Sri Lanka Country Profile
Lying off the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has attracted visitors for centuries with its natural beauty. But it has been scarred by a long and bitter civil war arising out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in the northeast. After more than 25 years of violence the conflict ended in May 2009, when government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels. But recriminations over abuses by both sides continue. The island fell under Portuguese and Dutch influence after the 16th century. It gained independence in 1948, after nearly 150 years of British rule. Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Commercial capital: Colombo Population 21.2 million Area 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq miles) Major languages Sinhala, Tamil, English Major religions Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity Life expectancy 72 years (men), 78 years (women) Currency Sri Lankan rupee President: Maithripala Sirisena Maithripala Sirisena was sworn in as Sri Lankan president after a shock victory over veteran strongman Mahinda Rajapakse in a January 2015 election dominated by charges of corruption and growing authoritarianism. The former health minister, who united a fractured opposition to pull off an unlikely victory, promised sweeping reforms of the presidency and said he would transfer many of its executive powers to parliament. He was elected on a tide of resentment against Mr Rajapakse, who rewrote the constitution after his re-election in 2010 to remove the two-term limit
on the presidency and give himself more powers over public servants and judges. Mr Rajapakse enjoyed huge support among majority Sinhalese voters after overseeing the end of a separatist war by ethnic Tamil rebels in 2009. Maithripala Sirisena became Sri Lanka's president after a surprise victory in elections in January. He had been a close ally of his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa - until his unexpected announcement that he planned to run against him. Mr Rajapaksa's supporters were quick to label him a traitor. Mr Sirisena was one of the most powerful men in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party before he defected along with a number of other ruling party figures. Coming from a farming family in the Sinhalese heartland, he appealed to the same demographic as Mr Rajapaksa. Ranged behind Mr Sirisena was a large opposition coalition that kept his name secret until the final moment. The unwieldy coalition included the main opposition UNP and a former president who has apologised for the past treatment of the Tamil minority. It also embraced a hard-line Buddhist nationalist party - a defector from the ruling coalition - that completely denies the wellattested evidence that thousands of Tamil civilians died in the final bombardments of
the war. Mr Sirisena has made no mention of minority rights or of any political solution to the island's ethnic conflict and has ruled out allowing any political leader to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes.
'Controlled by one family'
Announcing his candidacy in November 2014, he said Sri Lanka was heading towards a dictatorship and was blighted by rampant corruption and a breakdown in law and order. "The entire economy and every aspect of society is controlled by one family," he said. Three brothers of the president and his son all occupy influential positions. Mahinda Rajapaksa said bitterly that Mr Sirisena had defected after the two men shared a meal of the popular Sri Lankan comfort food, "hoppers" or rice pancakes.
He said his rival "eats hoppers in the night and then stabs you in the back in the morning". Mr Sirisena later said he felt sorry for his rival during the meal but he couldn't remain with a leader "who had plundered the country, government and natural wealth". Voter appeal Maithripala Sirisena comes from the Sinhalese-dominated North Central Province which was seen as "border country" when the Tamil Tigers controlled the North. Aged just 19 in 1971 he was jailed for 15 months for alleged involvement in the first insurrection by the extremeleft People's Liberation Front (JVP). Until November 2014 he was general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and health minister. He was almost killed in October 2008 when the convoy he was in was attacked by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in a Colombo suburb. One person died.
The 63-year-old has painted himself as a clean-living champion of the rural masses. He opposes smoking and drinking alcohol. The Sinhalese Buddhist majority accounts for 70% of Sri Lanka's 21 million people - and he looks set to secure a large share of their votes. He also appeals to many members of Tamil, Muslim and Christian minorities who have felt increasingly marginalised under the Rajapaksa presidency. Mr Sirisena has been quoted as saying he was unhappy with Mr Rajapaksa from 2006 onwards - but this raises the question of why he stayed so long in a government whose activities he now criticises, and of whether he is perhaps implicated in some of its excesses. He says he was acting defence minister during the last two weeks
of the war and has used this to try and entrench his appeal among the Sinhalese voter base. This has played badly with some Tamils as there is still much residual support for the Tamil Tigers among that community. The main Tamil National Alliance is backing him however. For many, though, Mr Sirisena represented the only way of unseating President Rajapaksa - and, questions
aside, that was his trump card. However, Mr Sirisena has not been able to keep the UFPA party united and many of those voted for him are upset that he gave in to pressure from within the party to allow Mr Rajapaksa run for the party in parliamentary elections.
Sri Lanka's media divide along language and ethnic lines. By the end of 2014 about a quarter of the population was online.
Drop Dead Beautiful Places in Sri Lamka
Full of romantic landscapes, stirring mountains, lush green tea gardens and golden beaches, the island nation of Sri Lanka is nothing short of magnificent. The country has no shortage of beautiful awe inspiring spots, natural, historic and cultural, each more picture perfect than the next. Take a trip to these spots the beautiful places
in Sri Lanka and you would find it difficult to leave.
Get enamoured by the stunning views through Ella Gap overlooking a spectacular gap in the southern mountain wall. Situated in the middle of beautiful countryside, with small vegetable plots, tea plantations on the hill slopes and forests on the tops this hill station is nothing less than breathtaking.
A 19th century hill station Nuwara Eliya retains its colonial ambiance with its golf course, gentlemen’s clubs and mock-Tudor buildings. It is one of the most beautiful locations in Sri Lanka for a scenic rail ride. Experience the stunning views of the surrounding tea plantations, waterfalls and dramatic mountains the train takes you from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Can you imagine anything as heartwarming as staring at baby elephants as they enjoy a river soak. And at this beautiful place in Sri Lanka – the Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage you can! It won’t be hard to believe if you wouldn’t want to leave this paradise.
You could easily spend your day imagining the ancient city life at the ruins of Polonnaruwa. Well preserved and full of archaeological treasures with hundreds of ancient structures like tombs and temples, statues and stupas it is difficult to not be amazed by the ruins here.
Dambulla Cave Temple
It is hard to not be stunned by the beautiful murals and statues in this beautifully preserved cave with over 150 statues of Buddha. Experience the peace and silene in this stunning cave temple that bear testimony to the extraordinary cultural artifacts in ancient Sri Lanka.
Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Dambulla Cave Temple