Facts about Sri Lanka

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 08, 2010 04:10 hrs

Key facts about Sri Lanka, which is holding its first parliamentary election since the government defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May, ending a 37-year conflict.

GEOGRAPHY: Located off the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, the teardrop-shaped tropical island is separated from its giant neighbour by a narrow strip of sea known as the Palk Straits.

AREA: 65,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles).

POPULATION: 20 million (2007), majority ethnic Sinhalese (74 percent) and Tamils (12.6 percent).

ELECTORATE: 14.08 million men and women over the age of 18.

CAPITAL: Sri Jayewardenepura (administrative), Colombo (commercial).

RELIGION: Buddhists (69.3 percent), Hindus (15.5 percent), Christians (7.6), Muslims (7.5 percent).

HISTORY: Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, became a British colony in 1815 after being ruled by the Portugese (1505-1656) and then the Dutch (1656-1796). The last Sinhalese king ruled from 1798 to 1815. Britain granted independence in 1948.

The country became divided along ethnic lines and Tamil Tiger rebels launched a campaign for separate state in 1972. The uprising was crushed by the Sinhalese-majority government in May 2009 after a conflict estimated to have claimed up to 100,000 lives.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Core political power lies in the hands of the directly elected president who can serve a maximum of two terms of six years each. A 225-member legislature is elected separately for a maximum of six years in line with the 1978 constitution which has elements drawn from the US, French and British systems of government. Local government is through provincial councils which were established in 1987.

ECONOMY: Tea is Sri Lanka's main export while clothing and labour are also key foreign exchange earners. Sri Lanka imports all its oil requirements.

GDP: 40.84 billion dollars (2008); GDP per capita 2,014 dollars (2008 Central Bank of Sri Lanka estimate).


MILITARY: Voluntary service (army, navy, airforce and civil defence force estimated at 275,000).

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