Sri Lanka History

Sri Lanka History

Early period until the 15th century

The Wedda are the longest-living ethnic group on the tropical island. Today, just under 1,000 agreements still live in the interior of the country. Also in pre-Christian times, the ancestors of the Sinhalese immigrated to Sri Lanka and subjugated the Wedda, who were still living in the West at that time. The capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom was until the 8th century AD. Anuradhapura inland. The kingdom maintained trade relations with the southern Indian empires of the Tamils. After the island’s king and people had joined Buddhism, they emerged in the 3rd century BC numerous temples. This laid the foundations for a conflict that continues to this day, since the Tamils, who started in the 2nd century BC. kept trying to conquer the north of the island, clung to Brahmanism (from which Hinduism later developed).

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For centuries the invading Tamils ​​could be driven out of the island again and again, since then King Dutthagami has been considered a national hero. Until the 13th century AD the Sinhala kingdoms were repeatedly involved in clashes with the southern Indian empires and repeatedly disintegrated into sub-empires. In the 11th century, this led to the island becoming the new capital after the destruction of the capital Anuradhapura by south Indians Polonnaruwa. However, due to the constant Tamil attacks in the 13th century, this had to be abandoned by the Sinhalese, and a Hindu Tamil empire developed in the north of the island. The Sinhala kings, on the other hand, were forced to continuously relocate their capitals over the next two centuries. The Parakkamabahu VI of Sinhala succeeded.

Colonial period

In 1505, a Portuguese expedition landed on the island. In the 16th century, the Europeans managed to take possession of the western coastal areas and the north. For the colonial masters, lucrative spice plantations were created and the population converted to Christianity.

In 1658 the Dutch drove out the Portuguese and made the island a profitable economic colony. However, neither they nor the Portuguese succeeded in subjugating the independent Sinhala kingdom around the capital Kandy in the inner highlands.

In 1796 the British East India trading company sold the Dutch. According to AbbreviationFinder, the island was renamed “Ceylon” and part of British India. In 1802 Ceylon became an independent crown colony and Columbo on the coast of the Indian Ocean administrative seat. A few years later, the colonial masters succeeded in bringing the Kandy empire under their rule and opened up the central highlands through road construction and made them usable for growing coffee. For this purpose, tens of thousands of South Indian Tamils ​​were brought into the country as plantation workers from 1840. From 1870, the colonialists changed the plantations to the cultivation of tea and made the island one of the most important tea producers in the world.


From the end of the 18th century, the Sinhalese became aware of national and historical issues and the call for independence grew louder. At the same time, the contrast between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority became increasingly clear. After tentative concessions, Ceylon was granted full independence on February 4, 1948, and a conservative government under Don Stephen Senanayake (UNP) took power until 1952. During his reign, the Commonwealth’s foreign ministers attempted to ensure the democratic development of South and Southeast Asia in the face of advancing communism with the Columbo Plan. After Senanayake’s death, his son took over the government for a short time, but was replaced by John Kotelawala in 1953,

In 1956, Solomon Bandaranaike (SLFP), who ruled with a mixture of socialist and Sinhala-Buddhist-nationalist methods, came to power. By law, he was deprived of Hindu Tamil citizenship and the right to vote, and when his plans to abolish Tamil as the official language became known, there were bloody uprisings by the Tamils. Governments followed quickly after the murder of Bandaranaike, until Sirimavo Rattwate Dias Bandaranaike, widow of Solomon Bandaranaike, came to power in 1959. She supplemented her husband’s anti-Tamil domestic policy with an education policy that was directed against the minority of Christians. After five years of conservative government from 1965 (D. Senanayake), it came to power again in 1970,abolished the Democratic Senate in 1972 through constitutional reform and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka. In a Buddhist-Marxist socialization program, the state took control of the economy and in 1975 all plantations were nationalized.

The election of JR Jayawardene (UNP) in 1977 brought change, which, although it initiated a return to the free market economy, could not fundamentally solve the problem with the Tamil minority. A new presidential system was introduced, headed by Jayawardene as President and Ranasinghe Premadesa as Prime Minister. After serious racial unrest, the re-election of Jayawardenes in 1982 prolonged the parliamentary term by plebiscite until 1989 and Kotte was named the capital. All of this could not prevent an open civil war between Tamil rebels and Sinhalese government forces from breaking out in 1983. Although it appeared to be settled in 1987 by the concession of extensive self-government for the Tamils ​​in the north of the country, the fighting soon flared up again.

Bombings and political attacks never stopped in the 1990s: opposition leader Lalith Akhulathmudali was shot in 1992 and President Ranasinghe Premadasa fell victim to a bomb attack in 1993, followed by Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. In 1994, almost the entire UNP leadership, including presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake, was killed in another bomb attack. In 1994 the UNP was voted out of office and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the leading candidate of the People’s Alliance (PA, an alliance of nine left-wing parties), was elected President. Her mother Sirimavo Rattwate Dias Bandaranaike made her head of government.

A ceasefire with the Tamil rebels (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE) that closed in early 1995 did not last, and further armed conflicts ensued. In 1999, incumbent Chandrika Kumaratunga was re-elected in the presidential election. In 2000, Prime Minister Sirimavo Rattwate Dias Bandaranaike resigned for health reasons and former Minister of the Interior, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, took office.

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After President Kumaratunga’s alliance lost the parliamentary majority in early 2001 elections, former UN leader Ranil Wickremasinghe became the UNP’s head of government. President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared the dissolution of Parliament in November 2003, dismissed three cabinet ministers from Wickremasinghe and declared a state of emergency. To do this, she used the absence of the head of government, who was on a state visit to the United States. After Wickremasinghe’s return, the state of emergency was lifted again and the parliament met again. The background to the political crisis was tensions between the president and the head of government: the president accused Wickremasinghe of being too lax in the peace negotiations with the Tamil rebels. After early parliamentary elections in April 2004 there was a change of power: the left-wing PA of Kumaratunga received 105 of 225 parliamentary seats, the party coalition “United National Front” (UNF), led by the UNP Wickremasinghes, only got 81 seats. Mahinda Rajapakse was then sworn in as the new Prime Minister.

A state of emergency was declared for Sri Lanka in December 2004 after the tsunami, the result of a seaquake off Sumatra, hit the coast, destroyed numerous settlements and cost the lives of around 30,000 people. At least the economic consequences are no longer noticeable.

For more than 26 years, the ongoing civil war with the rebelling Tamils ​​prevented the island state from developing peacefully. An armistice was signed in 2002 and first steps towards resolving the conflict were taken. However, a few years later he flared up again: Foreign Minister Kadirgamar was murdered on August 12, 2005. In July 2006, the army strengthened by Rajapaksa started its military offensive, which continued until the victory over the LTTE in May 2009. This ended the civil was.

In January 2010, Mahinda Rajapakse was re-elected with 57.9% of the vote in early presidential elections. With the swearing in of the cabinet in April 2010, Rajapakse assumed responsibility for the areas of defense, transport and finance. The President’s brothers received other important positions. With a constitutional amendment in September 2010, Rajapakse was able to greatly expand his powers. His competitor, former army chief General Sarath Fonseka, and some of his supporters were arrested after the presidential election. Fonseka has been convicted by a military court in several trials (including for political office and corruption). In 2011, the government lifted the state of emergency that had been in force since 1971, but at the same time tightened the provisions of the anti-terror law. In May 2012, President Rajapakse Ponseka pardoned international criticism of his repressive policies. Given the apparently dwindling popularity of the government, Rajapaksa decided to hold early elections. These took place in January 2015. The opposition’s joint candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, supported by a broad party alliance, won the election.

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