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Sri Lanka History
Sri Lanka History -
Sri Lanka formed part of the Empire of Asoka in the 3rd century. It was during this time its people were switched to Buddhism. The Sinhalese people later changed their capital to Polonnaruwa, in the south of the island, to get away repeated Tamil attack during the 11th and 12th centuries. The Portuguese were the 1st Europeans that arrived, who were quickly replaced by the Dutch in the 17th century.

The British took control of Sri Lanka (as Ceylon) from the Dutch in 1796. The Administration was shared between the East India Company and the Crown. The Crown started to have full control in 1802. Ceylon won independence in 1948. The colonization by the Portuguese, Indians, Dutch and British have all left their marks in customs, architecture, language and agriculture.

Ceylon became governed by elected representatives of the people in 1972, adopting a new constitution along with the Sinhala name, Sri Lanka. The majority (about 70%) of its people are Buddhists of Sinhalese descent. The north and parts of the east are controled by the Tamil people (15%), Hindu by religion and culturally connected to the Tamils of southern India. Conflicts arose from the Tamil minority’s demands for a separate Tamil state and with terrorist action by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Eelam being the title of their notional independent state) has been common since the 1970s.

The Indian government acted as an official go-between of the Tamils and the Sri Lankan government but after the breakdown of an armistice in 1987, it intervened militarily (on the government’s side). Its 2 year military campaign ended with the death of more than 1,000 Indian soldiers and an inglorious retreat.

The murdur of Indian premier Rajiv Ghandi in 1991 marked the renewal of the Tigers’ campaign of revenge for the Indian military campaign. The war then entered a period of effective stalemate, with each side gaining occasional advantage through upgrading, re-equipping or deployment of new tactics.

Outside the Tiger-controlled areas in the north and east the political environment was controled by the fight between the country’s 2 major political groupings: the centre-right United National Party and the People’s Alliance, an association of social-democratic and socialist parties). The crucial election happened in 1995, when the UNP’s 17-year stranglehold on power was finally broken by the People’s Alliance, under Chandrikha Kumaratunga, another member of South Asia’s pantheon of female politicians. Her predecessor, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was the world’s 1st female prime minister and held several terms between 1959 and 1977. Kumaratunga won a 2nd term in 1999, even though the UNP did regain control of the country's assembly in December 2001 under veteran politician Ranil Wickremasinghe.

Kumaratunga was determined to bring and end to the Tamil collision. Although numerous setbacks, and with the cautious assistance of Norwegian mediators, a deal with the Tamil Tigers was in the end concluded at the end of February 2002. Despite skepticism from many quarters and many critical incidents, the ceasefire has held.

The fairly large Muslim population, who were harassed by both sides during the 2-decade long collision, was also settled. However, there are many issues to be resolved. The future government of the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern parts of the island and the control of aid for reorganisation and rehabilitation. This is still the subject of ongoing negotiations.