Capital : Colombo
The first inhabitants of this island off the south east coast of India were the Vedda who were conquered in about 550 BC by the Sinhalese who came from India under King Vijaya and by the C3rd BC, it was a world centre of Buddhism. The island was well-placed on the trade routes and attracted the Arabs, who called it Serendip, and Europeans. The Portuguese founded settlements in 1505 which were taken over by the Dutch in 1658 and the British in 1802 when Ceylon became a crown colony.
Under British rule, the Tamils, originally from southern India, took up British education and administrative careers. Further Tamil immigrants arrived tp work on plantations and there was conflict between them and the Sinhalese which rose with the development of nationalism in the 1920s. In 1931, universal suffrage for an elected legislature and executive council was introduced and in 1948, the country became independent as a dominion within the Commonwealth with a governor general.
Under Don and Dudley Senanayake, the United National Party remained in power until 1956 when Solomon Bandaranaike's radical socialist and pro-Sinhalese Sri Lanka Freedom Party won the elections. Sinhalese replaced English as the official language, causing riots amongst the Tamils which led to the assassination of Prime Minister Banadaranaike in September 1959. His widow, Sirimavo, took over and held power until 1977 except for periods of UNP rule in 1960 and 1965-70. She followed a programme of land reform and nationalization and an independent foreign policy but her pro-Sinhalese education and employment policies alienated the Tamils.
Ceylon, which had changed its name to Sri Lanka ('Resplendent Island') in 1972, was divided by a separatist movement which wanted an independent Tamil state (Eelam) in the north and east and in 1976, the Tamil United Liberation Front was formed to campaing for this. The elections of 1977 were won easily by the UNP under Junius Jayawardene but the TULF was the second largest party in parliament. The new government itroduced a freer-market economic programme and a presidentalist constitution and in 1980 deprived Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civil rights for six years as a punishment for abuse of power.
The civil war escalated in the 1980s with increased guerrilla activity by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, leading to a failing economy, the collapse of the tourist industry and reduced foreign investment. The government's military approach to the situation deterred aid donors and frequent states of emergency have been declared. In 1987, President Jayawardene signed a peace pact, the Colombo Accord, with the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, agreeing to make English and Tamil official languages and tocreate a semi-autonomous homeland for the Tamils in the north and east. An Indian peace-keeping force arrived to police this agreement and the disarming of the Tamils who agreed to talks in April 1989.
The Sinhalese regarded this as a sell-out to the Tamils and rioted in protest with the Sinhala-Marxist People's Liberation Front targeting many UNP politicians, including Jayawardene, for assassination. In the north, the Tamil Tigers continued their guerrilla war under Velupillai Prabhakaran. In 1989, Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa defeated Sirimavo Bandaranaike of the SLFP in the presidential election and the UNP narrowly won the general election. It held negotiations with the Tigers in 1989 and the Indian peace-keeping troops were withdrawn but despite this the civil war continued. In August 1991, The Sri Lankan army won an important victory at Elephant Pass, the gateway to the Tamil Tigers' stronghold in the Jaffna peninsula but there has been continued fighting and terrorist activity throughout the 1990s.
Sri Lankan Names
Sri Lankan Names
Languages include Sinhalese, from the Indo-European group descended from Sanskrit, and Dravidian languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam. As in India, many names are of Sanskrit origin due to Hindu influence and few Dravidian names are widely used.
Some of these show a Portuguese influence, such as De Silva and Perera, who play cricket for Sri Lanka and have Sri Lankan first names.
|Da Silva||Darsha||De Saram||De Zoysa||Dharmasena||Dias|
India 'Others' index
This collection of names compiled by Kate Monk. Copyright January 1997, Kate Monk. Last updated December, 98. Copies may be made for personal use only.