About Sri Lanka

Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean. It lies just 30 kilometres south-east of India. It has mountains in the south-central region. Elsewhere it is mainly low lying with flat coastal plains. The country has many sandy beaches and lagoons.

Find out more about Sri Lanka




English Sinhala Tamil

Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%. Note: English (a link language commonly) is used in government and spoken by about 10% of the population


21.92 million (2022)


65,600 square kilometres

High Commissioner

H. E. Saroja Sirisena


Colombo (executive and judicial), Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative)

Joined Commonwealth

1948, following independence from Britain

Episode guests

Dr Danny Sriskandarajah

Dr Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah

CEO Oxfam GB

Danny joined Oxfam GB as Chief Executive in January 2019.

He previously led CIVICUS, the Johannesburg-based alliance of civil society organisations with members in more than 180 countries. Prior to that, he spent four years as Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Born in Sri Lanka in the 1970s, he was initially raised in a rural community without electricity or running water. His family was displaced by the onset of a brutal civil war and he spent time in Papua New Guinea and Australia, where he went to school and university.

In 1998 he moved to the UK and completed his Masters and Doctorate in international development at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Find out more about Danny


by From the ancient Tamil text

குறள் 595:

வெள்ளத் தனைய மலர்நீட்டம் மாந்தர்தம்
உள்ளத் தனையது உயர்வு.

With the rising flood, the lotus flower’s stem unwinds;
So too is the dignity of men; measured by their minds.


குறள் 595:

இதனை இதனால் இவன்முடிக்கும் என்றாய்ந்து
அதனை அவன்கண் விடல்.

If you deem someone can accomplish something
Leave the discharge of that duty with them.

When They Shot Him Dead

by Rudhramoorthy Cheran

When they shot him dead
everyone stood around, watching.
To tell the tale more truthfully,
they stood about
for the sole purpose of watching him
shot dead:

Before they all turned up
– army, navy and air force –
laid seige to the house
and shot him against the background
of rising smoke-plumes,

before all that happened,
what he did was nothing much:
two bullets,
one fired into the air,
the other into the earth.

those who came
to set fire to his house,
two old ladies buying betel leaves
from the local kiosk,
any number of small boys
with stones clutched in their hands,
men and women
who didn’t go to work that day.

In front of all these spectators
he died

What he did was nothing much.
There wasn’t a lot
in his house, either.

who can prevent
the looting of Tamil houses?
That was all that happened
that morning.

Fifty people came
to break down his house.
His father was an official
in the forestry department;
his gun stored in the loft
for many years.
He knew well enough how to use it.

The Buddha himself would not permit
the shooting of Sinhala soldiers:
the government knew this,
the ministers knew this.
But how was he to know?

A Plot of Land

by Rudhramoorthy Cheran

On this plot of land
my story began.

There the sea-swept
giant trees stand
the subsoil
now exposed.

It was a land in which
under a blazing sun
kind people walked;
in a few days
its language lost.

On this plot of land
no coconut trees
no huts.
Even the stories
are now captive;

a voice insists:
this is
a tale
that does not end.


by Nillanthan

This iron and this ash
are all that remains

after those who had lived
and breathed had been burnt away.

They plundered the precious remains

and heaped the bones
and the rusting ironware
in the salt-laden mud.

Now, after two seasons of rain
dreams lie rusting
in the salt fields.

The sun sinks behind trees
and drowns in the waters
of Nanthikadal.

The water fowl wait,
holding fast the last words
of those who have vanished.

Colonization In Reverse

by Louise Bennett-Coverley

Wat a joyful news, miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.

By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out a Jamaica
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!

Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
To-Englan agency.

An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.

Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see de tunabout?
Jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout’.

For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.

Jane say de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
Dat suit her dignity.

Me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.

Wat a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But me wonderin how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.


by Carol Ann Duffy

A silvery, pale-blue satin tie, freshwater in sunlight, 50p.

Charlotte Rhead, hand-painted oval bowl, circa 1930, perfect for apples, pears, oranges a child’s hand takes without a second thought, £80.

Rows of boots marking time, £4.

Shoes like history lessons, £1.99.

That jug, 30p, to fill with milk.

That mirror, £5, to look yourself in the eye.

A commemoration plate, 23 July 1986, marriage of HRH Prince Andrew to Miss Sarah Ferguson, £2.99, the size of a landmine.

Rare 1st ed. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, signed by the author -like magic, a new school – £9,000.

Pen, 10p. Pair of spectacles (longsight) £3.

P/b Fieldnotes from a Catastrophe: Report on Climate Change by Elizabeth Klobert (hindsight) 40p.

Jade earrings and necklace, somewhere a mother, £20, brand new gentleman’s suit, somewhere a brother, £30.

Everything Fairtrade