Sri Lanka [Country Flag of Sri Lanka]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Sri Lanka] Background: Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that continues to fester.

Sri Lanka


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Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India

Geographic coordinates: 7 00 N, 81 00 E

Map references: Asia

total: 65,610 sq km
land: 64,740 sq km
water: 870 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 1,340 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)

Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m

Natural resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower

Land use:
arable land: 14%
permanent crops: 15%
permanent pastures: 7%
forests and woodland: 32%
other: 32% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 5,500 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: occasional cyclones and tornadoes

Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note: strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes


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Population: 19,238,575
note: since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island; as of mid-1999, approximately 66,000 were housed in 133 refugee camps in south India, another 40,000 lived outside the Indian camps, and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 26% (male 2,605,251; female 2,490,416)
15-64 years: 67% (male 6,285,118; female 6,606,196)
65 years and over: 7% (male 602,470; female 649,124) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.89% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 16.78 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 6.43 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -1.47 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 16.51 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.83 years
male: 69.33 years
female: 74.45 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.98 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Sri Lankan(s)
adjective: Sri Lankan

Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 18%, Moor 7%, Burgher, Malay, and Vedda 1%

Religions: Buddhist 70%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Muslim 7% (1999)

Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%
note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.2%
male: 93.4%
female: 87.2% (1995 est.)


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

Data code: CE

Government type: republic

Capital: Colombo

Administrative divisions: 8 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western
note: North Eastern province may have been divided in two - Northern and Eastern

Independence: 4 February 1948 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence and National Day, 4 February (1948)

Constitution: adopted 16 August 1978

Legal system: a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Muslim, Sinhalese, and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (since 12 November 1994); note - Sirimavo BANDARANAIKE is the prime minister; in Sri Lanka the president is considered to be both the chief of state and the head of the government, this is in contrast to the more common practice of dividing the roles between the president and the prime minister when both offices exist
head of government: President Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (since 12 November 1994); note - Sirimavo BANDARANAIKE is the prime minister; in Sri Lanka the president is considered to be both the chief of state and the head of the government, this is in contrast to the more common practice of dividing the roles between the president and the prime minister when both offices exist
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 21 December 1999 (next to be held NA December 2005)
election results: Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA reelected president; percent of vote - Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (PA) 51%, Ranil WICKREMASINGHE (UNP) 42%, other 7%

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (225 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to serve six-year terms)
elections: last held 16 August 1994 (next to be held by August 2000)
election results: percent of vote by party - PA 49.0%, UNP 44.0%, SLMC 1.8%, TULF 1.7%, SLPF 1.1%, EPDP 0.3%, UPF 0.3%, PLOTE 0.1%, other 1.7%; seats by party - PA 105, UNP 94, EPDP 9, SLMC 7, TULF 5, PLOTE 3, SLPF 1, UPF 1

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the president; Court of Appeals, judges are appointed by the president

Political parties and leaders: All Ceylon Tamil Congress or ACTC [leader NA]; Ceylon Workers Congress or CLDC [leader NA]; Communist Party [leader NA]; Communist Party/Beijing or CP/B [leader NA]; Democratic People's Liberation Front or DPLF [leader NA]; Democratic United National (Lalith) Front or DUNLF [leader NA]; Desha Vimukthi Janatha Party or DVJP [leader NA]; Eelam People's Democratic Party or EPDP [leader NA]; Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front or EPRLF [leader NA]; Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students or EROS [leader NA]; Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP [leader NA]; Lanka Socialist Party/Trotskyite or LSSP (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) [leader NA]; Liberal Party or LP [leader NA]; New Socialist Party or NSSP (Nava Sama Samaja Party) [leader NA]; People's Alliance or PA [Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA]; People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam or PLOTE [D. SIDDHARTHAN]; People's United Front or MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) [Dinesh GUNAWARDENE]; Sri Lanka Freedom Party or SLFP [Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA]; Sri Lanka Muslim Congress or SLMC [leader NA]; Sri Lanka People's Party or SLMP (Sri Lanka Mahajana Party) [leader NA]; Sri Lanka Progressive Front or SLPF [leader NA]; Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization or TELO [leader NA]; Tamil United Liberation Front or TULF [leader NA]; United National Party or UNP [Ranil WICKREMASINGHE]; Upcountry People's Front or UPF [leader NA]; several ethnic Tamil and Muslim parties, represented in either parliament or provincial councils

Political pressure groups and leaders: Buddhist clergy; labor unions; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE (insurgent group fighting for a separate state); radical chauvinist Sinhalese groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism; Sinhalese Buddhist lay groups

International organization participation: AsDB, C, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OPCW, PCA, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Warnasena RASAPUTRAM
chancery: 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 483-4025 through 4028
FAX: [1] (202) 232-7181
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Shaun E. DONNELLY
embassy: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3
mailing address: P. O. Box 106, Colombo
telephone: [94] (1) 448007
FAX: [94] (1) 437345, 446013

Flag description: yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other panel is a large dark red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword, and there is a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border that goes around the entire flag and extends between the two panels


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Economy - overview: In 1977, Colombo abandoned statist economic policies and its import substitution trade policy for market-oriented policies and export-oriented trade. Sri Lanka's most dynamic industries now are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, telecommunications, and insurance and banking. By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of exports (compared with 93% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for 63%. GDP grew at an annual average rate of 5.5% throughout the 1990s until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8% in 1996. The economy rebounded in 1997-98 with growth of 6.4% and 4.7% - but slowed to 3.7% in 1999. For the next round of reforms, the central bank of Sri Lanka recommends that Colombo expand market mechanisms in nonplantation agriculture, dismantle the government's monopoly on wheat imports, and promote more competition in the financial sector. A continuing cloud over the economy is the fighting between the Sinhalese and the minority Tamils, which has cost 50,000 lives in the past 15 years.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $50.5 billion (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 3.7% (1999 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,600 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 21%
industry: 19%
services: 60% (1998)

Population below poverty line: 22% (1997 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 39.7% (1995-96 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6% (1999 est.)

Labor force: 6.6 million (1998)

Labor force - by occupation: services 45%, agriculture 38%, industry 17% (1998 est.)

Unemployment rate: 9.5% (1998 est.)

revenues: $2.7 billion
expenditures: $4.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.1 billion (1998 est.)

Industries: processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco

Industrial production growth rate: 6.3% (1998)

Electricity - production: 5.505 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 30.97%
hydro: 69.03%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 5.12 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef

Exports: $4.7 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Exports - commodities: textiles and apparel, tea, diamonds, coconut products, petroleum products (1998)

Exports - partners: US 40%, UK 11%, Middle East 9%, Germany 5%, Japan 4% (1998)

Imports: $5.3 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, textiles, petroleum, foodstuffs (1998)

Imports - partners: India 10%, Japan 10%, South Korea 8%, Hong Kong 7%, Taiwan 6% (1998)

Debt - external: $8.4 billion (1998)

Economic aid - recipient: $577 million (1998)

Currency: 1 Sri Lankan rupee (SLRe) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Sri Lankan rupees (SLRe) per US$1 - 72.364 (January 2000), 70.402 (1999), 64.593 (1998), 58.995 (1997), 55.271 (1996), 51.252 (1995)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones - main lines in use: 494,509 (1998)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 228,604 (1999)

Telephone system: very inadequate domestic service, particularly in rural areas; some hope for improvement with privatization of national telephone company and encouragement to private investment; good international service (1999)
domestic: national trunk network consists mostly of digital microwave radio relay; fiber-optic links now in use in Colombo area and two fixed wireless local loops have been installed; competition is strong in mobile cellular systems; telephone density remains low at 2.6 main lines per 100 persons (1999)
international: submarine cables to Indonesia and Djibouti; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) (1999)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 26, FM 45, shortwave 1 (1998)

Radios: 3.85 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 21 (1997)

Televisions: 1.53 million (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 4 (1999)


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total: 1,463 km
broad gauge: 1,404 km 1.676-m gauge
narrow gauge: 59 km 0.762-m gauge (1996)

total: 11,285 km
paved: 10,721 km
unpaved: 564 km (1998 est.)

Waterways: 430 km; navigable by shallow-draft craft

Pipelines: crude oil and petroleum products 62 km (1987)

Ports and harbors: Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Trincomalee

Merchant marine:
total: 24 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 192,190 GRT/293,832 DWT
ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 16, container 1, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 5 (1999 est.)

Airports: 14 (1999 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 12
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 6 (1999 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (1999 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Police Force

Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,251,045 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,081,742 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 196,584 (2000 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $719 million (FY98)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 4.2% (FY98)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes - international: none