Overview of Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka (Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka) is an island in the Indian Ocean, lying off the Southeastern tip of the Indian subcontinent. The Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar separate Sri Lanka from India. The Arabian Sea lies to the west, the Bay of Bengal to the NorthEast, and the Indian Ocean to the South, Colombo, situated on the western coast, is the largest city and the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. The Administrative capital is Sri Jayewardenepura (Kotte), located about 16 km (about 10 miles) East of Colombo. The total area of Sri Lanka is 65, 610 sq km (25,332 sq.mi). The greatest length, from North to South, is 440 km (270 mi). The greatest width from east to west across the island’s broad Southern portion is 220 km (140 mi). Sri Lanka’s coastline extends to a length of about 1,300 km (about 830 mi) The elevation of the surrounded plains ranges from sea level to 90m (300 ft). The plains are broadest in the North and North Central areas. The coastal belt rises about 30 m (about 100 ft) above sea level. Lagoons, sand beaches, sand dunes, and marshes predominate along the coast, although steep rocky cliffs are found in the Northeast and Southwest. There are mountains in the central hill country that rise up to 6000 feet.

The population of Sri Lanka is nearly 20 million. Ethnic groups are the Sinhalese, who form the majority (74%) of the population the Sri Lankan Tamils (12.6%), Tamils of recent Indian origin (5.5%),Sri Lanka Moors(7.7), and other groups like Malays, and Burghers forming the rest. Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy in terms of employment, but manufacturing, especially the garment industry generates the majority of export earnings. Remittances from Sri Lankan expatriates particularly in the Middle and Gulf have recently become an important foreign exchange contributor. Sri Lanka has a democratic political system, with a directly elected President as Head of State as well as a directly elected Parliament, a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers.

Sri Lanka was inhabited as early as 125,000 years before the Common Era. Sri Lanka has a long recorded history and a rich cultural heritage. History, as recorded in ancient chronicles, goes back to the 6th century before the Common Era, when a group of migrants from India established settlements in the northern plain, also known as dry zone. These settlements, in course of time, evolved into a kingdom.

The most notable event in the early history of the island was the introduction of Buddhism from India in the 3rd century BCE. Buddhism has shaped the history of the country and its cultural heritage. The ancient civilization of Sri Lanka reached its apogee during the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods – that is from early historical times to about 13th century-when an intricate irrigation system was established for agricultural purposes and construction of religious monuments such as pagodas was undertaken. The irrigation technology that developed during this period has few parallels in the ancient world and ancient Sri Lanka is described as a hydraulic society or civilization. After that, due to foreign invasions and ecological problems capitals were shifted from city to city and when the first western power, the Portuguese, arrived in the island in the early 16th century, the capital was located at Kotte, close to Colombo. The western powers were attracted to the island mainly due to its valuable spices particularly, Cinnamon and its strategic location. The Portuguese were in occupation of the coastal areas until 1658 when they were replaced by the Dutch. The Dutch were in turn replaced by the British in 1796 but the kingdom in the highlands retained its independence until 1815 when the entire country came under the British rule.

Ceylon as it was named by the new rulers, was considered a model colony by the British who initiated constitutional development in the island as early as 1833 when executive and legislative councils were set up. In 1931 Ceylon achieved internal self government with the introduction of universal adult franchise, the first non white British colony to gain that status. Ceylon became a fully independent nation in 1948 and became a member of the Commonwealth. Ceylon joined the United Nations in 1955. Ceylon retained links with the British monarchy until 1972 when a Republican constitution was adopted and the country restored its old name, Sri Lanka. The Constitution of 1978 introduced an executive Presidential form of government with proportional representation. The simmering ethnic tensions in the country took a turn for the worse in 1983 with a terrorist attack in the North and subsequent riots in all parts of the island. The Indo-Lanka accord of 1987 introduced the Provincial Council system for devolution of powers to the outlying areas after which many separatist groups except LTTE joined the mainstream of democratic life. The LTTE, the largest separatist group remained intransigent and many attempts to reach a political settlement failed due to its recalcitrant attitude. In 2002 a ceasefire agreement was signed with Norwegian facilitation and six rounds of talks were held with the LTTE to reach a settlement. The LTTE did not change its attitude and continued it‘s terrorist attacks on civil and military targets

Despite many challenges faced by the country since independence Sri Lanka maintains a democratic and multi party system of government and governments have changed many times through the ballot. The island has also maintained a high level of human development. The election in 2005 brought President Mahinda Rajapaksa to power and an all Party Representative Committee (APRC) was set up to find a solution to an ethnic problem.

Following a major campaign, the Armed Forces were able in May 2009 to defeat the LTTE and bring the whole island under the writ of the democratically elected government, after nearly three decades. This is considered a new beginning for Sri Lanka to go forward in developing the country without the impediment of a terrorist threat. The Goverment took timely action to look after the displaced who are over 250,000 accommodated in temporary welfare centers, until they are resettled in their original homes. The government will hold both local and provincial council elections to restore democracy to areas wich had suffered under the tyranny of LTTE. The APRC is expected to submit its final report shortly.

Sri Lanka is a member of the Commonwealth, United Nations, Non Aligned Movement, Group of 77, and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (BIMTEC) Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-RAC) Asian Regional Forum (ARE) and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD).

The first Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D.S.Senanayake, appointed a Committee to advice the Government on the design of a new national flag. approved by the committee in February 1950 and the significance of each symbol of the national flag is as follows:


The first Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D.S.Senanayake, appointed a Committee to advice the Government on the design of a new national flag. approved by the committee in February 1950 and the significance of each symbol of the national flag is as follows:

  • The Lion in the flag represents the Sinhala race.
  • The sword of the lion represents the sovereignty of the country.
  • Curly hair on the lion's head indicates religious observance, wisdom and meditation.
  • The beard denotes purity of words.
  • The handle of the sword highlights the elements of water, fire, air and earth.
  • The nose indicates intelligence.
  • The two front paws purport to purity in handling wealth.
  • The verticle stripe of orange represent the minority Tamil community and the green verticle stripe the minority Muslim community.
  • The border round the flag, which is yellow in color, represents other minor races.
  • The bo-leaves at the four corners of the flag represent Buddhism and it's influence on the nation. They also stand for the four virtues - Kindness, Friendliness, Happiness and Equanimity.
  • The maroon colored portion of the flag manifests the other minor religions.


The Insignia of Sri Lanka adopted after the country became a Republic on May 22, 1972 is centred round the lion featured in a circle on a red background. A Lotus in the traditional Pala - pethi motif surrounds the circle. The lotus is the symbol of purity. It rests on a Pun- kalasa (pot of abundance) depicting prosperity. Sheaves of paddy rising from the pun-kalasa encircle the lion. The sun and the moon shown on either side of the pun-kalasa symbolize the eternity of the nation while the sheaves of paddy represents fertility of the land. The Insignia is crowned with the Dhamma Chakra (the wheel of truth). The colours used in the Insignia are the colours of the national flag with a border in blue. The Insignia was gazetted on May 23, 1972. It can only be used for official purposes. It is an offence to use it in private correspondence.




NA (iron wood) (Botanical Name : Mesua ferrea)

This rain forest tree grows to about 30 m high and indigenous to the lower wetzone of Sri Lanka. The Features of NA is beautiful bright Red Leaves and finally matured in to a deep green. This Tree was adopted as the National Tree of Sri Lanka on 26 February 1986.


The “Nil Manel” flower, botanically known as Nympheae stellata was declared the National Flower of Sri Lanka on 26th February 1986.

Event Calender

Read More


 Mailing Address

Prime Minister's Office
No: 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha,
Colombo 07.
Sri Lanka.


 Contact Numbers

  +94 (112) 575317/18
  +94 (112) 370737/38
  mail : info@pmoffice.gov.lk
  Fax : +94 (112) 575310
  Fax : +94 (112) 574143

© 2017 - The Prime Minister's Office
Last Updated Date : 2017-05-26
web counter