Following the news, or being stuck in the daily grind, or being caught in the usual doom and gloom conversation would lead you to believe that things are perpetually at 'suck' for Sri Lankans. But is this really the case? As modern Sri Lanka turns 68, we looked at a few of the many things that make us proud as Sri Lankans.
Photos of the Sri Lankan flags by the amazing Nazly
Sri Lanka was a "pilot project" in autonomy and universal adult franchise in the British Empire, starting with the Donoughmore Constitution (1931 - 1947). This means Sri Lanka has had "one person, one vote" for 85 years now, making it the oldest democracy in Asia.
Sri Lanka's national electrification ratio is 94%, up from 70% in 2005. While we have low fixed line penetration (thanks, SLT!), our mobile penetration is pretty high:
Home to a highly proactive regulatory authority and a competitive mobile market with five operators, Sri Lanka ranks 14th globally in the 2011 mobile-cellular price basket, which measures affordability of services. That means that mobile cellular prices are among the lowest in the world, in US$ terms as well as in relative terms (as a percentage of GNI per capita), with prices dropping by over 40% between 2010 and 2011. [ITU]
While people do complain about the traffic in Colombo, expressways and roads out in the provinces are awesome: The A9 to Jaffna, the A6 to Trinco, the A11 to Batti, the A26 via the 18 hairpin bends, the A4 via Pottuvil... the list goes on. They're all great roads.
No matter how much people try to stir up the stir fry, Sri Lanka has a pretty integrated society. Everyone can name a handful of close friends from backgrounds different from their own. Sri Lankan neighbourhoods tend to be mixed, and everyone is connected through a mutual love for (and sharing of) each other's delicacies.
Sri Lanka is a welfare state. While the Americans are still figuring out the details on universal healthcare, we've had that stuff for ages. The average life expectancy of a Sri Lankan grew from 68.1 years in 1980 to 75.1 in 2012. Our Infant Mortality Rate dropped from 29 to 8 (per 1000 live births) in that same period. [UNDP]
Sri Lanka has free Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education. We have a literacy rate of 92%, the highest in South Asia. While the rest of the region is known for (sometimes violent) opposition to educating girls, Sri Lanka has the following stats:
The adult literacy rate in Sri Lanka for females is 90%. Among youth (15-24 years) the rate is 99%. Girls outnumber boys in secondary education 50.42% to 49.58% (boys). This statistic also reflects the high value placed by parents on education. Life expectancy stands at 78 years for women and 72 years for men. [Dr. Palitha Kohona/MDG]
While frequent protests and a woefully underfunded system give an impression of the Sri Lankan university system failing, there are quite a few bright sparks as well.
Sri Lanka has been known throughout history for the quality of the spices that originate on these shores. It's no surprise that Sri Lankan food is also known for the variety of spices used in them. And there's so much regional and ethnic variety that no kid running a Sri Lankan stall at a world food fair should ever worry about lack of options. Just look at this beautiful crispy isso and reconsider your migration plans.
Despite sometimes getting on the news for all the wrong reasons, Sri Lankans are pretty great people overall. We rank 8th in the world for generosity, there are annual dansals where people feed entire neighbourhoods for free, and pretty active organizations for social good.
Sri Lanka also donates a large number of corneas. The numbers are so large that in 2014, Sri Lanka exported 2551 corneas to countries including China, Pakistan, Thailand and Japan. Even late president J.R. Jayewardene, better known for his 1978 constitution, donated his eyes.
An Eye Donation Society ad from 2011
From the rolling, parallel hills of Sabaragamuwa to the chilly peaks of the central mountains, the rainforests of the Knuckles range to the savannah of Minneriya several dozen kilometres away, the coral reefs of the East, and the South, Sri Lanka has so much natural beauty packed into a tiny 66,000 square kilometre whole. You could literally go from bathing in an icy waterfall to surfing in a sunny, dry beach in the span of a couple of hours. There's not a lot of places in the world that can offer that variety.
Sri Lanka turns 68 today. There's a lot to be fixed and bettered in this country, but there's a lot going for it too. We're proud to be Sri Lankans.