Sri Lanka: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the country Sri Lanka.



Location--A pear-shaped island situated in the Indian Ocean 20 mi. southeast of India. The Sinhalese name, Sri Lanka, means, "the resplendent land" or "Holy Ceylon."

How Created--Ceylon has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and some claim that Ceylon is the cradle of civilization. Migratory tribes from northern India came to settle under the 1st Sinhalese dynasty, founded in 543 B.C. under Bengali prince Vijaya, whose capital at Anuradhapurs lasted a thousand years. Ceylon was a British colony from 1798 to 1948, when it finally gained independence.

Size--25,332 sq. mi. (65,610 sq. km.).

Population--14 million: Lowland Sinhalese, 42.8%; Kandyan Sinhalese, 29.1%; Ceylonese Tamil, 11.1%; Indian Tamil, 9.4%; Ceylonese Moor, 6.5%; other, 0.1%. 67.4% Buddhist, 17.6% Hindu, 7.7% Christian, 7.2% Muslim, 0.1% other.

Who Rules--Ceylon is a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth. Its Government is modeled after the British Parliament with a Prime Minister and Cabinet. The British Monarch is represented by a Ceylon governor general, who acts in only an advisory capacity.

Who REALLY Rules--Currently in power: the Sri Lanka Freedom party (SLFP) headed by Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, widow of the former Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1959. The SLFP is aligned with the pro-Moscow Communist party and the Lanka Sama Samaj party (LSSP), a supposedly Trotskyist organization.

Although seemingly leftist, the Sri Lanka coalition is as bourgeois as its predecessors, the United National party (UNP). The UNP was hastily formed by the Sinhalese just before independence, to guard against a "power vacuum." They were defeated by the SLFP in 1956. The SLFP is pro-Sinhalese, anti-Tamil, as demonstrated in such measures as the Public Security Act (an antiworking class bill), its suppression or indifference to labor strikes, and its brutal repression of the JVP (Juanta Vimukhti Peramuna or People's Liberation Front) uprising of April, 1971. In the JVP uprising, a protest against the Bandaranaike Government, over 15,000 people were killed, most of them youths, many after having been taken into custody. People were made to dig their own graves, lined up and shot, others were hung by their feet and tortured. The atrocities were committed openly in order to terrorize the people. Britain, the U.S., the U.S.S.R., India, Pakistan, East and West Germany, Yugoslavia, and Egypt supplied weapons to help squash the revolt.

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