Sri Lanka


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.


Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Geographic coordinates: 7 00 N, 81 00 E
Population: 21,481,334 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.9% (male 2,705,953/female 2,599,717)

15-64 years: 67.2% (male 6,993,668/female 7,313,440)

65 years and over:  7.9% (male 720,219/female 950,916) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

conventional short form: Sri Lanka

local long form: Shri Lamka Prajatantrika Samajaya di Janarajaya/Ilankai Jananayaka Choshalichak Kutiyarachu

local short form: Shri Lamka/Ilankai

former: Serendib, Ceylon

Government type: republic
Telephones – main lines in use: 3.579 million (2010)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 17.359 million (2010)
Airports: 18 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 14

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 6

914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2012)

Military branches: Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 18-22 years of age for voluntary military service; 5-year service obligation (Air Force) (2012)


In 1977, Colombo abandoned statist economic policies and its import substitution trade policy for more market-oriented policies, export-oriented trade, and encouragement of foreign investment. Recent changes in government, however, have brought some policy reversals. Currently, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party has a more statist economic approach, which seeks to reduce poverty by steering investment to disadvantaged areas, developing small and medium enterprises, promoting agriculture, and expanding the already enormous civil service. The government has halted privatizations. Although suffering a brutal civil war that began in 1983, Sri Lanka saw GDP growth average 4.5% in the last 10 years with the exception of a recession in 2001.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Refugees and internally displaced persons: IDPs: 95,000 (civil war, more than half displaced prior to 2008) (2011)