Sri Lanka - History

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Aukana Buddha statue, and people praying

Buddhist Kingdoms of Sri Lanka: 300 B.C. to 1200 A.D
European Arrival and Dominance, 1500-1948
Independent Sri Lanka (1948 to present)

Sri Lanka’s early history is surrounded by competing myths and legends. There is debate among scholars as to whether the Sinhalese (Indo-Aryans) or the Tamils (Dravidians) arrived in the island from Southern India first. What is not debated is that Sri Lanka was a multiethnic society from its beginning and that the two groups (Sinhalese and Tamils) intermarried. In any event, Sri Lanka was dominated for centuries by the Sinhalese who adopted Buddhism in the 3rd century B.C. and made Buddhism synonymous with Sri Lankan nationalism. The great early kingdoms were all Sinhalese and Buddhist. The Hindu Tamils have been engaged in struggles for power and autonomy for many centuries; the recent struggles are only the newest manifestation of this conflict.

The earliest references to Sri Lanka come in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, written about 500 B.C. This epic looks at the conquest of Sri Lanka by the forces of the Hindu king, Rama (depicted through the mythological story of the abduction of Rama’s wife, Sita, by the “Demon King, Ravanna” of Sri Lanka and her eventual rescue). This supposedly took place in 3000 B.C. and is the legendary story of the earliest migration into the area.

What is known is that by 500 B.C. both Tamil cities in South India and Indo-Aryan groups had contact with Sri Lanka and had sent settlers to the island. The most comprehensive source about early history is the Buddhist chronicle, the Mahavamsa, composed in the 6th century A.D. Since the purpose of the chronicle is to glorify the Buddhist kingdoms, its treatment of the Hindu Tamils is cursory and unflattering. Moreover, the chronicles praises Sri Lankan kings who repulsed Tamil attacks, demonstrating that conflict between the two groups was a feature of early life in Sri Lanka.

According to the Mahavamsa, Sinhalese civilization begins when Vijaya, the legendary grandson of an Indian princess and a lion (Simha) who had abducted her, comes to Sri Lanka. He arrived in Sri Lanka with 700 followers on the day of Buddha’s parinirvana (death) and established himself as ruler over the indigenous people with the help of Kuveni, a local princess whom he married. He later repudiated her and her offspring and married a South Indian princess. The legend relates that her descendants are the Veddahs, an aboriginal people who live in scattered areas in eastern Sri Lanka. The legends support the idea that organized colonists from India arrived in Sri Lanka around 500 B.C. but that indigenous groups already existed.

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Buddhist kingdoms of Sri Lanka: 300 B.C. to 1200 A.D

Much of Sri Lankan history from 300 B.C. until the coming of the Portuguese in the 16th Century, was the struggle between Sinhalese kingdoms which were Buddhist, and Indo-Aryan and Tamil kingdoms, which were Hindu and Dravidian. Tamil groups, often aided by their counterparts in India, frequently invaded the dominant Sinhalese kingdoms, usurped the throne and ruled for short times. By the end of the 13th century, the Sinhalese had left or been driven from their northern homelands, the site of their great civilizations, and had settled in the Southern and Central parts of the island, leaving much of the North in the hands of the Tamils. However, during its heyday, from the coming of Buddhism in the 3rd century to the destruction and abandonment of Polonnaruwa in the 13th century, the Sri Lankan Sinhalese civilization was one of the most important centers of South and Southeast Asian Buddhism.

The first important Sinhalese civilization was that at Anuradhapura, founded in the 5th century B.C. This site soon became a great Buddhist center as well as the site of a large hydraulic civilization, famous for its water control measures. Northern Sri Lanka is very dry and thus water control was essential for civilization to flourish. The Sinhalese constructed great water works: canals, channels, water-storage tanks, and reservoirs, to provide an elaborate irrigation system which enabled agriculture to flourish without depending on the unreliable monsoon rains. These engineering feats reveal knowledge of mathematics and hydraulic principles; the valve tower for regulating the escape of water is believed to have been invented in Anaradhapura in the 4th century B.C. This hydraulic engineering and the subsequent irrigation allowed the concentration of large numbers of people in the area and the creation of a large city-state.

The coming of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century and the conversion of King Devanampiya Tissa set the stage for the creation of a great Buddhist city state at Anaradhapura. While the king was absolute, his activities were modified by Buddhist ideas and he was expected to conform to the Buddhist Dharma. The relation between the king and the Sangha, the Buddhist establishment, was one of mutual support. The king provided funds for the construction and maintenance of the temples and monasteries, supported scholarship, festivals, and meditation activities. In return, the Sangha provided legitimacy to his rule as well as practical assistance in times of war and peace. While Buddhism officially denied the value of caste, a caste system none the less developed and formed an important part of Sri Lankan society. The Anarahapura kingdom was a feudal state with the land belonging to the king and the society organized on a caste system This caste system placed cultivators near the top of the system and non-agricultural occupations on a lower scale. . It is interesting to note that all Sri Lankan leaders since independence in 1948 have belonged to this cultivator (Goyigama) caste.

Under the decentralized feudal system, the king received land revenue equal to 1/6th of the produce of the land; in addition, the subjects owed him corvee labor (called rajakariya), the amount and type depending upon the subject’s caste position. This labor was used for building and maintaining the vast irrigation projects, road construction, building construction and other public works.

Buddhism which was brought to Sri Lanka by the son and daughter of King Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. had a great effect on the growth of Sri Lankan and Buddhist literature. The Sinhalese dialect of the Indo-Aryan language evolved into literary language as well as a spoken language. It was in Sri Lanka, that the Buddhist scriptures were first written down and it was from Sri Lanka that they were distributed throughout the Buddhist world. As the home of several Buddhist relics (a tooth, his begging bowl, an offshoot of the Bodhi tree), Sri Lanka was a place of pilgrimage for centuries and still is today.

At the same time that the Sinhalese were constructing Anaradhapura, the Tamils, on another part of the North Island were establishing their own city states and maintaining trading and marriage ties with Tamil city-states on the Indian mainland. The first recorded conflict between these two groups comes in 237 B.C. when two Tamil adventurers from Southern India: Sena and Guttika, captured Anaradhapura and usurped the throne. After 22 years, they were murdered and the Sinhalese regained control and restored the monarchy.

The most important early conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, and one which is portrayed in the Mahavamsa as a major ethnic and racial confrontation, began with the conquest of Anuradhapura in 145 B.C. by Elara, a Tamil general from the Chola dynasty in Southern India. He ruled for 44 years until he was defeated by the famous Sinhalese king, Dutthagamani, who is the outstanding national hero of the Mahavamsa. While contemporary scholars believe that the relations between the Sinhalese and the Tamils were more peaceful and supportive than the Chronicle accounts, all agree that the retaking of the city by Dutthagamani marked the beginning of conscious Sinhalese nationalism. The importance of the city as a great Buddhist center dates from this time.

The importance of Sri Lanka and Anuradhapura in Buddhist history comes both from the fact that the Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka, were first written down in the 1st century B.C. in Sri Lanka and that the nation then became an important center of Buddhist scholarship. Many commentaries on the scriptures, grammar books, teaching materials, etc. were composed in Sinhala over the next 5 centuries. The country became an important pilgrimage center and a center for the study and dissemination of Buddhism, especially its Theravada form. The apex of this importance came in the 5th century with the writings and translations of the great Buddhist scholar, Buddhaghosa. Buddhaghosa (Voice of the Buddha) translated many of the Sinhala writings of Theravada Buddhism into Pali so that they could easily be studied throughout the Buddhist world. In addition, he composed a famous treatise: Visuddhivagga (Path of Purification). This is a comprehensive manual of Theravada Buddhism stressing ethics, meditation and wisdom. According to Buddhaghosa, ethics are essential for mediation which in turn is essential for wisdom. These are the three pillars which lead to purifying the mind from greed, hatred, and delusion. This work became an essential tool for those studying Buddhism for the next several centuries.

The Tamil/Hindu threat to Anuradhapura surfaced again in the 5th century as three Hindu states in Southern India; the Pandya, Pallava, and Chola, became more assertive and sent invading forces to Sri Lanka. The Pandya captured and ruled the city state for 25 years in the second quarter of the 5th century; King Dhatusena liberated Anuradhapura and restored Sinhalese Buddhist rule. He is recorded as a patron of Buddhism and a restorer of the irrigation system. In 477, he was, however, killed by his son, Kasyapa, who then usurped the throne from his older brother. In fear of retribution, Kasyapa moved the capital to Sigiriya, a fortress perched atop a monolithic rock over 600 feet high. This rock fortress was eventually captured by Kasyapa’s brother with the help of an army of Indian mercenaries. Sigirya is now a UNESCO World Heritage site (for pictures, please click on: Http://www.sigiriya.org.)

Sinhalese and Tamil culture became unified during the 7th to 10th centuries, when the Sinhalese Prince Manavamma seized the throne with the help of the Indian Pallava dynasty. The Pallavas continued to support this dynasty for almost three centuries; during this time, Hindu motifs became important in architecture and sculpture.

In the middle of the 9th century, the Pandyas invaded Sri Lanka from India and sacked Anuradhapura; the Sri Lankans in turn attacked the Pandyan city of Madurai in India and destroyed it. Sri Lankans again invaded India in the 10th century, this time in support of the Pandya king against the rising Chola dynasty. The Pandyan king was defeated and fled to Sri Lanka, carrying with him the royal insignia. The Cholas wanted the return of this insignia, invaded Sri Lanka, again sacked Anuradhapura and annexed the Sinhalese kingdom to the Chola Empire in India. During the 75 years of Chola rule, Hinduism flourished and Buddhism declined. The Chola established a new capital at Polonnaruwa in the Southeast, near the Mahaweli Ganga river. When the Sinhalese kings retook the area in 1070 A.D., they rebuilt Anuradhapura but ruled from Polonnaruwa, 70 miles to the Southeast. Polonnaruwa soon became an important repository of Buddhist art and architecture.

King Vijayabahu drove the Chola out of Sri Lanka in 1070 and continued to rule from Polonnaruwa rebuilding it into a vibrant Buddhist city, with new monasteries and temples. This patronage of Buddhism continued under King Parakramabahu (1153-1186) under whose rule Polonnaruwa came to rival Anuradhapura as a Buddhist center. He also sponsored many great engineering works, including the Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama or Parakrama Tank) and Polonnaruwa became one of the great capitals of Asia. The Buddhist renaissance resulted in missionary expansion abroad, including sending of missions to Burma and other Southeast Asian nations. It was during the reign of his successor, King Nissankamalla (1187-97) that the Sinhalese caste system solidified, with the highest caste begin the cultivators and the lowest the Chandala or untouchables. Occupational caste became strictly hereditary and regulated dietary and marriage codes.

The ensuing two centuries saw a weakening of the Sinhalese city state, the expulsion of the Sinhalese from Northern Sri Lanka by invading forces from India and from a renewed Tamil state in the North. The 13th century saw a migration of Sinhalese to the Central and South and the abandonment of both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. At the same time, a vigorous Tamil Hindu state expanded, establishing a capital in the Jaffna Peninsula, home of the pearl fisheries. The Tamils themselves had to fight against encroachment from India which limited their ability to expand.

During this period of instability, Sinhalese culture underwent changes. Now living in the wetter South, the Sinhalese found that large scale irrigation works were no longer necessary. This led to the further weakening of the central authority and the division of the nation into competing petty principalities, with a weak central king. Foreign trade, especially cinnamon, became more important and the city of Kotte on the West coast became the new capital. Thus, the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century found an island nation divided between Sinhalese and Tamil city states with weak central authority. The three main centers of power were the Tamil state of Jaffna and the Sinhalese sates of Kotte and Kandy.

The following sites have good pictures and descriptions of the World Heritage cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
http://www.sritravel.8m.net/anuradhapura.htm

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European Arrival and Dominance, 1500-1948

Between 150 and Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka was dominated first by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch and finally by the British. Each of these nations ruled Sri Lanka for about 150 years and each had significant impact on the nation. During these centuries, many Sri Lankans converted to Christianity and Buddhism virtually disappeared, only to be reestablished in the 20th century. Sri Lanka traditional institutions were transformed as were language and education.

The Portuguese Period
The Portuguese were the earliest European explorers to arrive in Asia and they soon established trading ports from Goa in India to Macau in China. As a small country, they were less interested in developing large colonies than in controlling the sea routes and hence the trade. In this endeavor, control of ports in Sri Lanka was essential and the Portuguese soon decided that “Cilao” gave then a strategic advantage in dominating Indian Ocean trade. Sri Lanka had long been engaged in international trade with Western Asia and when the Portuguese arrived, they came into conflict with Muslim traders who were well established in Sri Lanka. In fact, Sri Lanka was known to the ancient Greeks and formed a part of the trading network set up in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. In addition to desiring to control maritime trade between Europe and Asia, the Portuguese wanted to convert non-Christians to Catholicism; thus missionaries followed hard on the heels of the traders.

By virtue of its superior fire power, coupled with its ability to take advantage of the infighting between rival princes for power in Kotte and other smaller states, the Portuguese soon gained control of Southern Sri Lanka and set up puppet rulers under their control. They also succeed in conquering the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna and incorporated that into the Portuguese administration. The only area which remained free of Portuguese control was the central kingdom of Kandy, which, despite Portuguese attempts to create a puppet ruler, remained independent and constantly fomented rebellion, frustrating Portuguese attempts to control the interior of the island.

While the Portuguese placed their own governors in charge of each province of what they called “the Estado da India” and governed from Goa (in India), they left the administration intact. The traditional hierarchy, governed by caste and land ownership remained unchanged. Land was offered to both Europeans and Sinhalese in place of salary and the traditional corvee labor was used for building and military purposes. However, the Portuguese vigorously, if not fanatically, forced religious and education change in Sri Lanka. They attacked all other religions, destroyed many Buddhist and Hindu temples and gave these temple lands to Roman Catholic churches and religious orders. Perhaps the most lasting effect of Portuguese control was the conversion of a large number of both Sinhalese and Tamils to Catholicism. Conversion was especially effective in fishing communities and contributed to the upward mobility of fishing castes. Mission schools were established and Portuguese became the language of the upper classes of Sri Lanka as it was also the lingua franca of Asian maritime trade in the 16th century.

The Dutch Period
In the 17th century, the Dutch gradually replaced the Portuguese as controllers of the spice trade. Beginning from their ports in Indonesia, the Dutch launched attacks on Portuguese and Spanish sites throughout Asia, Sri Lanka being one of them. The ousting of the Portuguese was a slow and bitterly fought process. The Dutch allied themselves with the King of Kandy, the Sri Lankan state which had never surrendered to the Portuguese. This king assumed that the Dutch would get rid of the Portuguese for him but he was disappointed when the Dutch, having expelled the Portuguese by 1658, then turned on Kandy and eventually incorporated that kingdom into their empire. Thus the Dutch managed to control most of Sri Lanka in one form or another. Having taken control of the island, the Dutch then proceeded to monopolize trade. The Dutch East India Company had the sole right to trade such goods as cinnamon, other spices, and elephants. The Dutch had less success in converting the Sri Lankan Catholics to Protestantism although they banned Catholic serves, destroyed churches and harassed Catholics. In spite of these efforts, by 1980, most Christian Sri Lankans were Catholic. The Dutch were less concerned with Buddhism and Hinduism and, while they banned these services in the cities, allowed them in the countryside.

The Dutch contributed to the evolution of judicial and administrative systems in Sri Lanka. They codified indigenous law and customs and continued to allow the traditional land system to endure. They tried to entice their fellow countrymen to settle in Sri Lanka; this resulted in the creation of another Eurasian mix, the Dutch Burghers (the Portuguese had already established a small Eurasian community called the Portuguese Burghers). Ethnic diversity continued under Dutch rule with the social differences between lowland and highland Sinhalese growing and forming two distinct cultural groups. The lowland Sinhalese were more European in outlook and culture and were generally wealthier while the highland Sinhalese took pride in retaining traditional customs.

The British Period
During the 18th century, British interest expanded throughout Asia, but especially in India in which it gradually assumed the powers no long exercised by the declining Mughal dynasty. The British wanted access to the Sri Lanka port of Trimacolee and the Dutch refused entry to British ships. Taking advantage of the fact that the Dutch supported France in the in The American War of Independence, the British seized first the port and then the entire country. The king of Kandy, still smarting under Dutch restrictions, requested British help. Once again, Kandy was disillusioned as the weak Dutch rule was replaced by the strong British colonizers in 1796. British control over Sri Lanka was formalized when the Dutch ceded the island to Britain in the 1801 Peace of Amiens. Thus, Sri Lanka became Britain’s first official colony in 1802.

Having established themselves in Sri Lanka, the British followed the same policy of annexation and intervention in the local states affairs that they were pursuing in India. This brought them into direct conflict with the still powerful state of Kandy. After several struggles and wars, the Kandyan Convention was signed by the king of Kandy and the British in 1815. This treaty put all Kandyan chiefs under British sovereignty but stipulated that their traditional privileges would be maintained. While the kingdom would be governed by its customary Buddhist laws, these would be administered by a British “resident” who would, in all but name, take the place of the king.

This treaty prompted discontent and an eventual revolt led by Buddhist monks. The monastic establishment relied for its power upon the support of the kings. Once these kings were deprived of power, the Buddhist monasteries had no official support. This resulted in a popular and widespread rebellion in 1818. The failure of this rebellion allowed the British to consolidate their hold in Sri Lanka and, for the first time since the 12th century, the entire country was under one rule: the British.

The Sri Lanka which was granted independence from Britain in 1948 was a very different country than the one over which the British assumed rule in 1802. Much of the demographic, economic, political and social changes which occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries were a direct result of British rule. During this period of time, the island developed an economy capable of sustaining a large population: the population in 1802 was estimated at 800,000 while the population in 1948 was 7 million. The island acquired an infrastructure of roads, railways, schools, hospitals, hydroelectric projects and large agricultural plantations which allowed this growth.

The British embarked on an ambitious road building program to strengthen their rule and a program of agricultural diversification to create export commodities to supplement cinnamon. They first built large coffee plantations and, when the market dropped out of coffee in the 1860s, switched to tea. In order to provide paid workers for these large scale plantations, the British imported Tamils from southern India; they came to form a second group of Tamils, seen as separate from the Sri Lankan Tamils, thus creating yet another ethnic group. The British introduced a capitalist system by abolishing monopolies over cinnamon cultivation and trade and they ended the corvee labor system, using as an excuse that it slowed the growth of private enterprise and interfered with the free movement of labor. The creation of large plantations (first coffee and then tea) transformed the island’s economy into one reliant upon exports for survival.

Social changes were likewise dramatic and the 19th century saw the emergence of an educated middle class who became increasingly disaffected with their exclusion from British social levels. As in India, this educated class was created to provide administrative and professional services in the colony. This urban, professional, upwardly mobile, western educated class was in contrast to the traditional elites who remained rural, caste-bound and traditionally educated.

The 19th and 20th centuries also saw a Buddhist revival. Buddhist monks attempted to reform the sangha (religious community) as a reaction to the success of Christian missionary efforts. These efforts came to fruition with the support of an American, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, co-founder of the American Theosophical Movement, which became a worldwide movement to champion the rights of the underprivileged. After his arrival in Sri Lanka, he organized a Buddhist campaign against British officials and missionaries. To support his work he founded the Buddhist Theosophical Society of Ceylon which established three colleges: Ananda College, Mahinda College and Dharmaraja College and almost 200 schools. The aim of these institutions was to impart Buddhist education with a strong nationalist bias. The Theosophical Movement was interested in Sri Lanka’s past customs and persuaded the British governor to make Vesak a public holiday. (Vesak is the most important Buddhist holiday and commemorates the day on which Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and died). Interest in the past spurred archeological excavations at both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The nationalistism encouraged by these movements resulted in national campaigns against drunkenness and other “western vices” as well as a political movement for more representation in the government by Sri Lankans and for eventual independence.

The small nationalist movement agitated for reforms and for freedom from British rule. The movement remained small and isolated until 1915 when the brutal suppression of a riot and the arrest of a prominent leader, D. S. Senanayake (who would become the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka upon independence in 1948) spurred the nationalist to action. The Sri Lankan nationalist movement modeled itself on the Indian movement; in 1919 the Ceylon National Congress was formed and was comprised of both Tamils and Sinhalese. Modest gains were made in the formation of a constitutional government, with a majority of Sinhalese being elected; but the franchise was granted to only 4 % of the population. The years leading up to World War II saw the growth of leftist parties as well as the growth of parties determined to restore Buddhism to its place in the government.

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Independent Sri Lanka (1948 to present)

World War II set the stage for independence in Sri Lanka as it did in India. After Singapore was taken by the Japanese in February, 1942, Sri Lanka became a central base for British operations in Southeast Asia and thus became of central importance in the war effort. Unlike India, in which the nationalists demanded a guarantee of independence as a reward for support of the war, Sri Lanka wholeheartedly joined the Allied war effort and the British and Sri Lankans maintained good relations. Sri Lanka benefited from its role in the war by helping to meet demands for rubber and other essentials. Moreover, because Sri Lanka became the seat of the Southeast Asia Command, an infrastructure of roads, health services, communications, etc were built to accommodate the troops stationed in the country; this infrastructure improved the standard of living in postwar Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was granted its independence in 1948, upon the recommendations of the Soulbury Commission, which had been set up in 1944 to recommend on both the new constitution and the governmental structure upon independence. British constitutional principles and the parliamentary system were adopted for newly independent Sri Lanka which became a member of the British Commonwealth after independence.

While there was no massive violence or social unrest in Sri Lanka (compared to India), debate about the status of the Indian Tamils continued to be a problem. There was cleavage along ethnic lines between the Sinhalese and the Tamils and a rift between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils. The emergence of a more aggressive Tamil party, the Tamil Federal Party in 1949, and the emergence of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike’s left-of-center Sri Lankan Freedom Party broke the unity established by the first prime minister, Senanayake and his United National Party in 1948. His death in 1952 left Sri Lanka without the one person who could unify the country and encouraged the Tamils and the Sri Lankan Freedom Party to take more aggressive and separatist stands.

The turning point in Sri Lankan politics came in the 1956 election. Bandaranaike campaigned as a “defender of a besieged Sinhalese culture” to oppose both the United National Party, which it accused of having too close ties with the West and with the Catholic church, and the Tamil Federal Party, which it accused of being non-Sinhalese. Language became a major point of division as Bandaranaike supported one official language, Sinhala, which would replace both English and Tamil as the only national language. This nationalist agenda was furthered by the fact that the 2500th anniversary of the death of the Buddha (and the legendary landing of Vijaya on Sri Lanka) coincided with the 1956 election. The election of Bandaranaike and his Freedom Party increased the friction between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, just as the Tamil Federal Party became stronger and more aggressive.

With the assassination of Bandaranaike by a Buddhist extremist in 1959, the nation faced increased instability. The election of his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the world’s first female prime minister in 1960, further hastened the decline of Sinhalese/Tamil relations as she enforced the policy of Sinhala as the only official language of government. This led to Tamil resistance and government military reaction. Sirimavo’s policies of attempting to nationalize significant sectors of the economy, including oil, insurance and even the press, led to the election of the United National Party in 1965. However, the party’s attempts to create a mixed private/public economy failed to bring prosperity. In addition, its policy of attempting to create Tamil as a second official language, led to increased Sinhalese antagonism and the re-election of Bandaranaike in 1970. She came to power as head of an alliance party called the United Front which promised to support Buddhism, create a new constitution, and make Sri Lanka a republic. The lack of protection for the rights of minorities in the new constitution which passed in 1972 dismayed the Tamils because of its support of Buddhism and discrimination against Tamils in areas such as university admissions. The Tamil community reacted to this pressure by forming the Tamil United Liberation Front in 1976. The return of the United National Party to power in 1977 was unable to stem this tide of disaffection and the Tamil United Liberation Front demanded a Tamil homeland. The increasingly disenchanted Tamil young people formed a variety of separatist groups, the most violent and successful of which was the Tamil Tigers who began engaging in acts of violent terrorism. These acts of terrorism and the struggle for a Tamil homeland, became an permanent feature of Sri Lankan politics in the succeeding years.

The 17 year rule of the United National Party resulted in the creation of a new constitution based on the presidential model which, according to some political experts, combines the worst features of the US., British, and French constitutions! Their rule ended in the elections of 1994 with the coming to power of the People’s Alliance party headed by Chandrika Bandaranike Kumarathunga, who managed to remain in power for the following 10 years, in spite of the worsening situation regarding the Tamil separatist movement. However, the cease fire negotiated in 2002 between the government and the Tamils is holding so far; a permanent peace is yet to be worked out.

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