Sri Lanka country profile

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Sri Lanka country profile

Post by Mr007 on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:10 am



Map of Sri Lanka

Lying off the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has beguiled travellers for centuries with its palm-fringed beaches, diverse landscapes and historical monuments.

But the island 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 appeared to be at an end - at least militarily - in May 2009, when government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

Overview

* Overview
* Facts
* Leaders
* Media

Known as "Serendip" to Arab geographers, the island fell under Portuguese and Dutch influence and finally came under British rule when it was called Ceylon.

NATION AT WAR
A Sri Lankan soldiers stands on guard
Army and Tamil separatists fought a long conflict involving air raids, roadside blasts, suicide bombings, land and sea battles
More than 70,000 killed
1983 - Start of war
2002 - Ceasefire is signed but violence escalates in 2006
2008 - Ceasefire ends, renewed fighting erupts
2009 - Government forces re-conquer all rebel-held territory

Timeline

There is a long-established Tamil minority in the north and east. The British also brought in Tamil labourers to work the coffee and tea plantations in the central highlands, making the island a major tea producer.

But the majority Buddhist Sinhalese community resented what they saw as favouritism towards the mainly-Hindu Tamils under British administration.

The growth of a more assertive Sinhala nationalism after independence fanned the flames of ethnic division until civil war erupted in the 1980s between Tamils pressing for self-rule and the government.

Most of the fighting took place in the north. But the conflict also penetrated the heart of Sri Lankan society with Tamil Tiger rebels carrying out devastating suicide bombings in Colombo in the 1990s.

The violence killed more than 70,000 people, damaged the economy and harmed tourism in one of South Asia's potentially prosperous societies.

International concern was raised about the fate of civilians caught up in the conflict zone during the final stages of the war, the confinement of some 250,000 Tamil refugees to camps for months after the war, and allegations that the government had ordered the execution of captured or surrendering rebels.

Facts

* Overview
* Facts
* Leaders
* Media

* Full name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
* Population: 20.4 million (UN, 2010)
* Capital: Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura (administrative)
* Largest city: Colombo
* Area: 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq miles)
* Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
* Major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
* Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
* Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee
* Main exports: Clothing and textiles, tea, gems, rubber, coconuts
* GNI per capita: US $1,990 (World Bank, 2009)
* Internet domain: .lk
* International dialling code: +94

Leaders

* Overview
* Facts
* Leaders
* Media

President: Mahinda Rajapaksa

Mahinda Rajapaksa won a landslide victory in January 2010 in early elections which he called after he declared victory in a 25-year war with the Tamil Tiger separatists.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa took a tough stance against Tamil rebels

Former army chief General Sarath Fonseka, who led the final campaign that crushed the Tamil Tigers, lost against Mr Rajapaksa and said he would contest the result. Soon after, Gen Fonseka was put on trial on charges of engaging in politics before leaving the army, and convicted several months later.

The president's mastery of the political landscape was further consolidated when his ruling coalition won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections in April 2010. Later in the year, MPs passed a constitutional amendment allowing him to stand for unlimited terms in office.

The opposition accuses the president of moving the country towards dictatorship, but Mr Rajapaksa says he is guaranteeing Sri Lanka much-needed stability.

Mr Rajapaksa first won the presidency in 2005 when Sri Lanka was in the middle of a tenuous ceasefire agreement with the Tamil Tigers. Peace talks yielded nothing and in 2006 he determined to defeat the Tigers once and for all.

Defeat of the rebels came in mid-2009. Mr Rajapaksa, seeking to capitalise on his success at ending the war, called early elections to get a fresh mandate to revive the economy and implement a political solution for ethnic minorities.

A Buddhist lawyer from the Sinhalese ethnic majority, Mr Rajapaksa draws the core of his support from rural Sinhalese voters whose rights he championed as labour minister in the 1990s.

Mr Rajapaksa became prime minister in 2004, and was praised for his handling of the aftermath of the tsunami of the year.

But he has faced criticism for events at the end of the Tamil Tiger war, during which thousands of civilians were killed as troops battled to corner and crush the rebels.

He also promised to protect journalists and freedom of speech, but at least one prominent journalist was murdered and dozens have been beaten, arrested or forced to flee the country during his time in office.

Media

* Overview
* Facts
* Leaders
* Media

Media outlets are divided along linguistic and ethnic lines, with state-run and private operators offering services in the main languages.

Reader with a Sri Lankan newspaper
Deteriorating security has had an impact on the media

Many of the main broadcasters and publications are state-owned, including two major TV stations, radio networks operated by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), and newspapers in Sinhala, Tamil and English. There are more than a dozen private radio stations, and eight privately-run TV stations.

Despite the end of the Tamil war, murders, physical attacks, kidnappings, threats and censorship continue, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Many crimes of violence against journalists have gone unpunished. "Of the world's democratically-elected governments, Sri Lanka's is the one that respects press freedom least," RSF said in 2011.

The internet is a growing medium for news; many papers have online editions. There were more than 1.7 million internet users by June 2010, and more than 800,000 Facebook users by March 2011 (Internetworldstats.com).

BBC World Service programmes in Sinhala and Tamil are relayed by SLBC under an agreement between the two broadcasters.

Press

* Daily News - state-owned, English-language daily
* The Island - private, English-language daily
* Daily Mirror - private, English-language daily
* Dinamina - state-owned, Sinhala daily
* Lankadeepa - private, Sinhala daily
* Lakbima - private, Sinhala daily
* Uthayan - private, Tamil daily
* Virakesari - private, Tamil daily

Television

* Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC)- state-owned, operates two channels: Rupavahini and Channel Eye
* Independent Television Network (ITN) - state-run, Sri Lanka's first TV station
* Sirasa TV - private, Sinhala
* MTV (Maharaj TV) - private, English-language
* TNL - private, English-language
* ART TV - private
* ETV - private, English-language
* Swarnavahini - private, Sinhala
* Shakthi TV - private, Tamil

Radio

* Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) - state-owned, operates domestic services in Sinhala, Tamil and English, including widely-listened-to Commercial Service
* TNL Rocks - private, English-language
* Sun FM - private, English-language
* Yes FM - private, English-language
* Sirasa FM - private, Sinhala
* Shree FM - private, Sinhala
* Sooriyan FM - private, Tamil
* Shakthi FM - private, Tamil

News agencies/internet

* Lankapuvath - state-owned
* TamilNet - US-based Tamil news site, widely described as pro-Tamil Tiger

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Mr007
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