This chapter provides a brief historical background and a description of major events in Sri Lanka. It also provides basic political, economic, and social data arranged in the following categories: polity, economy, population, purchasing power parities, life expectancy, ethnic groups, capital, political rights, civil liberties, and status. The chapter discusses the progress and decline of political rights and civil liberties in Sri Lanka. Political instability plagued Sri Lanka in 2001, complicating President Chandrika Kumaratunga's efforts to find a solution to an ongoing civil war. In June 2001, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) withdrew from governing coalition and joined the opposition, leaving the government without a parliamentary majority. The defection came after SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem was summarily dismissed as minister for trade and shipping. Sri Lankans can change their government through elections based on universal adult suffrage. The 1978 constitution vested strong executive powers in a president who is directly elected for a six-year term and can dissolve parliament.