HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
According to Localcollegeexplorer, Sri Lanka is an island state of South Asia. The population estimated in 2006 was about 20.2 million residents (just over 300 residents / km 2). The capital, from a commercial point of view, remained Colombo (648,000 residents in 2003), while the Parliament was transferred (in 1982) to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (also called Kotte), a small town just east of Colombo; other important urban centers are Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia (210,000 residents at the 2001 census) and Moratuwa (177,190 residents). Of the two main ethnic groups, Sinhalese (82%, mainly Buddhists) and Tamils (9.4%, Hindus and Muslims), there are historically strong tensions, which resulted in a real conflict during the 1980s. In 2002 it was agreed between the government and Tamil guerrillas, but subsequent negotiations for the peace process suffered a setback in 2003, with frequent violations of the ceasefire (v. Story over).
The demographic indicators are characterized by a sharp decline in mortality (5.8 ‰ in 2004) and a still high but decreasing birth rate (18.5 ‰). These trends, together with a life expectancy at birth of 71 years for males and 77 for females, and a high degree of literacy (over 90%) make SL one of the relatively more developed countries in the area, despite the the persistence of some pockets of poverty concentrated mainly in rural areas. The tsunami of 2004 hit 13 of 14 coastal districts (especially in the east), causing thousands of deaths and extensive damage to homes and infrastructure. However, according to national sources, in 2005 the GDP grew by 6.2%, also thanks to the boost given by the reconstruction. The main agricultural productions concern rice, tea (of which it is among the major exporters in the world) and rubber; among the manufacturing sectors, the textile and clothing sector is growing, thanks also to international demand. The strong outgoing migratory flows ensure a significant contribution to the balance of payments through remittances from abroad. The tourism, also hampered by poor security, it is much reduced, and, after the tsunami of 2004, has undergone a further decline (549,300 arrivals in 2005).
The failure to resolve the ethnic contrasts existing between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, which claimed the independence of the north-eastern territories, continued to heavily influence, on the threshold of the 21st century, the political and social life of the country, feeding a crescendo of violence and terror that affected above all the civilian population, decimated by the reprisals of the various factions and by terrorist attacks. According to estimates by international humanitarian organizations, the civil war that has raged for almost two decades has cost the lives of more than 60,000 people, increasingly involving children, forcibly enlisted by Tamil guerrillas in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (LTTE), and had compromised the country’s already fragile economy.
The governments that had succeeded each other in power, revolving around the main political parties of the island, the conservative United National Party (UNP) and the progressive Sri La nka Freedom Party (SLFP), in an attempt to reach a solution, had alternated the recourse to the armed confrontation with diplomacy, with poor results on both fronts.
The line of cautious opening initiated by the president, Mrs. CB Kumaratunga, leader of the SLFP, in power since 1994, and by the executive of which the SLFP represented the majority party, was initially opposed by the UNP, which only faced a resurgence of military clashes, at the beginning of 2000, finally said he was willing to support the proposals for autonomy put forward by the government, a prerequisite for a resumption of dialogue with the LTTE. However, the new mediation attempts, sponsored by the Norwegian government, met with repeated failures and failed to put an end to the armed conflict.
In a climate of strong tension, legislative elections took place in October 2000 . People’s Alliance, a political coalition hegemonized by Kumaratunga and his party, obtained 107 seats, against 89 of the UNP, and formed a coalition government with other minor parties led by R. Wickremanayake. In the following December, the LTTE proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire which, however, was not welcomed by the government, as it was considered only a tactical expedient of the guerrillas, in difficulty on the military front. The LTTE decided to extend the truce in February 2001 and called for the reopening of negotiations, but over the following months the attacks continued.
Undermined by internal conflicts, in October 2001 the government went into crisis and new political elections were held in December. People’s Alliance, weakened by the poor progress achieved in the pacification process and by the authoritarian attitudes assumed on several occasions by Kumaratunga, was defeated (77 seats), and the UNP (109 seats) was established, whose leader R. Wickremasinghe assumed the post of Prime Minister. The latter resumed dialogue with the guerrillas and faced with the indefinite truce they proclaimed in February 2002, intensified contacts to reach a reopening of negotiations. The talks officially resumed the following September and continued in 2003, suggesting the possibility of an effective agreement, since for the first time the Tamil guerrillas, having abandoned the request for independence, accepted the proposal for a broad regional autonomy within a federal state. Thwarted by the Sinhalese nationalist parties and by Kumaratunga, who considered the concessions made to the guerrillas excessive, the negotiations suffered an abrupt halt in April 2003, when the Tamil tigers withdrew from the negotiations considering some of their requests disregarded. Although the truce was officially maintained, a resurgence of violence was recorded again and the tension began to grow again fueled by the contrasts that arose in the Tamil camp, divided (March 2004) into two opposing factions. During 2004 the disagreement between the prime minister and the president intensified, also following the new attacks by Kumaratunga on the prerogatives of Parliament (in January 2004 he extended his mandate by one year), and the mobilization of nationalist parties against the agreements of peace. The elections of April 2004 marked the victory of the electoral alliance led by the SFLP (105 seats) and the defeat of the UNP (82 seats); M. Rajapakse was appointed prime minister. In a climate of strong tension (in 2005 the foreign minister was assassinated), the presidential elections were held in the following November, won by Rajapakse. The post of prime minister was assumed by Wickremanayake. The new president said he was willing to resume negotiations with the guerrillas, but during 2006 the clashes between the army and the rebels became more and more frequent and the attacks resumed (particularly the one of Oct. 2006 against a military post). in the north of the country which caused about 100 victims and numerous injuries).