Country Listing

Sri Lanka Table of Contents

Sri Lanka



Dutch fort, Galle
Courtesy Doranne Jacobson


Figure 12. Enlisted Rank Insignia, 1988


Figure 13. Officer Rank Insignia, 1988

The armed forces of Sri Lanka bear the clear imprint of the British institutions and traditions that shaped them. The army was initially formed as a volunteer force to supplement the British military presence in the late nineteenth century, and British leadership of Sri Lankan troops continued through World War II. Even after independence, Britain continued to play a major role in training, equipping, and symbolically leading of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the armed forces were greatly expanded and regularized in an attempt to cope with the growing problems of domestic instability. Despite these efforts, the military still lacked both the strength and the training to handle the crises that confronted the nation, and on two occasions the Sri Lankan government asked India to send in troops to restore internal order.

Because of their limited size and the pressing demands of internal security, the military forces have not been deployed overseas. Rare exceptions have been the dispatch of small military observer groups, in connection with international peacekeeping efforts, such as the United Nations force on the Indo-Pakistani border in 1966. In their largely domestic mission of internal defense, the armed forces resemble the paramilitary and police forces of larger nations. Since independence, their role has gradually expanded to include counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, controlling illegal immigration and smuggling, protecting vital institutions and government officials, and providing emergency relief during national disasters.

Data as of October 1988