Sri Lanka Country Overview

Sri Lanka Country Overview

According to, Sri Lanka is a Member State of the Commonwealth since 1948, the year in which it became independent after a centuries-old Portuguese and Dutch rule; on May 22, 1972 it became a democratic and socialist republic, and changed the old name of Ceylon to the current one. Executive power is exercised by the government chaired by the Prime Minister and accountable to Parliament which, since 1971, consists of a single Assembly of 174 members, 6 of whom are appointed to represent minorities.

Administratively, Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces and 22 districts, and at the October 1971 census it had 12,711,143 residents (see table). The population is characterized by a remarkable ethnic complexity (Sinhalese for 70%; Tamil for 20%; then Mori, Vedda, Malesi, Burgheros, the latter descendants of the ancient Dutch settlers) and concentrated mostly in the most important cities, located in the southwestern part of the country, where the highest densities are recorded. The official language today is Sinhalese, which has taken over from Tamil, which however still retains a particular role; English is very popular.

The post-independence socialist policy created a new socio-economic situation, which resulted in the nationalization of all the major industrial enterprises of the previous colonial era and the curbing of foreign initiatives. However, it must be emphasized that the conspicuous demographic weight and the insufficiency of resources to meet internal needs create considerable problems, the solution of which is not easy. Today, however, Sri Lanka is the state of South Asia with the lowest illiteracy rate compared to the average of the Third World countries, and with a good circulation of the press; this relative social evolution is favored by a solid parliamentary regime, which places the country in a condition of marked individuality with respect to neighboring states.

Economic conditions. – Sri Lanka is still an agricultural-based country, as shown by the fact that 55% of the active population is absorbed by the primary sector. The hot humid climate has favored the development of rich tea production on the island since ancient times (1,970,000 q in 1976, third place in the world after India and China), coconut palm (1,650,000 tons of walnuts in 1976), copra (2,000,000 q in 1975), rice (12,530,000 q in 1976) and spices, including the highly prized Ceylonese cinnamon, partly started abroad.

The subsoil, still little exploited, offers a fair range of resources, among which graphite (9500 t in 1974), precious stones, kaolin and sea salt occupy a prominent place.

The area gravitating to the capital is affected by intense industrial activity (textiles, chemicals, ceramics, paper, tobacco, rubber, etc.) which has been characterized in recent years by considerable dynamism following the creation of some plants for iron processing and oil refining (refinery in Hapugaskanda).

Communications take place by rail and road, by sea and by air, and have in Colombo the most vital hub in the country and one of the busiest in South Asia. The port and the airport of the capital absorb over 90% of the commercial traffic of the island, which takes place mainly with the United Kingdom, the United States, India, China, Japan, the Rep. Fed. Of Germany.

Cinema. – From 1947 to the mid-1950s, Sinhalese films were produced in South Indian studios, modeled on Hindi and Tamiḻ operas, with Indian directors and technicians, Sinhalese scriptwriters and actors. Only in 1956 appeared the first feature film shot entirely on the island, Rekava (“The line of destiny”), directed by LJ Peries, which originally proposes neorealistic modules. In a landscape still devoid of cinematographic traditions and dominated by the low imitations of Indian commercial trends, the Sinhalese director established himself as the lone pioneer of quality national production. With his later films, from Gamperaliya (“The Changing Village”, 1963) to Yuganthaya (1984), Sinhalese cinema rose to international limelight. From the end of the 1950s, P. Hettiarachi also stood out in numerous European festivals for his documentary work. While in the 1970s production became more varied and lively – thanks also to the establishment, in 1972, of the State Film Corporation (SFC) which assumed the monopoly of distribution and import, playing an important role in the promotion of quality works – the the early eighties were marked by an involutionary phase in which the SFC was also involved, which took the new name of National Film Corporation (NFC). To the age-old problem of the distribution of national films, not absorbed by the local market, was added the competition of the newly installed television. However, the crisis of institutions and structures did not turn into a crisis of talent. Among the major directors operating in the seventies and eighties, in addition to M. Sandrasagara and G. Fonseka, two important figures such as A. Jayatilaka (Arunata Pera, “Before dawn”), and Sri Lanka Peries, wife of the well-known director (Gehenu lamai, “The girls”, 1977; Ganga addara, “The river bank”; Lokuduwa, “The eldest daughter”, 1994). To these must be added the names of Dh. Pathirajak, Dh. Bandaranayaka, T. Abeysekera, V. Obeysekera, Dh. Wickremaratne, DB Nihalsingha. In the 1980s Ch. Rutnam made his debut who, after studying and working in the United States, returned home to shoot his first feature film, Adara Kathawa, love story against the backdrop of racial prejudices. The early nineties saw a rebirth of Sinhalese cinema thanks to the interest of President Premadasa, who renews the production policy of the NFC. Among the most relevant films are Kadapathaka Chaya (1989) by V. Obeysekara, and Yuvathipathi (“Husband and wife”, 1992) by A. Jayatilaka.

Literature. – The Sinhalese language is – among the Indo-European languages ​​of the Indian subcontinent – the one of which we have the most ancient documents represented by rock inscriptions dating back to the 2nd-3rd century BC. Christ. There is also no lack of evidence of a literature that flourished between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. C., which as a whole has been lost. The oldest real literary works that have come down to us date back to the 9th-10th century of our era. Between the 10th and 18th century flourished an exegetical literature intended to illustrate the works of the Buddhist canon in Pali, which includes the Gä T apada and Sanne. In the context of this literature inspired by Buddhism we remember the Butsara ṇ a, the Dahan Sara ṇ a and the Sanga Sara ṇ a, three works attributed to Vidyācakravarti, which urge men to seek refuge in the Buddha, his doctrine and his community. The J ā taka also exerted a notable influence on Sinhalese literature, and the work that most popularized them is the Pansiya Panas J ā taka Pota (14th century). Among the poems with a religious background in the k ā vya style, also called G ī poems because they are written in this meter, the Kavsi ú umina stands out, attributed to King Parākramabāhu II (13th century): the work, freely inspired by the Kusa J ā taka, extends over 770 lines divided into 15 chants. Another genre of considerable interest is constituted by the Sandesa- type poems, which flourished between the 14th and 15th centuries and are based on the Sanskrit d ū tak ā vya: among these, the Tisara Sandesaya, the May ū ra Sandesaya and the Sä ú alihini Sandesaya by Śrī Rāhula. In the context of modern literature, a prominent place belongs to the novel, which was introduced in 1905 by A. Simon de Silva with Mī n ā, and whose greatest representative is Martin Wickramasinghe, author among other things of Gam Pera ú iya (The changing village) and Vir ā gaya (Detachment). Modern poetry has received considerable impetus from the “Poetic School of Columbus” and the “Sinhalese Group of Free Verse” (GB Senanayake, Siri Gunasinghe, Gunadasa Amarasekara).

Sri Lanka Country Overview

Tagged with: