Troubled paradise: Sri Lanka's history in nine dates

Sri Lanka's President Ranil Wickremesinghe (C) arrives for celebrations to mark the country's 75th anniversary of independence from Britain in Colombo on February 4, 2023. PHOTO / AFP

What you need to know:

  • Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise that has spent much of its modern history at war with itself, on Saturday marked 75 years since the end of British colonial rule

Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise that has spent much of its modern history at war with itself, on Saturday marked 75 years since the end of British colonial rule.

Here are nine key dates in the history of the island nation:

 1948: Independence 
On February 4, 1948, the South Asian island of Ceylon is granted independence after more than 150 years as a colony under the British crown.

Its first government inherits an economy more prosperous than other regional countries but largely dependent on tea plantations, worked by ethnic Tamil labourers brought over from neighbouring India.

 1972: Tamil Tigers formed 
The same year Ceylon adopts a republican constitution and renames itself Sri Lanka, a separatist rebellion is launched by a Tamil armed movement.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the group later renames itself, soon begins a campaign of suicide bombings, assassinations and attacks on infrastructure that escalates into an all-out civil war.

 1987: Indian peacekeepers deployed 
Neighbouring India deploys troops to parts of Sri Lanka to maintain a fragile truce but winds up fighting the Tamil Tigers guerrillas it had previously trained and equipped. 

India withdraws in 1990 after losing more than 1,200 soldiers and the following year its former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber. 

 1993: President assassinated 
President Ranasinghe Premadasa is killed in an attack by a Tamil Tigers suicide bomber during a May Day rally in the capital Colombo.

 2004: Boxing Day tsunami 
Nearly 31,000 people are killed when the Boxing Day tsunami strikes several towns on Sri Lanka's eastern and southern coasts.

 2009: Civil war ends 
Tamil Tigers leaders are killed in a huge military assault that crushes the rebellion and ends a decades-old civil war that claimed up to 100,000 lives. 

 2015: UN urges war crimes probe 
The UN calls for an independent probe into alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lankan government forces during the civil war. 

Human rights groups say that 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the war's final weeks after indiscriminate attacks on LTTE strongholds. 

 2019: Easter Sunday bombings 
Coordinated suicide bombings on Easter Sunday church services and upscale hotels by an Islamist cell kill 279 people, prompting reprisal attacks on Sri Lanka's Muslim community. 

 2022: Economic crisis 
Sri Lanka defaults on its foreign debt after running out of foreign currency to pay for vital imports, forcing its 22 million people to endure months of food and fuel shortages. 

The resulting hardships spark huge protests that peak when a crowd storms the home of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who flees the country and issues his resignation from Singapore. 


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