The Country: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean, lying east of the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, from which it is separated by the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka is about the size of Tasmania with an area of 65,610 square km, including 870 square km of inland waters.
Population: 20.8 (World Bank 2010)
Capital City: Colombo (population 681,000 (2009 CIA Fact book)
People: 73.94% Sinhalese, 12.7% Tamil, 7.1% Muslim, 5.5% Hill Tamil, and 1.5% other
Languages: Sinhalese, Tamil, English
Currency: Rupee, divided into 100 cents
Other major cities include Gampaha (2 million people), Kurunegala (1.4 million people) and Kandy (1.3 million people). Sri Lanka’s official languages are Sinhala and Tamil, although English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10 per cent of the Sri Lankan population. The major ethnic groups are the Sinhalese (74 per cent), Tamils (18 per cent) and Muslims (7 per cent). The major religions in Sri Lanka are Buddhism (69 per cent), Hinduism (15.5 per cent), Christianity (8 per cent) and Islam (7 per cent).
Major political parties: Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) (President’s party and largest government party), United National Party (UNP) (main opposition party), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) (left wing, Sinhala nationalist), Tamil National Alliance (a coalition of Tamil parties), Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) (Sinhala nationalist Buddhist party led by monks and coalition partner of the Government), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) (member of the TNA), Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) (a government-aligned Tamil party), Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) (represents Hill Tamils also aligned to the Government)
Government: Unicameral Parliament with Executive Presidency
Head of State (President): His Excellency Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa
Prime Minister/Premier: The Hon DM Jayaratne
Foreign Minister: The Hon GL Peiris MP
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Commonwealth, The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), United Nations (UN), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Group of 77 at the United Nations (G77).