The World of Info

SRI LANKA
Society

Cities in SRI LANKA

Colombo

Society

State structure

Sri Lanka has been a republic since 1972. The constitution, last amended in 1987, dates from September 1978, making the country a presidential republic. A new constitution, which should put an end to the centralist structure of government and meet the desire for self-government of the Tamils in the north and east, is in preparation.

There is a presidential system, in which the president, who has many powers, is elected by the people for a period of six years. Among other things, he has the power to appoint the prime minister, but he may also dismiss him and his ministers. He is also commander-in-chief of the army.

The Cabinet is chaired by the Prime Minister and is accountable to Parliament.

Sri Lanka's Parliament consists of 225 members elected every six years by Sri Lankans over the age of 18. Parliament has the power to approve or reject presidential policies, but cannot subsequently control or hold the President to account. Universal suffrage was introduced as early as 1931.

In order to increase the independence of various state bodies, it was decided in September 2001 to establish a 'Constitutional Council' which will appoint the four 'independent commissions', namely the civil service, the judiciary, the police and elections. For the current political situation, see History chapter.

Administrative division

Administratively, Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces and 25 districts. The Northern and Eastern provinces, where many Tamils live, have had a certain autonomy since 1987.

A hot topic is the amalgamation of these two provinces, as mainly Tamils live in the Northern province, while the population in the Eastern province is mixed.

provinceSinhalese name
CentralMadhyama
EasternNegenahira
North CentralUturumeda
NorthernUturu
North WesternWayamba
SabaragamuwaSabaragamuwa
SouthernDakunu
UvaUva
WesternBasnahira
districtsurfaceinhabitants (2001)
Amparai4.415 km2589.500
Anuradhapura7.179 km2750.000
Badulla2.861 km2775.000
Batticaloa2.854 km2490.000
Colombo699 km22.240.000
Galle1.652 km2992.000
Gampaha1.387 km22.070.000
Hambantota2.609 km2530.000
Jaffna1.025 km2495.000
Kalutara1.598 km21.070.000
Kandy1.940 km21.280.000
Kegalla1.693 km2780.000
Kilinochchi1.279 km2130.000
Kurunegala4.816 km21.460.000
Mannar1.996 km2155.000
Matale1.993 km2445.000
Matara1.283 km2770.000
Moneragala5.639 km2400.000
Mullaitivu2.617 km2125.000
Nuwara Eliya1.741 km2702.000
Polonnaruwa3.293 km2365.000
Puttalam3.072 km2710.000
Ratnapura3.275 km21.010.000
Trincomalee2.727 km2345.000
Vayuniya1.967 km2150.000

Education

Sri Lanka has a well-organised education system and therefore one of the lowest illiteracy rates in Asia.

After 1975, all schools were nationalised and free education is compulsory for children aged 5 to 14. The former plantation schools, where many Tamil children are taught, are not highly regarded. The illiteracy rate among India-Tamils is therefore much higher.

Besides the normal primary schools, there are also a few hundred Buddhist Pirvena schools, where Buddhist monks are trained. Depending on where the school is located, lessons in primary education are given in Sinhalese or Tamil.

The first university was opened in 1942 in Peradeniya, near Kandy. At present, Sri Lanka has twelve universities and one open university. English is taught in almost all universities. Many students of affluent parents have their children study in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Typical Sri Lanka

CEYLON-TEA

Tea accidentally became Sri Lanka's most important export product in the 19th century. The coffee plantations were destroyed by a disease around 1860 and it turned out that tea bushes imported from India did well in the climate of the Sri Lankan mountains. The first Sri Lankan tea was grown in 1867 on the Loolecondera Estate, located south-east of Kandy.

Workers for the tea plantations were brought by the British from South India in the 19th century. In fifteen years, almost a million men, women and children, the so-called India Tamils, migrated to Sri Lanka in search of work. The tea leaves are still plucked by India Tamil women, who pick about 12 kg of tea leaves per day. On the plantation, the India Tamils live completely separated from the Sinhalese population. They feel like second-class citizens, but fortunately, through negotiations with the government and the plantation employers, the tea pickers' trade unions have managed to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for tea workers. Three quarters of a million people work on the tea plantations and in the tea processing industry.

The tea bushes are picked once a week, limiting themselves to the young, light green leaves, which are most suitable for making tea. The tea leaves are then taken to factories, where a process of flaming, rolling and fermentation takes place. Taste experts then classify the tea as malty, pointy, bakey, thick, coppery, dull or bright, depending on its strength, taste and colour. The tea is then auctioned off and exported.

A tea bush can grow to be about 100 years old and is kept at a height of 60-70 cm by regular pruning. On 1 ha there are about 7500 to 10,000 bushes. The best tea grows above an altitude of 1500 metres. The areas below 700 metres produce the Low Grown Tea; between 700 and 1350 metres the Mid Grown Tea grows and between 1350 and 2000 metres the High Grown Tea. The best teas come from the high plains between Nuwara Eliya and Uva.

CASTE SYSTEM

According to Hinduism, the entire cosmos consists of an ordered whole and a corollary of this is the caste system. This division of society into classes dates back to before Christ and, apart from its religious function, also has a social one.

Over the centuries, the main division has developed into a complex system of more than 3,000 castes and sub-castes. Which caste one belongs to is a hereditary matter. A child is born into the same caste as the parents. The higher the caste, the more obligations one has; the lower the caste, the more freedom. Marriages take place preferably within one's own caste.

The caste system is practised in Sri Lanka by both the Sinhalese and the Tamils, but its significance is less than in neighbouring India.

Politicians, of course, almost always belong to a higher caste. Very remarkable was Ranasinghe Premadasa, who became president despite belonging to one of the lowest castes, the washers or 'hena'.

Castes in Sri Lanka

High castes

Middle castes

Llow castes


Sources

Bradnock, R.W. / Sri Lanka handbook : the travel guide
Footprint Handbooks

Geetha Kumari, W.M. / Reishandboek Sri Lanka
Elmar,

Laet, R. de / Sri Lanka en de Malediven
Kosmos-Z&K

Plunkett, R. / Sri Lanka
Lonely Planet

Rokebrand, R. / Sri Lanka
Gottmer/Becht

Schiller, B. / Sri Lanka
Van Reemst

Sprang, U. / Sri Lanka : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Sri Lanka
Cambium

Te gast in Sri Lanka
Informatie Verre Reizen

Wanasundera, N.P. / Sri Lanka
Benchmark Books

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated January 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info