Sri Lanka -- Geography --
Official Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Capital City: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative capital), Colombo
Languages: Sinhala (official), Tamil, English
Official Currency: Sri Lanka Rupee
Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
Land Area: 64,740 sq km
Landforms: mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Land Divisions: 8 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western
Sri Lanka -- History --
The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C. probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced 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 established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. The coastal areas of the island were controlled 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 and the government regained control of the Eastern Province in 2007. In January 2008, the government officially withdrew from the ceasefire, and has begun engaging the LTTE in the northern portion of the country.
Sri Lanka -- Economy --
Sri Lanka is a lower-middle income developing nation with a gross domestic product of about $32 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 15% 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, high inflation 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 is stable, but hampered by the resumption of hostilities between the government and the LTTE, escalating oil prices, and high inflation and interest rates. GDP grew by 6.8% in 2007, down from 7.7% growth in 2006. Sri Lanka's key exports such as garments and tea performed well. Remittances from foreign workers, estimated at $2.5 billion, also helped the economy.
President Rajapaksa's broad economic strategy was outlined in his election manifesto "Mahinda Chintana" (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 (86% 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 Plus treatment by the European Union and other regional and bilateral preferential trading agreements.
The service sector is the largest component of GDP at around 60%. 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 106-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 28% of GDP. Manufacturing is the largest industrial subsector, accounting for 18% of GDP. The construction sector accounts for 6% of GDP. Mining and quarrying account for 2% of GDP. Electricity, gas and water account for 2% of GDP. Within the manufacturing sector, food, beverage, and tobacco is the largest subsector in terms of value addition, accounting for 46%. Textiles, apparel, and leather is the second-largest sector with 24% of value addition. The third-largest sector in value added terms is chemical, petroleum, rubber, and plastic products.
Agriculture has lost its relative importance to the Sri Lankan economy in recent decades. It employs 31% of the working population, but accounts for only about 12% 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.
Sri Lanka -- Culture --
The culture of Sri Lanka has been influenced by many things in the past. Mostly it has been influenced by religion and colonialization by the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British.
The Sinhalese new year (Sinhala and Tamil new year) is a very important cultural practise in the island, the festival which falls in April (the month of Bak) when the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) Sri Lankans begin celebrating their National New Year Aluth Avurudhu in Sinhala and Puththandu in Tamil. However, unlike the usual practice where the new year begins at midnight, the National New Year begins at the time determined by the astrologers. Not only the beginning of the new year but the conclusion of the old year is also specified by the astrologers. And unlike the customary ending and beginning of new year, there is a period of a few hours in between the conclusion of the Old Year and the commencement of the New Year , which is called the "nona gathe" (neutral period). During this time one is expected to keep off and take a break from all types of work and engage solely in relaxing religious activities and traditional games.Many children and adults wear traditional outfits not in fashion.
Throughout the past centuries Sri Lanka has been going through a dramatic make over. A vast majority of the Sri Lankan community were only influenced by their own traditional food and nothing more. But, due to economical growth and intense competition in developed countries, companies have taken themselves overseas to developing nations, in an attempt to achieve a positive global presence (competitive advantage). Consequently, this method has caused a major ripple effect in countries like Sri Lanka like never before. Currently in some of the major cities in Sri Lanka you should prepare yourself to be dazzled (some may say loss of identity) by the assimilation/influence of western culture into Sri Lankan community. You can now find the presence of American taste represented by McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dominos Pizza and so on.
Sri Lanka's cuisine mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry. Another well-known rice dish is Kiribath, meaning "milk rice." Curries in Sri Lanka are not just limited to meat- or fish-based dishes, there are also vegetable and even fruit curries. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a "main curry" (fish, chicken, or mutton), as well as several other curries made with vegetable and lentils. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and "sambols" which can sometimes be fiery hot. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of ground coconut mixed with chillies, dried Maldive fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite.
In addition to sambols, Sri Lankans eat "mallung", chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavor. Kiribath with lunumiris Kiribath with lunumiris
Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. In the 15th and 16th centuries, traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais--rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by "frikkadels" (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked--is a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken.
Sri Lankans use spices liberally in their dishes and typically do not follow an exact recipe: thus, every cook's curry will taste slightly different. Furthermore, people from different regions of the island (for instance, hill-country dwellers versus coastal dwellers) traditionally cook in different ways. Sri Lankan cuisine is known to be among the world's spiciest, due to the high use of different varieties chillies referred to as amu miris, kochchi miris, and maalu miris (capsicum) among others. It is generally accepted for tourists to request that the food is cooked with a lower chillie content to cater for the more sensitive Western pallette. Food cooked for public occasions typically uses less chillie than food cooked in the home, the latter where the food is cooked with the chillie content preferable to the occupants.
Sri Lanka's culture also revolves around religion. The Buddhist community of Sri Lanka observe Poya Days, which are also important days of prayers to the Hindus, once per month according to the Lunar calendar. The Hindus and Muslims also observe their own holidays. Sri Lankans are very religious because the history of the island has been involved with religion numerous times. There are many Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and many mosques, Hindu temples and churches all across the island. The religious preference of an area could be determined by the number of religious institutions in the area. The North and the East of the island has many mosques and Hindu temples because a large Tamil and Muslim population resides in those areas. Many churches could be found along the southern coast line because many living in those areas are Roman Catholic or Christian. The interior of the island is mostly the Buddhist population and there are many Buddhists residing in all parts of the island because they are the largest religious group in Sri Lanka.
Sports plays a very big part in Sri Lankan culture. Sri Lanka's main sport is Volley Ball. But after the age of Englishmens Cricket being the popular sport event in Sri Lanka. Every child in Sri Lanka knows how to play cricket, and there are many cricket fields scattered across the island for children and adults to play the sport. The biggest pastime of the Sri Lankan population, after cricket, is watching the Sri Lankan National Team playing cricket. It is common for businesses to shut down when very big matches are televised. This was the case in 1996 when the Sri Lankan team beat Australia in the finals to win the Cricket World Cup. The whole country shut down as though there were a curfew imposed upon the whole island.
The two single biggest influences on Sri Lankan music are from Buddhism and Portuguese colonizers. Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka after the Buddha's visit in 300 BC, while the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, bringing with them cantiga ballads, ukuleles and guitars, along with African slaves, who further diversified the musical roots of the island. These slaves were called kaffrinha, and their dance music was called baila. Traditional Sri Lankan music includes the hypnotic Kandyan drums - drumming was and is very much a part and parcel of music in both Buddhist and Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.
Being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, Sri Lankans drink a lot of tea. Many Sri Lankans drink at least three cups a day. Sri Lanka is also one of the best tea producing countries in the World and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom has been known to drink Ceylon tea. Tea is served whenever a guest comes to a house, it is served at festivals and gatherings. It is served almost anywhere in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka -- Political system, law and 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. 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. 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.
Sri Lanka's two major political parties--the UNP and the SLFP--embrace democratic values, international nonalignment, and encouragement of Sinhalese culture. 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. 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. After a lull following the 2002 ceasefire, LTTE-perpetrated terrorist bombings directed against politicians and civilian targets have become more 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. The LTTE is also suspected of being behind the assassinations of two government ministers in early 2008.