February 4, 2010

Sri Lanka Independence Day

On this day in 1948, the nation of Ceylon became independent of Great Britain.

And in 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka.

This is an island nation off the coast of India. It has been called many different names since ancient times. The current name means
“honored (or resplendent) island” in Sanskrit. The weather is warm and tropical, and the island is home to elephants, leopards, deer, buffalo, monkeys, and giant monitor lizards over six feet long!

It is also, of course, home to people. Unfortunately, there have been problems between the two most populous groups, the Sinhalese and the Tamil. The nation is supposed to be democratic, but there are not enough constitutional guarantees of rights to prevent the majority from “democratically” voting to take away rights from the minority. In choices about the flag and the official language, for example, the Sinhalese made choices that made the nation seem like a Sinhalese nation-state. There was even talk of making Buddhism the national religion—just because it was the majority religion. Most of the Tamil want their own nation in the northern part of the island, but the government of Sri Lanka has not granted the Tamil independence.

Who's right, and who's wrong? It's complicated. To some extent, just carving up a nation into smaller nations doesn't necessarily solve all problems. For example, what about Sinahalese people who live in the northern “Tamil” part of the island, and Tamil people who want to live outside of that portion? If the two peoples cannot get along in a single nation, will there be battles and wars between them when they are two nations? Should small countries (or even large ones) let splinter groups break off from the country willy-nilly, any old time? Doe
sn't making a particular language or religion the “national” language or religion leave out those who don't speak or believe the “right” one? Are the left-out people just being sensitive if they feel like second-class citizens? It's not always easy to answer these kinds of questions.

Sadly, in the case of Sri Lanka, there was a long civil war (from 1983 to 2009), people on both sides did bad things, and people on both sides died. Many of the Tamil left their beloved island home and now live in such
places as England and Australia, and an overwhelming majority of the Tamil still feel like they want AND DESERVE their own nation.

Turning a
way from this sad topic, Sri Lanka has some claims to fame in very positive ways.

The Worl
d's First Female Prime Minister!
In 1960, Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office as
prime minster, the first woman to do so in any nation in the world.

A World-Class Sci-Fi Writer!

From 1956 until his death in 2008, scientist, science writer and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke lived in Sri Lanka. He moved there because he loved scuba diving, but he remained a “world citizen,” writing about and discussing with others the problems and opportunities that faced the whole Earth.

Arthur C. Clarke is most famous for 2001: A Space Odyssey (the book and the movie) and its sequels, the short story “The Star,” Childhood's End and the Rama series and computer ga

Animals of
Sri Lanka
The World Is Not Flat” has some interesting photos of animals in Sri Lanka. From a goat chilling at a big-city intersection to a scorpion threatening to attack, the photos show a range of critters.

The Lakpura Travels website has a short video showing an elephant orphanage.

Sri Lanka Greetings is an online shop for greeting cards. You can enjoy a peek at some of the nation's colorful animals by clicking on the word “SEND” under each small animal picture. (You don't actually have to send the card—just use the back arrow to go back to the menu page and choose another animal to look at close-up.)

Sights of Sri Lanka

Speaking of Sri Lanka Greetings, the “Historic Places” and “Sights of Sri Lanka” cards are also delightful to explore.

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