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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 17:56 GMT
Timeline: Sri Lanka
A chronology of key events
A chronology of key events:

1505 - Portuguese arrive in Colombo, marking beginning of European interest.

Sri Lankan beach
Sri Lanka's scenery is a major attraction
1815 - British become first European power to win control over whole island, known as Ceylon. Start bringing in Tamil labourers from southern India to work tea, coffee and coconut plantations.

1833 - English made official language.

1931 - British grant the right to vote and introduce power sharing.

1948 - Ceylon gains full independence.

Sinhala nationalism

1949 - Indian Tamil plantation workers disenfranchised.

1956 - Solomon Bandaranaike elected on wave of Sinhalese nationalism. Sinhala made sole official language and other measures introduced to bolster Sinhalese and Buddhist feeling.

Srimavo Bandaranaike
Srimavo Bandaranaike: World's first female premier
1959 - Bandaranaike assassinated by Buddhist monk. Succeeded by widow, Srimavo, who continues nationalisation programme.

1965 - Opposition United National Party wins elections and attempts to reverse nationalisation measures.

1970 - Srimavo Bandaranaike returns to power and extends nationalisation programme.

Ethnic tensions

1971 - Sinhalese Marxist uprising led by students and activists.

1972 - Ceylon changes its name to Sri Lanka and Buddhism given primary place as country's religion, further antagonising Tamil minority.

1976 - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formed as tensions increase in Tamil-dominated areas of north and east.

1977 - Separatist Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) party wins all seats in Tamil areas.

1983 - 13 soldiers killed in LTTE ambush, sparking anti-Tamil riots leading to the deaths of an estimated several hundred Tamils. Conflict develops in north of island between army and LTTE.

Civil war intensifies

1985 - First attempt at peace talks between government and LTTE fails.

1987 - Government forces push LTTE back into northern city of Jaffna. Government signs accords creating new councils for Tamil areas in north and east and reaches agreement with India on deployment of Indian peace-keeping force.

1988 - Left-wing and nationalist Sinhalese JVP begins campaign against Indo-Sri Lankan agreement.

1990 - Indian troops leave after getting bogged down in fighting in north. Violence between Sri Lankan army and separatists escalates.

1991 - LTTE implicated in assassination of Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi in southern India.

War and diplomacy

1993 - President Premadasa killed in LTTE bomb attack.

Colombo bomb attack
Bomb blasts are a major feature of the war
1994 - President Kumaratunga comes to power pledging to end war. Peace talks opened with LTTE.

1995 - Peace talks collapse and LTTE resumes bombing campaign. Government launches major offensive, driving separatists out of Jaffna.

1996 - State of emergency extended across the country after LTTE bombs capital, Colombo.

1997 - Another major government offensive against LTTE.

1998 - Tigers bomb Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist site. Tigers capture key northern town after intensive fighting.

1999 - President Kumaratunga is wounded in a bomb attack at an election rally. She is re-elected president.

2000 February - Norway says it will act as intermediary in peace push.

2000 April - LTTE captures strategic Elephant Pass in north of island.

2000 October - President Kumaratunga's People's Alliance wins general elections.

2000 November - LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran offers unconditional peace talks.

2000 December - LTTE ceasefire offer is rejected by government.

2001 February - Britain labels LTTE as "terrorists" under new anti-terrorism law designed to halt funding and support for UK-based militant groups.

July - President Kumaratunga suspends parliament for two months to save her minority government from defeat in a no-confidence vote.

One of the many planes wrecked in the attack on Sri Lanka's international airport
Airport attack: Aftermath of the rebel raid
24 July - Suicide attack by Tamil Tigers on the international airport kills 14.

October - Kumaratunga dissolves parliament hours before a no-confidence vote which her Marxist-backed minority government seemed likely to lose. Elections set for 5 December.

9 December - New cabinet, led by Ranil Wickramasinghe, is sworn in after the opposition United National Party narrowly won the parliamentary election.

19 December - Tigers announce month-long ceasefire to start on 24 December.

21 December - The government says it will also observe month-long truce.


15 January - The government eases its seven-year embargo on goods, food and medicines entering the northern rebel-controlled areas.

21 January - Both sides extend temporary ceasefire by another month.

21 Feb - The Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tiger rebels agree to a permanent ceasefire to pave the way for peace talks.

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