Sri Lanka

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Introduction - Sri Lanka:


Sri Lanka


The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C. probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced beginning in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty seized power in the north and established a Tamil kingdom. Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in 1983. Tens of thousands have died in the ethnic conflict that continues to fester. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formalized a cease-fire in February 2002 with Norway brokering peace negotiations. Violence between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006, but neither side has formally withdrawn from the cease-fire.

Location - Sri Lanka:


Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India

Geographic coordinates

7 00 N, 81 00 E

Map references



total: 65,610 sq km
land: 64,740 sq km
water: 870 sq km

Area comparative

slightly larger than West Virginia

Land boundaries

0 km


1,340 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin


tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)


mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior

Elevation extremes

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m

Natural resources

limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower

Land use

arable land: 13.96%
permanent crops: 15.24%
other: 70.8% (2005)

Irrigated land

7,430 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards

occasional cyclones and tornadoes

Environment current issues

deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo

Environment international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography note

strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes

People - Sri Lanka:


note: since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2007 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 24.3% (male 2,596,295/female 2,495,949)
15-64 years: 67.9% (male 6,947,310/female 7,259,271)
65 years and over: 7.8% (male 765,507/female 861,983) (2007 est.)

Median age

total: 30 years
male: 29.2 years
female: 31 years (2007 est.)

Population growth rate

0.982% (2007 est.)

Birth rate

17 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Death rate

6.01 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Net migration rate

-1.16 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.957 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.888 male(s)/female
total population: 0.971 male(s)/female (2007 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 19.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 21.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 17.63 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.8 years
male: 72.81 years
female: 76.88 years (2007 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.05 children born/woman (2007 est.)

Hiv aids adult prevalence rate

less than 0.1% (2001 est.)

Hiv aids people living with hiv aids

3,500 (2001 est.)

Hiv aids deaths

less than 200 (2003 est.)


noun: Sri Lankan(s)
adjective: Sri Lankan

Ethnic groups

Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)


Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)


Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.7%
male: 92.3%
female: 89.1% (2001 census)

Government - Sri Lanka:

Country name

conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
conventional short form: Sri Lanka
local long form: Shri Lamka Prajatantrika Samajaya di Janarajaya/Ilankai Jananayaka Choshalichak Kutiyarachu
local short form: Shri Lamka/Ilankai
former: Serendib, Ceylon

Government type



name: Colombo
geographic coordinates: 6 56 N, 79 51 E
time difference: UTC+5.5 (10.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative capital)

Administrative divisions

8 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western
note: in October 2006, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled voided a presidential directive merging the North and Eastern Provinces; many have defended the merger as a prerequisite for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict; a parliamentary decision on the issue is pending


4 February 1948 (from UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 4 February (1948)


adopted 16 August 1978, certified 31 August 1978

Legal system

a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Islamic, Sinhalese, and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Mahinda RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government; Ratnasiri WICKREMANAYAKE (since 21 November 2005) holds the largely ceremonial title of prime minister
head of government: President Mahinda RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 17 November 2005 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA elected president; percent of vote - Mahinda RAJAPAKSA 50.3%, Ranil WICKREMESINGHE 48.4%, other 1.3%

Legislative branch

unicameral Parliament (225 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to serve six-year terms)
elections: last held on 2 April 2004 (next to be held by 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party or electoral alliance - SLFP and JVP (no longer in formal UPFA alliance) 45.6%, UNP 37.8%, TNA 6.8%, JHU 6%, SLMC 2%, UPF 0.5%, EPDP 0.3%, other 1%; seats by party - UNP 68, SLFP 57, JVP 39, TNA 22, CWC 8, JHU 7, SLMC 6, SLMC dissidents 4, Communist Party 2, JHU dissidents 2, LSSP 2, MEP 2, NUA 2, UPF 2, EPDP 1, UNP dissident 1

Judicial branch

Supreme Court; Court of Appeals; judges for both courts are appointed by the president

Political parties and leaders

All Ceylon Tamil Congress or ACTC [A. VINAYAKAMOORTHY]; Ceylon Workers Congress or CWC [Arumugam THONDAMAN]; Communist Party or CP [D. GUNASEKERA]; Democratic United National (Lalith) Front or DUNLF [T.N.S. NANAYAKKARA]; Eelam Peoples Democratic Party or EPDP [Douglas DEVANANDA]; Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front or EPRLF [Suresh PREMACHANDRAN]; Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna or JVP [Somawansa AMARASINGHE]; Lanka Sama Samaja Party or LSSP [Tissa VITHARANA]; Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (Peoples United Front) or MEP [D. GUNAWARDENE]; National Heritage Party or JHU [Ellawala METHANANDA]; National Unity Alliance or NUA [Ferial ASHRAFF]; Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam or PLOTE [D. SIDHARTHAN]; Sri Lanka Freedom Party or SLFP [Mahinda RAJAPAKSA]; Sri Lanka Muslim Congress or SLMC [Rauff HAKEEM]; Sri Lanka Progressive Front or SLPF [P. Nelson PERERA]; Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization or TELO [Selvam ADAIKALANATHAN]; Tamil National Alliance or TNA [R. SAMPANTHAN]; Tamil United Liberation Front or TULF [V. ANANDASANGAREE]; United National Party or UNP [Ranil WICKREMASINGHE]; Up-country Peoples Front or UPF [P. CHANDRASEKARAN]; several ethnic Tamil and Muslim parties, represented in either Parliament or provincial councils

Political pressure groups and leaders

Buddhist clergy; labor unions; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE [Velupillai PRABHAKARAN](insurgent group fighting for a separate state); radical chauvinist Sinhalese groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism; Sinhalese Buddhist lay groups; Tamil Eela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal, TMVP or Karuna group [Vinayagamurthi MURALITHARAN] (paramilitary breakaway from LTTE and fighting against LTTE)

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the us

chief of mission: Ambassador Bernard GOONETILLEKE

chancery: 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 483-4025 (through 4028)
FAX: [1] (202) 232-7181
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the us

chief of mission: Ambassador Robert O. BLAKE, Jr.
embassy: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3
mailing address: P. O. Box 106, Colombo
telephone: [94] (11) 249-8500
FAX: [94] (11) 243-7345

Flag description

yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other panel is a large dark red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword, and there is a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels

Economy - Sri Lanka:

Economy overview

In 1977, Colombo abandoned statist economic policies and its import substitution trade policy for more market-oriented policies, export-oriented trade, and encouragement of foreign investment. Recent changes in government, however, have brought some policy reversals. Currently, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party has a more statist economic approach, which seeks to reduce poverty by steering investment to disadvantaged areas, developing small and medium enterprises, promoting agriculture, and expanding the already enormous civil service. The government has halted most privatizations. Although suffering a brutal civil war that began in 1983, Sri Lanka saw GDP growth average 4.5% in the last 10 years with the exception of a recession in 2001. In late December 2004, a major tsunami took about 31,000 lives, left more than 6,300 missing and 443,000 displaced, and destroyed an estimated $1.5 billion worth of property. Growth, partly spurred by reconstruction, reached 5% in 2005 and more than 6% in 2006. Sri Lankas most dynamic sectors now are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, port construction, telecommunications, and insurance and banking. In 2005, plantation crops made up only about 15% of exports (compared with more than 90% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for more than 60%. About 800,000 Sri Lankans work abroad, 90% in the Middle East. They send home more than $1 billion a year. The struggle by the Tamil Tigers of the north and east for an independent homeland continues to cast a shadow over the economy.

Gdp purchasing power parity

$95.55 billion (2006 est.)

Gdp official exchange rate

$27.4 billion (2006 est.)

Gdp real growth rate

7.5% (2006 est.)

Gdp per capita ppp

$4,700 (2006 est.)

Gdp composition by sector

agriculture: 17.3%
industry: 27.3%
services: 55.3% (2006 est.)

Labor force

7.5 million (2006 est.)

Labor force by occupation

agriculture: 34.3%
industry: 25.3%
services: 40.4% (30 June 2006 est.)

Unemployment rate

7.6% (2006 est.)

Population below poverty line

22% (2002 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.1%
highest 10%: 39.7% (FY03/04)

Distribution of family income gini index

50 (FY03/04)

Inflation rate consumer prices

12.1% (2006 est.)

Investment gross fixed

28.2% of GDP (2006 est.)


revenues: $5.61 billion
expenditures: $8.39 billion; including capital expenditures of $2.8 billion (FY07 est.)

Public debt

89.6% of GDP (2006 est.)

Agriculture products

rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef; fish


processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities; telecommunications, insurance, banking; clothing, textiles; cement, petroleum refining

Industrial production growth rate

6.2% (2006 est.)

Electricity production

8.766 billion kWh (2005)

Electricity consumption

8.17 billion kWh (2005)

Electricity exports

0 kWh (2005)

Electricity imports

0 kWh (2005)

Oil production

0 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Oil consumption

82,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Oil exports

NA bbl/day

Oil imports

NA bbl/day

Oil proved reserves

0 bbl

Natural gas production

0 cu m (2006 est.)

Natural gas consumption

0 cu m (2006 est.)

Current account balance

-$1.118 billion (2006 est.)


$7.076 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Exports commodities

textiles and apparel, tea and spices; diamonds, emeralds, rubies; coconut products, rubber manufactures, fish

Exports partners

US 27.7%, UK 11.4%, India 9.4%, Belgium 4.7%, Germany 4% (2006)


$9.655 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Imports commodities

textile fabrics, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment

Imports partners

India 19.2%, China 10.3%, Singapore 8.6%, Iran 5.6%, Malaysia 5%, Hong Kong 4.1% (2006)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$2.81 billion (2006 est.)

Debt external

$12.23 billion (2006 est.)

Economic aid recipient

$808 million (2005)

Currency code

Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)

Exchange rates

Sri Lankan rupees per US dollar - 103.99 (2006), 100.498 (2005), 101.194 (2004), 96.521 (2003), 95.662 (2002)

Communications - Sri Lanka:

Fiscal year

calendar year

Telephones main lines in use

2.087 million (2007)

Telephones mobile cellular

5.959 million (2007)

Telephone system

general assessment: telephone services have improved significantly and are available in most parts of the country
domestic: national trunk network consists mostly of digital microwave radio relay; fiber-optic links now in use in Colombo area and 2 fixed wireless local loops have been installed; competition is strong in mobile cellular systems and mobile cellular subscribership is increasing; telephone density remains low (2006)
international: country code - 94; submarine cables to Indonesia, Djibouti, India and Maldives; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations

34 (station types NA) (2006)

Television broadcast stations

14 (2006)

Internet country code


Internet hosts

6,526 (2006)

Internet users

428,000 (2006)

Transportation - Sri Lanka:


16 (2006)

Airports with paved runways

total: 14
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 6
914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2006)

Airports with unpaved runways

total: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2006)


total: 1,449 km
broad gauge: 1,449 km 1.676-m gauge (2006)


total: 97,287 km
paved: 78,802 km
unpaved: 18,485 km (2003)


160 km (primarily on rivers in southwest) (2006)

Merchant marine

total: 22 ships (1000 GRT or over) 144,066 GRT/196,418 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 17, container 2, petroleum tanker 2
foreign-owned: 7 (Germany 5, UAE 2)
registered in other countries: 5 (Panama 5) (2006)

Ports and terminals

Colombo, Galle

Military - Sri Lanka:

Military branches

Sri Lankan Army, Sri Lankan Navy, Sri Lankan Air Force (2006)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service (2007)

Manpower available for military service

males age 18-49: 4,933,217
females age 18-49: 5,153,597 (2005 est.)

Manpower fit for military service

males age 18-49: 3,789,627
females age 18-49: 4,281,043 (2005 est.)

Manpower reaching military service age annually

males age 18-49: 174,049
females age 18-49: 167,201 (2005 est.)

Military expenditures percent of gdp

2.6% (2006)

Disputes international


This page was last updated on 16 September, 2007
Source: CIA >>>

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