Sri Lanka History

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History[edit | edit source]

Sri Lanka was known from the beginning of British colonial rule as Ceylon, US also /seɪˈlɒn/). A nationalist political movement arose in the country in the early 20th century to obtain political independence, which was granted in 1948; the country became a republic and adopted its current name in 1972. Sri Lanka's recent history has been marred by a 26-year civil war, which decisively ended when the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009.

After years of agitation, Ceylon was granted independence in 1948. However, conflicts between Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Christians continues. In 1972, Ceylon became a democratic socialists republic, and the name Sri Lanka was chosen to replace Ceylon. The current constitution stipulates the political system as a republic and a unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system. It has had a long history of international engagement. Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated high on the Human Development Index , with its rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations. The Sri Lankan constitution accords Buddhism the foremost place, although it does not identify it as a state religion. Buddhism is given special privileges in the Sri Lankan constitution.

The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The majority of the population is from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island's history. Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda are also established groups on the island.
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Timeline[edit | edit source]

1517 - The Portuguese built a fort at the port city of Colombo and gradually extended their control over the coastal areas
1638 - The king signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company to get rid of the Portuguese who ruled most of the coastal areas
1796 - Great Britain occupied the coastal areas of the island, which they called Ceylon, with little difficulty
1830's - The British had to draw on its reserve army of labor in India, to man its lucrative new outpost to the south. An infamous system of contract labor was established, which transported hundreds of thousands of Tamil coolies from southern India into Sri Lanka for the coffee estates. These Tamils laborers died in tens of thousands both on the journey itself as well as on the plantations
1833 - New leaders represented the various ethnic groups of the population in the Ceylon Legislative Council on a communal basis. Buddhist and Hindu revivalism reacted against Christian missionaries
1948 - The Soulbury constitution ushered in Dominion status, with independence proclaimed
1956 - Sinhala Only Act, recognized Sinhala as the only official language of the government. Although partially reversed in 1958, the bill posed a grave concern for the Tamil community, which perceived in it a threat to their language and culture
1983 - Anti-Tamil race riots, allegedly backed by Sinhalese hard-line ministers, which resulted in more than 150,000 Tamil civilians fleeing the island, seeking asylum in other countries
2004 - Asian tsunami killed over 35,000 in Sri Lanka

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References[edit | edit source]