
Min. of Transport: Felix PERERA
Min. of Upcountry Development: D. M. JAYARATNE
Min. of Urban Development: Dinesh GUNAWARDENE
Min. of Water Supply: Dinesh GUNAWARDENE
Min. of Women's Empowerment & Social Welfare: Sumedha JAYASENE
Governor, Central Bank: A. S. JAYAWARDENA
Ambassador to the US: Devinda R. SUBASINGHE
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York (Acting): Bernard GOONETILLEKE

Sri Lanka maintains an embassy in the United States at 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-4834025).


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Sri Lanka's two major political parties—the UNP and the PA—embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. Past differences between the two on foreign and economic policy have narrowed. The SLFP, however, envisions a broader role for the state in general.

Sri Lanka has a multi-party democracy that enjoys considerable stability despite relatively high levels of political violence. LTTE terrorist activities, generally aimed at destabilizing Sri Lanka politically and economically, have included assassination of politicians—killing the Industrial Development Minister by suicide bombing in June 2000; the December 1999 attempted assassination of current President Kumaratunga; bombing of economic targets such as the central bank in January 1996, the World Trade Center in October 1997, and the airport in July 2001; as well as attacks on Buddhist religious sites. In January 1998, the LTTE detonated a truck bomb in Kandy, damaging the Temple of the Tooth relic, the holiest Buddhist shrine in the country.


ECONOMY

With an economy of $18.4 billion (est. August 2004), and a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of about $950, Sri Lanka enjoyed strong growth rates in recent years. Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in 1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing, and opening the economy to international competition. The ethnic disputes of 1983 precipitated a slowdown in economic diversification and liberalization. The JVP uprising in the late 1980s caused extensive upheavals and economic uncertainty.

Following the quelling of the JVP, increased privatization, reform, and a stress on export-oriented growth helped revive the economy's performance, taking GDP growth to 7% in 1993. Economic growth has been uneven in the ensuing years as the economy faced a multitude of global and domestic economic and political challenges. Overall, average annual GDP growth was 5.2% over 1991-2000. In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%—the first contraction since independence. Growth recovered to 4.0% in 2002 and 5.2% in 2003.

Foreign exchange reserves, which fell by 11% in 1999, decreased further in 2000. In response, the government floated the rupee on January 23, 2001. This led to a significant nominal depreciation in 2001, but the rupee has since stabilized and reserves have been replenished.

In 2003, continued peace allowed further progress on macroeconomic stabilization during the first half of the year. Some progress was reversed, however, during the political uncertainty in November and December 2003. Growth in 2003 was largely driven by the services sector (particularly telecom and tourism) and trade. Both exports and imports rose over 9% in the first 10 months. Interest rates declined. The inflation rate fell under 9%. External reserves were sufficient to cover 5.6 months of imports. The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) rebounded to become one of the better performers in the area. The CSE rose 45% in 2002 and hit a record high in June 2003 but performance declined at the end of the year. Fortunately, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic did not spread to Sri Lanka, and tourism was not severely affected. Sri Lanka's garment exporters reported a surge in orders, shifted from China due to SARS. On the negative side, in mid-2003 Sri Lanka experienced its worst floods in 50 years, which caused extensive damage in south and southwestern parts of the country.

Projections for 6.5% growth in 2004 did not account for political instability, which negatively impacted performance. The December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage in Sri Lanka. The human and environmental tragedy was enormous: over 30,000 people were killed and another 500,000 were displaced, and the bulk of the coastline was affected, leaving most fishing fleets destroyed. The United States is leading the international effort on relief and reconstruction, with damages estimated at $1.5 billion in Sri Lanka.

The future of Sri Lanka's economic health is uncertain but is primarily dependent on continued tsunami relief and reconstruction, political stability, continuation of the peace process, and continued policy reforms—particularly in the area of fiscal discipline and direct management. Implementation of major reforms in the civil service and education sectors and more disciplined spending and improved revenue collection would help generate stronger economic growth. If export orientation strengthens, weaknesses in government will have less impact on growth.

A strong global economy should help Sri Lanka maintain and even expand its export base, while effective aid utilization will be critical in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort. Rising oil costs in 2004, coupled with lower government revenue, held Sri Lanka's fiscal deficit at about 9% of GDP. The government has indicated it intends to focus on better revenue collection mechanisms to deal with the problem. Post-tsunami investment needs may challenge government deficit reduction strategies over the coming years. Sril Lanka has a high debt burden (105% of GDP) and is reforming and modernizing its debt management structures.

Other challenges include diversification from Sri Lanka's key exportstea and garments. Garment exports will face increased competition in a quota-free era when the Multi Fiber Arrangement expires in 2005. The future of the tea industry is threatened by a shortage of plantation labor and growing competition. There are new efforts to diversify exports, explore tourism potential, and improve competitiveness. The previous government had an ambitious information and communications technology strategy to connect and service every corner of the country. This project, if continued and implemented successfully, could change Sri Lanka's economy and social fabric and would take it into the information age. The government hopes to take advantage of Sri Lanka's strategic location on shipping routes, make use of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, and sign free trade agreements with other countries to achieve regional trading hub status. If peace returns and all these efforts bear fruit, real growth could be in the 6%-7% range beyond 2004, and will help realize the government's intention of making Sri Lanka the gateway to South Asia.

The service sector is the largest component of GDP (54%). In 2003, the service sector continued its strong expansion, fueled primarily by strong growth in telecom, tourism, and financial services. Public administration and defense expenditures have remained steady. Repatriated earnings of Sri Lankans working abroad continued to be strong. There also is a small but growing information technology sector, especially information technology training and software development and exports.

Manufacturing accounts for about 16% of GDP. The textile, apparel, and leather products sector is the largest, accounting for 44% of total industrial output. The second-largest industrial sector, at 24% of total manufacturing output, is food, beverages, and tobacco. The third-largest industrial sector is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products. Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It accounts for 20.1% of GDP and provides employment to 33% of the working population. Rice, the staple cereal, is cultivated extensively. The plantation sector consists of tea, rubber, and coconut; in recent years, the tea crop has made significant contributions to export earnings and saw production slightly decrease in 2003. Tea prices have remained stable. The construction sector accounts for 7.4% of GDP and mining and quarrying 1.8%. In recent years, the government has eliminated many price controls and quotas, reduced tariff levels, eliminated most foreign exchange controls, and sold more than 55 state-owned companies and 20 estate-holding companies. Colombo boasts one of the most modern stock exchanges in the region, and the Sri Lankan Government offers a range of tax and other incentives to attract potential investors.

Trade and Foreign Assistance

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most important market, were estimated at $1.8 billion in 2003, or 38.5% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market for garments, taking more than 63% of the country's total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, with exports of $835 million in 2002. Japan, traditionally Sri Lanka's largest supplier, was its fourth-largest in 2002 with exports of $355 million. Other leading suppliers include Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. United States exports amounted to $155 million in 2003. Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, and several high-profile assistance projects were launched in 2003. The most significant of these resulted from an aid conference in Tokyo in June 2003; pledges at the summit, which included representatives from the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan, the European Union, and the United States totaled $4.5 billion. This funding was in response to a poverty reduction strategy program laid out in "Regaining Sri Lanka," an action paper authored by the Sri Lankan Government, and a number of studies commissioned by the donor community that, together, provide a basic framework for economic revival. While implementation of previous aid projects has been spotty, the government believes it can improve this record by streamlining tender processes and improving project management skills.

The United States is currently leading the international efforts for tsunami relief and reconstruction. In addition to pledging $350 million to tsunami-affected countries, more than 15,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in providing relief support in the affected region. Twenty-five ships and 94 aircraft were participating in the effort. The U.S. military had delivered about 2.2 million pounds of relief supplies to affected nations, including 16,000 gallons of water, 113,000 pounds of food, and 140,500 pounds of relief supplies. USAID disbursed an additional $78 million.

Labor

More than 20% of the 6.1 million-strong labor force, excluding the north and east, is unionized. Trade union membership is on the decline. There are more than 1,650 registered trade unions, many of which have 50 or fewer members, and 19 federations. Many unions have political affiliations. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and Lanka Jathika estate workers union are the two largest unions representing workers in the heavily unionized plantation sector. The president of the CWC also is Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure. The CWC's agenda includes political issues, such as citizenship status for stateless Indian Tamils. Some of the stronger and more influential trade unions include the Ceylon Mercantile Union, Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Jathika Sevaka Sangayama, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers, Conference of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, and the JVP-aligned Inter-Company Trade Union.

The unemployment rate has declined in recent years and hovers at 10%. The rate of unemployment among high school and college graduates, however, remains proportionally higher than the rate for less-educated workers. The government has embarked on educational reforms it hopes will lead to better preparation of students and fewer mismatches between graduates and jobs. In addition, it also has begun a youth corps program to provide employment skills to the unemployed.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a nonaligned foreign policy but has been seeking closer relations with the United States since December 2001. It participates in multilateral diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations, where it seeks to promote sovereignty, independence, and development in the developing world. Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It also is a member of the Commonwealth, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the