21 May, 2024


Facts And Fallacies Of Muslim Population In Sri Lanka

By Nimal Siripala –

Nimal Siripala

Anti-Muslim campaigns have been on the rise in the recent past across Sri Lanka – raising the spectre of Muslims being an existential threat to Buddhism and the Sinhala race due to their increase in numbers and growing economic domination.

The perceived demographic threat that Muslims will overtake the Sinhala race in size of the population is a fallacy that has gained ground and coupled with the claim that the wealth of the nation is under the control of Muslims, has contributed to producing a fear psychosis in the minds of even moderate Sinhala Buddhists. This, in turn, fuels the already vicious rhetoric of hardliners who are bent on causing disaffection among the largely cohesive, peace-loving people of this country. The public discourse is a growing hotbed of misinformation, distortion and fear-mongering.

People who hold extreme views blame those who contradict them as representatives of NGOs funded by the West or sponsored by Muslims. Therefore, it is essential that moderate people of all communities discuss some of these falsehoods openly rather than leaving space for extremists on both sides to throw unsubstantiated accusations.  

The three prevalent fallacies circulating in the media, including social media, and in places of worship and public gatherings, are that:

1. The Muslim community is growing so fast that by 2100 Sri Lanka will become a Muslim majority country.

2. In 15 years, Muslim children under 8 years of age in Sri Lanka will be 52% of the national population.

3. The Sinhalese population in Colombo, which was 51% in 1951, has already plunged to 10%.

This essay addresses all these misconceptions starting with the fallacy that the Muslim community is propagating so fast that Sri Lanka will soon be a Muslim majority country.

This is the most sweeping statement that influences the Sinhalese to feel a sense of insecurity for their children’s future and fear that the Sinhala Buddhist nation would soon come to an end.

The relatively high growth rates of the Muslim population between 1981 and 2011, compared to that of non-Muslims, have been perceived as a threat to the dominant position of the Sinhalese. As this has become an issue of concern to many, it was raised at an official gathering held at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training and Research Institute (HARTI) recently. Answering a query raised by the audience, the Director – Population Census and Demography Division of the Department of Census and Statistics Ms Indu Bandara stated: “Sinhala and Muslim populations had increased at the rate of 1.04% and 1.87% respectively between 1981 and 2012, but it is not a threat to the Sinhala people, contrary to claims made in some quarters.” She further added, “It is also false to state that the Muslim population is higher than the Sinhala population within the Colombo Municipal Council area. (Population: Census Expert Disputes Anti-Muslim Claims. The Island. March 18th 2013

A full-page article published in the ‘Mawbima ’newspaper used official demographic statistics* to convince readers that the Sinhalese population is diminishing while the Muslim community is increasing.  This article was highlighted during an early morning TV programme.  Again, on 30th May 2018, it was followed by another article by the same writer concluding: ජනගහන දත්ත අනුව පෙනෙන්නේ මේ යන විදියට මුස්ලිවරුන් මෙරට මහ ජාතිය වන බවයි– (Translated as “According to the Census data, it seems that Muslims will be the majority in the country.”) This article, too, using population statistics, argued that Muslims would become the majority in this country.

Official figures indicate an increase in Muslim population as a percentage of the total population from 7.4 % (1981 census) to 9.5% (2011 census) – Meaning total Muslim population has increased by 78% during these thirty years. This is a piece of information that is used continuously to build several alarmist scenarios and amplify the fallacy that Sri Lanka will become a ‘Muslim country’ in 2100.

Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila has held an extraordinary press conference at which he claimed that he has obtained unpublished data of the 2012 Census from the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS). With this data, he states that he can confirm that the Sinhala population will be extinct because the Muslim child population, as a percentage of the total child population, is higher than that of the Sinhalese child population and has increased by three times compared with the increase of the Sinhala population. This is a decisive turn in this debate as he has used official data of the child population to analyses general population growth. But, analysed further, it shows that his interpretation is incorrect and data used is inappropriate to explain population growth.

Therefore, this essay presents a more comprehensive analysis to refute this dramatisation and persuade readers to address these issues based on evidence.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

First, let us see the historical population dynamics. According to Table 1 in the 80 years 1931-2011, the total population of the country increased by over 15 million with the increase in the number of the Sinhala community being over 12 million and the Muslim community a little over 1.7 million.  

During the period 1981 to 2011, the Muslims had the highest annual average percentage growth of 2.6%. Based on this rate, the 2011 Muslim population of 1,936,700 would take nearly 200 years to come even close to the 2011 Sinhala population of 15,250,100, assuming that the Sinhala population would remain static during this time is very unlikely. Thus, during both periods when one Muslim person was added to the population, the Sinhalese added an average of seven. Therefore, the notion of the Muslim population exceeding that of Sinhala population by Muslims is a long-distance target that can succeed only if the Muslim had a continuous increase of population growth more than Sinhalese for several hundred years to come.

It is essential to open a space to analyse the multiple factors that affect the growth of communities, rather than making projections based on one period.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

According to table 2, there is a continuous increase in the proportion of Sinhalese from 65.5% in 1931 to 74.9% in 2011. As a percentage share, the Sinhala population has risen by 9.4% units (or 11.8 million people). During this period, the Sinhala population has increased as a percentage of the total population much higher than that of all other communities. The other ethnic group which has shown a continuous increase in its proportion is the Muslims, but at a slower rate compared to that of the Sinhalese. They have increased their population share from 6.4 % to 9.5. The population of all other ethnic groups, as a percentage of totals, has either been constant or has declined.

If the two full censuses of 1981 and 2011 are compared, the Sinhalese did not achieve the same rate of increase they had made earlier. Instead, their proportion has increased only by 1% (4.2million) whereas the Muslims had a 2.1% (0.8million) increase. Without considering the historical changes, this recent increase of the population of Muslims has been used to portray a false scenario of grave danger to the Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka being turned into a minority.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

According to table 3, the average growth pattern between censuses during the last 100-year period, the population growth of Muslims was not always higher than the growth of the Sinhala population. The growth rate of Muslims also keeps diminishing but at a lower rate than that of the Sinhalese.

Considering the migration and other social development of the community such as education, late marriages and women engaging in employment current growth rate of Muslim population will start falling as time goes.  It was noted that the average age of marriage for Muslim women is increasing.

Currently, Muslim women’s average age of marriage differs from the Sinhalese by less than one year. According to the 2011 Census, the average age of marriage for Muslim women is 22.7 years, while it is 23.4 for Sinhala women (Census of Population and Housing  2012 Table 5.11 : Mean age at marriage by ethnicity, 2012). But a myth has been created in the society to depict that most Muslim marriages are underage marriages.

The highest birth rate can be found not in Muslim countries but among the poorest countries in the world. Poverty and lower education levels have an immense impact on the growth of the population. When Muslim women get educated and become employed, they will tend to have fewer children. For example, in Iran, women’s fertility has dropped dramatically. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and Algeria are some examples of reduced population growth. This trend is visible among the educated Muslims in Sri Lanka too.   

This essay examines the general population growth and also the trends of current births by ethnicity. This is important because current births are the sole driver of the population increase in the years to come. Rather than limiting our observation to in-between censuses, it is necessary to have a more in-depth understanding of the pattern of births in recent years.

As previously mentioned, recently, parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila revealed his new findings during a news conference (Press conference, Udaya Gammanpila, Hiru News). He has taken extra effort to get official data from the Department of Census and Statistics and derived some tables to prove the expansion of Muslim population based on the children population.   As unbiased researchers, we have to commend his effort openly because he has tried to introduce official statistics while rejecting the popular misconceptions,  he tried to prove,  and which are not substantiated by official statistics.

Contrary to what Mr Udaya Gammanpila claims information of children population by ethnicity is published by the DCS. Please see the population tables on the website of DCS. The table A9 gives the population by ethnic group, age and sex, and Table A7 is population by religion, age and sex. Therefore there is no need to make any request to the DG Census to get the information he presents.

He argues that, due to the higher rate of increase of child population of Muslims during the five-year period which ends in 2012 Census day (12-03-2012,), the Sinhala population will start reaching the brink of extinction. This is not a scientific analysis as he claimed because the data, he uses is not suitable to prove his proposition.

A statistician will not use the data in the same Census to explain the population dynamics and call it the population growth as Udaya Gammanpila has done. Because the Census is a snapshot of the population of the country at a particular time, and it is static; therefore, it is not suitable to compare the population dynamics. This ought to be done by comparing several censuses and also by using vital statistics such as registration of births. 

However, let us look at his calculations and interpretations. He compares the children population who are under five in 2012, (born during 2008-2012) against the group of children born in the previous five-year period (born during 2003-2007) and currently identified within the 5-9 age group. Thus, he gets a 1.4% growth for Muslims and a 0.5% increase for Sinhalese. He argues that since the Muslim population increases at a higher rate of 1.4% it is officially accepted that the Sinhala population will be extinct and what happened to the Bamiyan Buddhist statue in Afghanistan would likely to happen to the Awukana Buddha statue.   

It is wrong to interpret the comparison of numbers of two chid groups living at the same time as population growth. The table below presented by him gives his calculations.

If the same method of calculation was  used  to find the growth rate  of  the  group of children born within the previous five year period,  (born in 2003-2007 and  who are  currently in the age bracket of 5-9)  and compared it with the ones in the age group of 10-14  you will find five years ago the Sinhalese child population had a growth rate of 8.4%, and Muslim children had a 4% growth.

If the same data were taken from the 1981 and 2011 Censuses and compared, it shows that during the period, the average annual growth rate of the Sinhalese child population under five years’ age is 6.4 % while it is 4.4% for the Muslims. It implies that during the last 30 years, the Sinhalese child population under five grew at a higher rate than that of Muslims. 

How would he interpret these growth rates? Would he be able to say the Sinhala population is going to be extinct when it grew at more than double the growth rate of the Muslims? This is the question we have to ask him. It’s entirely wrong to use one time one piece of information to make long term projections when there are historical data is available.

This short analysis proves that the age bracket comparison within the same census to project population growth does not give any meaningful results and is not suitable to project future population. This is because population growth is impacted by several factors which have been discussed in this document and are discussed by many academics and demographer

Against this backdrop, it is more logical to use the rate of annual childbirth to see whether the Muslim community is deliberately attempting to override the Sinhala population.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

Table 4 shows the behaviour of annual average growth of population, the percentage of the Sinhalese and Muslims of the total population and the nature of the gap built during the period. The number of total births that occurred in 1992 is 356,842. During the last 24 years, the total population under 24 was built up to more than 8 million (8,551,712) by 2015. This group is a large proportion of the total population, which gets added to every year. If we analyse the rate of build-up of the Sinhala and Muslim population under 24 years, during this period the Sinhala population has an annual average growth of 14.8% while Muslim has a little higher rate of 15.5%. Most importantly, there is no significant distinction between their increase ( Please see rows 9 and 10).

The positive and negative numbers in rows 5, 6 and 7 show the annual growth rate of births for each year. But what is evident is that there is no consistent pattern of increase (or decrease) in Muslim births. This means that there is no deliberate programme of increasing the Muslim population. Please see Figure 1 below for the changing pattern of the births.

Graph 1, clearly shows that from the last decade of the previous century, the Sinhala population almost had negative growth. But from the year 2000 onwards, both Sinhala and Muslims have a similar growth pattern. The initial positive growth rate of Muslims has given a higher rate for the whole period compared to that of Sinhalese. Otherwise, there would not be much difference in the growth rate of both communities for the entire period.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

When we look at the year 1992 in table 4, the number of newborn children to Sinhalese were 254203 and birth of Muslims children was 37,302. Therefore, the gap or the number of children born to Sinhalese over the ones born to Muslims in 1992 was 216901. And by 2015, the gap or the total number of children born after 1992 for Sinhalese and others over the number of children born to Muslims has expanded from 216901 to 5017827 (Please see the graph 2)

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

The changes mentioned above are graphically illustrated here. The upper grey coloured part shows the total Sinhala population born during the last 24 years period in Sri Lanka. In 1992 254,203 births were recorded by mothers with Sinhala ethnicity. After 24 years, the accumulated number of the Sinhala population by birth has reached more than six million (6,045,612). In the same way, mothers of Muslim ethnicity recorded 37,302 births in 1992, and in 24 years they should have just over one million (1,027,783). Please see the tiny green strip to see the accumulated Muslim population during this period.

It is not surprising to see that the gap between Sinhalese and Muslims born after 1992 is alarmingly high with time. The amber colour strip depicts the gap or the excess created over Muslim during this period. The excess of Sinhalese over Muslims has risen from 216,902 to 5,017,829 or from around a quarter of a million to more than five million within these 24 years after 1992. This is a piece of clear evidence to show that a small community with a moderate growth rate, similar to that of the Sri Lankan Muslims, cannot override a majority community only by reproduction.  It needs enormously high birth rates or very high immigration, which is not relevant in the Sri Lankan context.

It implies that if the population growths of the communities continue at the current prevailing rate, which is very unlikely the gap will further widen for more than 100 years and will start converging only after 200 years if the Muslim population remain forever with the current growth rate.

It is argued that if the Muslims population growth stays higher than that of the Sinhalese continuously, at some period, it could exceed the numbers of the Sinhala population. But this is as farfetched as the possibility of the Sri Lankan economy, which used to have 5.5% average growth rate in terms of national income, outstripping the trillion dollars national income of USA because the US growth rate is always lower than that old Sri Lanka.  

Although in mathematical terms these predictions could be made, in reality, demographic changes are caused by multiple socio-economic factors such as poverty, education, employment of women, internal and external migration, the lack of and the cost of childcare facilities and the desire to have a better quality of life.  It is noticeable that in the richer countries in Europe, the fertility rate of second-generation Muslim migrants has dropped significantly. It is also evident that urban Muslim families, similar to the other communities in Sri Lanka, have lesser numbers of children. Mr Udaya Gammanpila admitted this in discussion with Minister Rauff Hakeem. Therefore, unending high growth for Muslims for hundreds of years  is unlikely. The annual average population growth rate of Muslims was at 2.9 % in the 1953/63 period and 1.9% in the period 1981/2011, and it is likely to be lower in the years to come.

Source: Registrar General’s Department – 2014

Table 5 is quite clear as it shows the number of births registered by age and ethnicity of the mother. It appears that a number of Muslim women are getting married in their teenage years and producing children earlier than later, while, Sinhalese and other groups are more prone to marry later and produce children later. However, there is no indication that by marrying early, Muslims are producing an overly large number of children, though early marriage is a social concern for other reasons and Muslim women are advocating amending Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.  All these facts ridicule the idea that the Muslim community is growing so fast that by 2100 Sri Lanka will become a Muslim majority country.

Fallacy Number 2: Muslim child population under eight years of age will exceed the number of non-Muslim children under eight in 15 years by 52% to 48

Even for well-experienced statistical analysts, busting fallacies is more difficult than proving facts. People are increasingly confronted with the above statement. It could trigger both anxiety and confusion, with people not having the time or ability to analyse the statement. Consequently, it is likely to be taken as the truth.  

Therefore, it is useful to do some simple calculations to find out the annual rate of increase of Muslim births required to exceed the population of non-Muslim children less than eight years of age and reach 52% of the total population under eight years– pushing the proportion of Sinhala and other ethnicities to less than 48%.

Alarmists had portrayed that by 2030, the total population of children less than eight years of age will be above 6 million, with the Muslim child population totalling 3.2 million the children of Sinhala and other communities totalling 3 million. Currently, Muslim children less than eight years are around 12% of the total population of children under eight. To increase it to 52% they have to raise their number of births in 2013 from 44,284 to over 648,208 in 2030 while assuming that the Sinhalese and others have a moderate increase of 1.04%. Therefore, Muslims have to increase their number of births annually by more than 17% compared with the current rate, which is around 2%. This means that Muslims have to increase their number of new births by an unbelievable 1364% from 2013 to 2030. Currently amongst Sinhalese and others, out of 100 women of childbearing age there are eight births per year while 100 Muslim women in this age bracket give birth to ten children per year. In 2030, based on the present trend, there will be 2.59 million (86.3 %) Sinhalese children less than eight years, and for the Muslims, the figure would be 0.397 million (13.7%) and not what the picture that alarmists portray.

Juggling with statistics lead people to believe that the statements on which fear-mongering is based are authentic. Although some can argue that this statement is absurd and unbelievable, the harm it will cause is enormous. The volume of ‘sharing’ of this fallacy on the internet (see sensational caption in Sinhala image above) and the ‘likes’ received, and comments made the online show the level of acceptance of this misguided statement.

Even the parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila in the Balaya TV programme together with the then Minister Rauff Hakeem specifically mentioned that a doctor and a priest had told him the same thing. If there are such believers among the doctors and priests, even when Gammanpila has a suspicion, we can imagine the belief of the ordinary Sinhala population.

Equally, the Government’s family planning programme is portrayed as a dangerous scheme to the advantage of Muslims by reducing the Sinhala population.

Population statistics of Sri Lanka show a gradual decline of the birth rate of all Sri Lankan communities and the family planning programmes introduced in the mid-1960s are often blamed for this decline. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), family planning is a strategy to improve sexual and reproductive health and is a vital pillar of the overall health, empowerment, and human rights of individuals and the sustainable and equitable development of societies.

Family planning is seen as the culprit for the observed reduction of the Sinhalese population and as a conspiracy of the West, but when the policy was rolled out, almost all the politicians, policy planners, administrators and citizens welcomed family planning as a remedy for poverty, unemployment and overpopulation. The participation of the broader community in family planning is around 65% of the population. It had a worldwide attraction in the 1960s and ’70s because poverty, rising populations and unemployment were critical issues in many developing countries.

Just a few days before his demise, one of the architects of the family planning programme Dr Wickrema Weerasooria wrote this in reviewing a book authored by Dr Sarath Amunugama on 9th December 2018.

As everyone knows, the late Lalith Athulathmudali helped me to put Family Planning above party politics …   I also got the approval of my Minister-President Jayewardene to appoint Siva Obeysekera, a former Health Minister in the SLFP government, to head the International Review Programmes …….. I was ably assisted by all the NGOs working in this field such as the Family Planning Association at that time led by DayaAbeywickrema and Community Development Services led by Brigadier Dennis Hapugalle.

I can still remember the slogans which he helped me to print on envelopes at the Government Printers which ran as follows: Punchi Pavula Raththaran – Api Dennai – Daru Dennai,…Those were the catchy slogans. … provided to me by Dr Amunugama.”(Why Amunugama most qualified person to pen “dreams of changes” The Sunday Times, 9/12/2018)

This Family planning policy got support not only from the policymakers but from almost all the politicians and from many ordinary Sri Lankans.

However, in the last few years, a large number of prelates, academics, politicians, artists and many others have expressed their grave dissatisfaction about the family planning programme policy of two children. The “Punchi Pavula Rattharan” concept, promoted in the ’70s, is repeatedly blamed for the decline of the fertility of Sinhalese women. Statements from leading personalities condemning the family planning programme as a Western and NGO-guided programme to reduce the Sinhala Buddhist population in the Buddhist country appear at regular intervals.

In recent history, this policy was shown as a curse Ven. Soma Thera, who became the beacon of Buddhist youth, provocatively propagated the idea that: “The Sinhala population will disappear in 50 years. In 40 years, the Sinhala population and the Muslim population will be equal. And by that time, Muslims will be the ones who will have all the power.  When your child is grown up, he will have to change his religion and name to get a job.” This sermon delivered 15 years ago, and it is ridiculous to believe that Sinhala and Muslim population will be equal in another 25 years’ time.

Recently a former President and then Minister of Finance expressed his views “Before we had eight and nine children in our families and now it is one or two or maximum of three. Our race is gradually nearing extinction. As I have seen, other than the terrible living conditions one side, it is the government’s conspiracy to reduce our population.

Musician, singer, composer and a former director of music education and director of Sri Lanka Rupavahini, Corporation participating in one of the popular TV programmes expressed his utter dissatisfaction about the family planning programme. This would have created a negative impact of the family planning programmes in the minds of viewers countrywide as he is a popular figure. The attack on the Family Planning Clinic in Bandaragama about four years ago is an example where the human rights of many women were grossly violated. A monk led this attack.  He even forced school children in uniforms to participate. It was an aggressive protest and doctors at the hospital had to abandon the family planning procedure scheduled for 40 selected women over 34 years of age. The monk argued that it would further reduce the Sinhala population. The monk was not charged for the offence of disturbing the functioning of a government department and intimidating the staff.

Surprisingly, again on 22nd October 2018 (Divaina Paper 22 October 2018) the former leader of JHU and Southern Province Chief Sanga Nayaka, Dr Omalpe Sobitha Thero, addressing a ceremony at Matara, presented new statistics. According to him, the Sinhala population during the last 15 years declined from 78% to the current level of 60%, which is contrary to the figure published by the DCS, which shows that the Sinhala population was 75% of the total population. (Please see Table 2). According to Dr Omalpe Sobitha Thero, there is a 15% reduction of the Sinhala people in the last six-year period, which is not possible.

Also, he mentions that during the previous 31 years, i.e. between 1982 and 2012, there is a reduction of four million births of Sinhalese children. According to official statistics over the last 25-year period, the number of birth of Sinhalese were nearly seven million (Please see Graph 2). Therefore, his statement that there is a reduction of four million births is not acceptable.

Regrettably, people occupying venerated positions keep on with this rhetoric without substantiating it with any reliable information.         

Interestingly, none of these protests or campaigns by monks or their followers were able to increase the birth rate among Sinhalese women. Failing to achieve much, the extremists have now resorted to spreading falsehoods, which not only a plea to increase birth rate of the Sinhalese but also attack the economic base of the Muslims. These extremists have spread ridiculous claims that Muslims were not only expanding their population but also manipulating to reduce the Sinhala population by unscrupulous methods. Sinhala women are warned not to patronise Muslim-owned clothing stores because they were serving toffees and selling garments that would make Sinhalese women and men infertile. Another fallacy which was circulated widely and believed was that Muslim eateries and restaurants were adding infertility drugs (vandabeheth) to the food served to the Sinhalese. Leading doctors had to make statements and hold media conferences to debunk the notion that infertility drugs could be administered through food and clothing. Despite the assertions by leading doctors, the vandabeheth theory is repeated even now by persons occupying esteemed positions in the religious hierarchy.

The accusation of Dr Shafi on sterilisation of 4000 Sinhalese women is one of the worst types of drama orchestrated by interested parties and culminated with the resignation of  Muslim ministers. The undemocratic aspect of this episode is that relevant authorities were not allowed to conduct independent investigation to reveal the truth.   

These malicious fallacies created and spread throughout the country are aimed at undermining racial harmony and generating another wave of violence which will serve the needs of the unscrupulous politicians and others who stand to benefit at the expense of the country. The propaganda to spread the notion that in 15 years, Muslim children under eight years of age in Sri Lanka will be 52% of the national population is to spread fear psychosis and also a feeble attempt to encourage Sinhala women to avoid birth control which is their human right.

Fallacy Number 3: The Colombo Sinhalese population which was 51% in 1951 plunged to 10%

There is no evidence that the Sinhalese population of Colombo is 10%. However, as the media also seems to be giving prominence to these types of statements, it is necessary to examine this claim further. A leading newspaper (Mawbima) published a full-page news item on this subject on the 26th of February 2018. According to the newspaper, a Buddhist prelate made such a declaration at a ceremony to award diplomas to Montessori trained teachers. The ulterior motive of this message appears to be to portray Muslims as controllers of the heart of the country, and it is the capital city –creating a fear psychosis among the majority community.

According to the population census of 2011, conducted by the Department of Census &Statistics, the proportion of Sinhalese in the Colombo Municipality is 37%, which is the highest proportion of the total population in the Municipality. The proportion of Muslim and Tamil communities registered within the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) area are around 30%. Please see Table 8 below, which gives the official statistics.    

It is an impossible task to reduce the Sinhalese population from 37% to 10% within five or six years.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

However, this opens up some areas for interesting research. If only the Colombo Divisional Secretariat (DS) area is enumerated, the Muslim population is the largest group, comprising approximately 41%. The Sinhalese community in the Colombo Divisional Secretariat area is 25%, which is lower than that of the Sri Lankan Tamils too. Colombo Divisional Secretariat excludes Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Kirulapana, Borella, Dematagoda, Narahenpita, etc. which are under the Thimbirigasyaya Divisional Secretariat, although they are included in the larger Colombo MC area.

Source: Department of Census and Statistics

It is not surprising if there is a decline in the Sinhala population in the Colombo Divisional Secretariat area because the total population of the Colombo MC has declined from 642,000 to 561,000 during the ten years from 2001. A decline was mainly shown because of the new enumeration methodology used by the Department of Census and Statistics during the 2011 Census. The 2001 Colombo DS Census data has not been adjusted to be comparable with 2011 Census data, but it still confirms that the Muslim population is high in Colombo DS area. The decline of population in the Colombo DS is close to 60,000 people during the last two censuses.

During this period, nearly 40,000 Sinhalese moved their residency out of the Colombo DS area, and around 6,000 Muslims chose to move into the Colombo DS area as their new residency. On average, some 4,100 Sinhalese left Colombo DS while 580 Muslims came in during each year. It implies that there is no high-level influx of Muslims into Colombo. Instead, the population normally residing in Colombo DS  is shrinking. As a percentage, the Sinhala population contracts not because of the inflow of Muslims into the city but more likely because the Sinhalese left the city preferring a better life away from congested inner-city areas and also due to change of enumerating system from de facto* to dejure** in 2011. (Enumeration based on the place where the person enumerated was on the night of the enumeration day – ** Enumeration based on the place where the person enumerated normally resides)

Rather than having any preconception about the rise of the Muslim population in Colombo, it is essential to analyse demographical changes using historical information. Historically Colombo used to be a highly populous city with its density more than that of many cities of the world.

The following was extracted from the “The Colombo MC Centenary volume 1865-1965“: “Mrs I. Kannangara, Deputy Director of Census and Statistics, shows in her interesting and authoritative monograph entitled a Demographic Study of the City of Colombo that Colombo was in 1953 ninety-five times as densely crowded as the rest of the Island. It had a population density greater than London, New York, Montreal, Birmingham and Liverpool.”

The same document gives the population of Colombo in 1963 as 511,644. In comparison, the 2011 population was around the same level.

In the years 1921 and 1963, the Sinhalese population in Colombo was 46.9% and 51.1% respectively, while the figure was 18.6% and 21.0% for the Muslims. The increase in the Sinhalese community as a percentage of the total was 4.2% units while it was 2.4% units for Muslims. The inflow of Sinhalese to Colombo was twice that of Muslims during that period. The current trend is the reversal of that and Sinhalese are leaving Colombo city at a high rate. It is probable that Muslims will follow suit. Already both Sinhalese and Muslim outflows are seen from the Pettah and Fort areas. This is a tendency in many metropolitan areas of the world, and it will be no surprise to see a continued shrinking of the residential population of Colombo.

This, however, does not mean activities within the city are diminishing. What is happening is the replacement of private dwellings by commercial buildings, hotels, and expensive condominiums with foreign investments. Similarly, new business establishments will emerge, replacing some of the enterprises that have sought better prospects in outer Colombo. Soon Colombo is likely to become the hub of large-scale trading, commerce, finance and banking.

These developments permit some Colombo Central residents who own dwellings within city limits, to trade them for fantastic prices and receive substantial financial gains and move out of Colombo for a better life. Unlike the minority Tamils and Muslims, Sinhalese can move fearlessly into other areas in Colombo or its suburbs. Hence, they take this opportunity and swiftly move out of this area.

The Muslim presence in Colombo has historically been as a trading community, but at present, it appears that most of them are now engaged as petty traders, and they are concentrated in particular wards in the Colombo Municipal Council. This trading community includes pavement hawkers, petty traders, food sellers in the streets etc.   Most of them live in extremely congested areas, and therefore, the density of the Muslim population in the Colombo DS area is high. A large percentage of the Muslims live in the overcrowded slums, which often lack necessary facilities such as toilets. Thus, a community living in such poverty is nothing to be envious about even if they form the majority in the Colombo DS. Muslims and Sinhalese living in these areas are the ones who keep Colombo moving at the level of the lower strata of society. The affluent Muslims and Sinhalese would not prefer to live in such congestion and, irrespective of their ethnicity; they will move to areas where they can live comfortably.

This commercialisation trend is not limited to the Colombo DS area. This trend, which has been happening for some time, can be seen in other areas, including the Kotte and Thimbirigasyaya divisions. The intensity of the building boom and the emergence of substantial commercial activities along the main roads and inner areas of Kotte and the Thimbirigasyaya DS area can be seen clearly. Consequently, from these two Divisions, too, there is an exodus of Sinhalese to other areas of Colombo District. The significant movement of Muslims in the Colombo District is to the Kolonnawa, Obeysakera Pura and the other suburbs as the land prices are relatively low.

There is an intensive domestic migration going on in the Colombo district. At present, outsiders moving to the Colombo District are not able to settle down close to the Colombo city as land prices have skyrocketed. As a result, it appears that the population in the suburban and semi-rural areas in Colombo District like Homagama, Kesbewa, Hanwella and Kaduwela, where land prices are more affordable, has risen considerably. The migration of Tamils was restricted as they have limited areas to securely settle due to the risk of ethnic conflict that has prevailed for several decades. Muslims, in the past, had a better choice of choosing their residence. But, during the last 6-7 years, the inaction of authorities to curb the anti-Muslim hate campaigns and ensuing violence against Muslims has shaken their confidence to settle down in unknown areas.

Muslims, like other ethnic groups, are becoming increasingly keen to give their children the best education and improve their wellbeing. So Muslim urban migration will continue, but they will seek more secure places to live.

An issue facing Sri Lanka, like in many other countries, is an increasing religiosity. It is a phenomenon that runs across all religious groups in the country. However, this leaning towards religion has not proved to be a positive factor – generating a tendency to develop hatred towards other religions and communities. Religious leaderships, educational structures, politicians and intellectuals have failed to build cohesiveness among communities, leading to the younger generations growing up in an environment where suspicion and hatred towards other communities are becoming the norm. Religious leaderships, rather than giving the message of peaceful co-existence, are increasingly encouraging the building of large and impressive structures and religious symbols that would inspire followers but, at the same time, create competition between communities. A combination of political opportunism, unethical mass media behaviour and provocative social media propaganda fans the flames of inter-community conflict.

Religious leadership, whether it be Muslims or Buddhists, has to ensure that the monks and the Ulamas do not incite hatred. The government has to enforce law and order irrespective of the status or religion of the perpetrators. It is equally crucial for moderates in both communities to take a stand and oppose these hate campaigns.

This essay concludes with an often-quoted statement of Martin Luther King Jr “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people” Napoleon Bonaparte also makes a similar statement

The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.”

*Nimal Siripala, former Director of Ministry of Finance and Planning Sri Lanka and Data Analyst at Statistic New Zealand, is currently an adviser to National Statistic Office Solomon Islands. He has Masters Degrees from Russia and The Netherlands. He has been trained in the USA as a National Accountant and Environmental Economist. He has also served in the Republic of Palau, Bougainville and West Britain Island of Papua New Guinea.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 17

    Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalists are very good at cheating and spreading lies are very strong since 1930’s. It is very hard to defeat Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism.
    The accusation against Muslims by Buddhist Fundamentalists is not a surprise one. Similar lies and propaganda was started in 1950s against Tamils and they were successful in silencing Tamils for asking their basic rights. Once that was done with the help of Muslims, the focus turned towards Muslims because Muslims were benefitted over the seven decades. Muslims were happy when the Tamils rights were taken away. Considering the population growth, development, wealth, education etc. both Sinhalese and Muslims gained but Tamils lost everything. Now Sinhala Buddhists try to use Tamils in their propaganda against Muslims. Their focus in now in Eastern province to increase the Sinhalese population by reducing the Muslim population and to increase it by over 50% of the province. So, the nation is moving forward to another cycle of violence, terrorism and war.

  • 11

    How can a Nation that proudly boast of 100% literacy be so petty minded ?

    How can educated people be allowed to be told where there should eat and shop, we are suppose to encourage free trade among all of us to keep the economy run smoothe.
    Most of the people who promote hate online are those lankans who do not care a damn about Sri Lanka or their people and are well established overseas enjoying and relishing our sufferings .
    If they are so sincere , let them come and invest here, promote our tourism, encourage trade and FDI , come and help the poor in whatever way they can .
    No- that us not in their hearts, they just want to destroy the nation .
    People here no matter what community they belong to , they are to be respected to bravely brace the daily struggle through this worse times.
    People here know what battles they are fighing to survive each day , please do not let outsiders to make it any harder.
    Unite and work together , unite to reduce waste , unite to reduce the pilferage of all our resources, unite to reduce our foreign spending
    Do not believe in the bogeyman

  • 4

    Lot of comments were not allowed. So, the discussion become partial. Probably, that is the way Allah (PBUH) wanted it. Anyway, UNHCR people may take this as the evidence to say, It is the sinhala – Buddhists and not the creator who gives all these troubles to muslims.

  • 3

    Birth is a result of making love.

    Making barriers to making love is cruel & uncivilized.

    But there should be an ethical understanding in a plural society where several ethnic groups are living; like in Sri Lanka.

    What is equality?

    If there’s equality in opportunities of making love in different ethnic groups, there should be equal number of children are born to accept the future. (approximately)

    But if slowly or fast, one ethnic group’s birth rate is always higher than the others’ it’s something to be taken seriously as there’s something wrong in it.

    This writer, Nimal Siripala urges the country not to take higher birth rate of Muslims seriously for no reason.

    It’s ridiculous.

    Shall we become business like, like most of our Muslim brothers do; women are the factories of children.

    Undoubtedly majority of them have that idea, having more factories is advantageous to produce more future accepters.

    According to Nimal Siripala’s statistics it’s happening even though slowly.

    Shall we make everything equal.

    All the people, not only Muslims but also Sinhalese & the Tamils should be given a right to marry 4 women. (equal number of factories)

    But how can it be done in a society in which men-women population is approximately 50-50.

    So no for polygamy.

    Every women should be given a right to give birth to equal number of children depending of development forecasts. (of the country).

    • 0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 8

      Real Revolutionist,

      “All the people, not only Muslims but also Sinhalese & the Tamils should be given a right to marry 4 women. (equal number of factories)”

      Why? So you can make one the housewife, rest the cash-cows to help you with your car financing, grocery & the bottles while lazy you do nothing productive to the country?

      • 3

        Abdul Kader


  • 13

    Nimal Siripala

    It’s heartening indeed to see the majority of the Sri Lankan’s are still the good Sri Lankan’s. As long as we have people like you who likes to tell the truth for the greater good of the country and it’s people, the future is still bright for this country. Thank you for the analysis and facts

  • 2

    2019 Nov President election proved many things beyond doubts about what
    Srilankan majority among the Sinhala Buddhist, want , deserve or capable of.
    The race was not to force a Muslim or Tamil or a Christian President to lead
    the Sinhalese . The race was for a Sinhalese leader from among themselves.
    Muslims or Tamils didn’t vote to their men although the idea behind their
    appearance was to block votes from going to their favoured parties . No
    amount of statistics based information of truth is going to reverse the goal of
    wrong elements who have chosen a path that suits them perfectly well.Their
    target is not only Muslims but also the West that is friendly to the U N P .
    The country is being distanced from one bloc and pushed closer to another
    bloc and this is the game for both major parties . And both parties are playing
    with the lives of minorities , now more dangerously than ever in their evil and
    ruthless game . At the end , who is the biggest loser ? None other than the
    Sinhala Buddhists themselves !

    • 2


      It’s natural & reasonable for a minority community member to have a dream to be the leader of the country as he/she is also a citizen of the country.

      But what’s sad is that a majority community member is always @ advantage in an election.

      Is it always racism?

      It’s not racism but in an environment where minority are racists, majority have no option but to be strict on majority community leader to be country’s leader..

      What has happened in Sri Lanka is that.

      The fault is in the leadership of Tamil & Muslim political fronts.

      Their preference to be identified as their community leaders rather than being identified as national leaders is the core issue here.

      Tamils & Muslims in Sri Lanka, take this advice, what you have to do is not highlighting difference but minimize differences & try co-existence.

      One day, if you can achieve that civilized standard your community member will become the country’s leader.

      Don’t insult innocent Sinhala community.

      • 1

        Real Revolutionist ,

        First of all , Happy New year to you R R .Let me start from your closing
        line . I don’t have the slightest intention of hurting anyone , let alone
        insulting ,when I make my comment on any topic discussed on this or
        any other forum . The president himself declared he won with Sinhalese
        votes and in 2015 when his brother lost , as loser, Mahinda very clearly
        stated that minorities defeated him . Now , you are welcome to explain
        what they meant by the expressions of their views and similarities at the
        loss and win ! You may or may not see the sinister move behind this
        kind of open and louder expressions by the country’s leaders which is
        threatening and inflammable to the minority , especially the Muslims at
        this particular point of time although the power of control is in their
        hands. I express my views of matters as I see them unfolding and not my
        imaginations . Is it not our past and present that shape our future ? Now ,
        let me come to your starting lines . Rest assured , minority leaders in our
        country , don’t ever dream to engage in a leadership battle with the
        majority , to run this country . About your racism views , I hope I have
        already answered them. And your advice to the minorities become
        irrelevant as your imagination is not based on real situation .

  • 6

    Thank you for this reality check. An important topic yet to be addressed by learned experts like you is “why should it matter?” which ethno-religious group is the numerical majority?

    Not only Sri Lanka, but the US, UK, Russia, India and many other countries are in the throes of a resurgent ethnic-supranationlist wave.

    In light of this danger, it is critical that intellectuals discuss the relevance of ethnicity in the modern world – which in reality is the most heterogeneous ethnically, religiously and genetically than at any point in human history.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 3

    “The relatively high growth rates of the Muslim population between 1981 and 2011, compared to that of non-Muslims, have been perceived as a threat to the dominant position of the Sinhalese.As this has become an issue of concern to many, it was raised at an official gathering held at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training and Research Institute (HARTI) recently. the Director – Population Census and Demography Division of the Department of Census and Statistics Ms Indu Bandara stated: “Sinhala and Muslim populations had increased at the rate of 1.04% and 1.87% respectively between 1981 and 2012, but it is not a threat to the Sinhala people, contrary to claims made in some quarters.” She further added,“It is also false to state that the Muslim population is higher than the Sinhala population within the Colombo Municipal Council area.”
    let us take the third concern of concern mentioned by the author that colombo has more muslims than sinhalese.The last sentence of the above para clearly refutes this.In 2012 census the colombo municipal area had 37% sinhalese and 29% muslims.Only problem i can see is that the author states colombo while the director of census states colombo municipal area which is the area for which rosy is a mayor.The colombo that the author refers to may include the cities of colombo city proper(an area contained within city limits) which has a population of 750000.Either way i think spreading rumours that muslims outnumber sinhalese in colombo is a bodu balu sena tactic.
    During the period 81 to 2011 the sinhalese have increased by 4,275000.The muslims have increased by 840000.Even if this trend continues there is no way that the muslims will ever outnumber the sinhalese,whether it is in 2100 or beyond.

    • 2


      During the period 81 to 2011 the sinhalese have increased by 4,275000.The muslims have increased by 840000.Even if this trend continues there is no way that the muslims will ever outnumber the sinhalese,whether it is in 2100 or beyond.If the increase in muslims starts to exceed the increase in sinhalese only then it begins to become possible one day.At the moment with the increase in sinhalese being more than 5 times the muslims how can they ever outnumber them.As for muslim children out numbering sinhalese children one day,another concern of the sinhalese stated by the author ,when population can never outnumber then how can children outnumber sinhalese.

      ps.sinhalese should be more worried about chingalese outnumbering them one day than muslims.

      • 0

        In my comment i have proved because of the 5 to 1 of sinhala increase to muslim increase,the muslims will never outnumber the sinhalese,only the gap between the 2 will reduce if the rate of change is higher for the muslims.
        During the period 81 to 2011 the sinhalese have increased by 4,275000.The muslims have increased by 840000.Even if this trend continues there is no way that the muslims will ever outnumber the sinhalese,whether it is in 2100 or beyond.
        This kind of dumb erroneous arguments are what makes problem solving in this country impossible. You are talking of “this trend” and making conclusions completely against it. You don’t have to write so much nonsense about gaps etc, but do some simple maths first and take the Excel program out and do all fancy analysis you want later.
        FYI first of all there is no dispute that two populations, one large population with a lower growth rate than the smaller population with a higher growth rate will ultimately be equal and then the initially smaller population will start out numbering the initially larger population. Even a child will tell you this, disputing this is like disputing that 1+1 =2. Now let us look at the Sinhalese and Muslim populations, and what “this trend” is: (Contd. » )

      • 2

        Contd. »
        Present (2012) growth rate of Sinhalese = 1.04%
        Present (2012) growth rate of Muslims  = 1.87%
        The trend in population growth rates – the growth of growth rates of both population are decreasing but for the Mulsims it is almost negligible while for the Sinhalese it is significant. It goes without saying that the Muslim growth rate will always remain higher than the Sinhalese growth rate never be equal to Sinhalese growth rate even though both are decreasing, given the trend, which is Sinhalese growth rate which is smaller and decreasing faster and the Muslim growth rate which is higher and decreasing extremely slower than the Sinhalese growth rate.
        Your conclusions based on “5 to 1 of sinhala increase to muslim increase” is erroneous, since 5 to 1 gap will apply at only in a particular point of time for particular growth rates, with the trend just shown the gap will decrease and ultimately be on the other side.

        With the available data, the very data you have used, it is beyond me how you can say “there is no way that the muslims will ever outnumber the sinhalese”. Taking only the present growth rates and assuming that they remain constant, then the Muslim population will equal the Sinhalese population in 248.6 years (S(t)/M(t) = 1; S∙e^1.04t / M∙e^1.87t = 1, where S and M are Sinhalese and Muslim population numbers respectively, growth rate in %). This is theoretical, since nothing in population growth is a permanent factor, but according to the present situation it is theoretically possible for the Muslims to out number the Sinhalese.

  • 0

    From all the comments I have read so far , there is only one bitter truth I have managed to understand .
    Quite a large number of people among all four communities are extremely petty minded and non compremising on superstiously hard rock dogmas, racism and no matter what it cost the nation .
    So There is only one hope left.

    We need a leader who can do it at any cost and there is no other way .

    Democracy is most unfavourable system for us .

    I think it will happen after general elections.
    For the better or worst .
    Let’s brace for the unexpected and hope the nation can be put on right track

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 7

    This articles is an eye opener and should be read by all. Please publish this in Sinhala have it released to all major Sinhala newspapers.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 9

    Thank You Nimal Siripala for your clear, logical and convincing explanation that dispels the nonsense spread by Gammanpilla and his ilk and eagerly swallowed by the more gullible sections of our citizenry. You are right, it is for the overwhelming decent and capable members of our community to speak out and put an end to the nonsense propagated by mischief makers that threatens to divide us.

  • 2

    Its not the number of people that matter, its what those people do. Last year one of the Sunday papers investigated http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190505/news/unravelling-growing-arabisation-348076.html
    That’s what they found.

    • 3


      Arabisation didn’t start yesterday. It started in the early 1990s.

  • 4

    You don’t need 100 years to establish a population trend. 1981-2011 (30 years) is enough. According to Table 1, the Sinhalese population increased by about 38%, the Muslim population increased by 77%, and the Tamil population increased by 20% (what a genocide). This means that during a time of civil war, the Muslim population nearly doubled, while the populations of the other two major ethnicities did not increase by even 1/2. The author says, “It is argued that if the Muslims population growth stays higher than that of the Sinhalese continuously, at some period, it could exceed the numbers of the Sinhala population.” Yes, it is possible. If the average number of children in a Muslim family is 5 and the average number of children in a Sinhalese family is 2, it means that there is a 3:1 ratio of Muslim to Sinhalese babies. Over a longer period, say 50 years, you will see significant demographic change if such a ratio holds. This is what we see in the East now. The author does not provide location-specific data. Colombo is not a good example. To really see how fast the Muslim demographic is growing, you need to look at a place like Kalmunai. This is where Malthus comes into play, e.g. the population of poor people will grow exponentially, putting a strain on scarce resources, leading to war and other conflicts.

    • 0


      “Over a longer period, say 50 years, you will see significant demographic change”

      significant demographic change is different form outnumbering isn’t it?In my comment i have proved because of the 5 to 1 of sinhala increase to muslim increase,the muslims will never outnumber the sinhalese,only the gap between the 2 will reduce if the rate of change is higher for the muslims.So the real concern of the sinhalese is this gap narrowing,not the outnumbering phobia they are trying to spread.In other word the sinhalese are just communal people,not having any legitimate concerns of being outnumbered,but want to continue to bully and dominate the minorities in the future.Minorities have no choice now but to increase their proportion of the population to survive because of the communalist policies of the bhuddhists who used their numbers to overpower the minorities at the ballot and use that power that they derived by that to bully and teach the minorities that they should be well behaved guests in the sinhala bhuddhist country,otherwise they will be hammerred to a pulp.So numbers are everything in the future and every muslim mother and every tamil mother too must have at least 5 children for the future long term security of the minorities .when you yourself use numbers why can’t others?

      • 1

        Shankar, Muslims will definitely outnumber the Tamils. Within 15-20 years. Even this article admits the birthrate among Muslim women is higher than that of the other two communities. The reason is because Muslim women stay at home, rather than go to work. Also, Muslim women may marry at a very young age and polygamy (more than one wife) is still common. If a man has two wives, it’s very easy for him to have 4 or more children. Let’s say there are 8 men, 4 non-Muslim and 4 Muslim. If each non-Muslim has 2 children, that is a total of 8 children. If the Muslims are each married to two women, and have two children per wife, that is a total of 16 children. It means for every non-Muslim child, there are 2 Muslim children. It means if 10 million Sinhalese children are born in the next decade, 20 million Muslim children will be born. Assuming a similar birthrate, it means over the next four decades, 40 million more Muslim children will be born compared to Sinhalese children. So it is indeed possible that the Muslim population can overtake the Sinhalese population at some point, although it would take a long time.

        • 0

          Lester —

          It is not Muslims or Sinhalese fault that Tamil are leaving the country for economical gain. There is no war any more. Most Tamil parents I know would only like to marry off their Children to Tamil who are living in Western countries. So yes.. if they keep up with this trend Muslims will out number Tamils.

        • 1


          the government has to see that there is a law to ban polygamy and underage people below 18 marrying.Simple as that if you say that is the reason muslim women are having more children.I won’t be surprised if already there is a law like that and it is being flouted.If any laws are flouted the muslims are not to blame for that as it is the governments duty to see that laws are being implemented.

          Tamils are not worried about the muslims outnumbering them as much as the sinhalese are worried to the extent of a phobia.WE know we are going to be outnumbered in the 2032 census but no phobia about it.Quality matters more than quantity for us and we will the resourceful people we are somehow survive and do well in the future,whether in sri lanka or abroad.Why sinhalese also can’t adopt the tamil attitude and live and let live.After all having children is not a crime.We all have been taught to make love not war and that is what the muslims are literally doing.Is love a crime?Do you prefer war?

          ps.Don’t forget in the first census of 1881 the sinhalese only comprised 67% while the muslims were 7% and the srilankan tamils 25%.Today the sinhalese are 75%,the sri lankan tamils are 11% and the muslims are 9%.Who has benefited most in the last 130 years?When you were breeding like rabbits at one time nobody complained,did they?Now you are howling when others do the same thing.

          • 1

            Sri Lankan Tamils were not 25% in 1881. In 1881 both groups of Tamils, i.e the Plantation Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils or non-plantation Tamils were considered as one ethnic group. At that time Tamils had not started making bogus historical claims about being indigenous, but still maintained that they had come from the opposite coast and settled here.
            In 1881 census the number of Tamils was 687,200. Data from plantation studies show about 400,000 Tamils were in plantations. So the number of Srilanka or non-plantation Tamils was about 287,000 only, which is ~10% (2,759,700 /287,000×100) and not 25% as you claim. 10% is also a way too high figure, as thousands of Tamils brought from India were working outside the plantations especially in the cities and they had also been employed in the Vanni and easten province. In 1911 when the Tamils were categorized as Ceylon and Indian Tamils the ones outside the plantations were categorized as Ceylon Tamils regardless of when they had come here. A huge portion of the eastern Tamils are actually those Indian Tamils.

            • 2

              punchi point

              thanks for pointing that out to me.I missed it by looking hurriedly at the chart.Unlike some people here i haven’t the time to sit in front of my keyboard the whole day because i have to earn and put food on the table too.

              Let us then look at the 1911 chart instead that you have referred to.In it it shows that the sinhalese were 66% of the population,the sri lankan tamils were nearly 13% and the muslims 7%.Either way you look at it the sinhalese have benefited most in the past 100 years where population growth is concerned.

              • 0

                I do not know what you mean by benefited. Having huge populations with uncontrollable growth rates is not at all beneficial to anyone or any country. The land area of any given country must be able to support its population.
                Since other posts by you indicate that you think the Sinhalese are somehow answerable to minorities for our presence and population growth rate I would like to point out that when the British came here, both the Muslims and Tamils were tiny populations, numbering a few thousands and there were no plantation Tamils. In my opinion the the British created the Ceylon Tamil and Muslim ethnic groups by changing their significance out of the existing tiny populations and the plantation Tamil ethnic group was newly created. Sri Lanka Tamils’ claims to an indigenous ancient presence is relatively new. Tamil settlements came about as a result of the Pandyan (Kulasekara) occupation which started around 1284 A.D. What is now called “Jaffna kingdom” was nothing but an outpost of the Pandyans and with the demise of the Pandyans in the 14th century, it morphed into a semi-independent settlement, under the Vijayanagar empire. Tamils were still not a settled community but moved back and forth from Tamilnadu. The Muslims were just small trading communities. It was due to British colonial policies that the Tamils and Muslims changed their identities from diasporic/immigrant to native and gradually developed into power groups, with the Ceylon Tamils first out to claim parity of status with the Sinhalese, starting from the mid-late 19th century. (1 of 3 | Contd. » )

              • 0

                Contd. »
                You cannot take percentage increase in the population and claim that the Sinhalese gained most. During the time from 1920 and upto independence and afterwards too there were majour changes in the population – many Plantation Tamils and other Indians and also many Bughers left the country, so the percentages do not reflect the actual increases in population numbers proportional to the starting population 100 years go. The census data shows that the from 1920-2012 the Sinhalese increased 5.06 times, while the Muslims increased 7.51 times. For the SL-Tamils if we take a 1.5 million as the number of Tamils in the asylum diaspora, which is a low figure according to Tamils themselves (TNA says that over half the Tamil population was chased out of the country), then we get a 7.29 times increase.
                [Numbers used and calculation:
                Sinhalese: 15250081/3016200 = 5.0561
                Muslim: 1892638/251900 = 7.5134
                Ceylon Tamil: 3769266/517300 = 7.2864 (assuming 1.5 million as Tamils in the diaspora)
                (Ceylon Tamil without correction for diaspora = 2269266/517300 = 4.3868)]
                So how can you say “sinhalese have benefited most in the past 100 years where population growth is concerned ” ?
                (2 of 3 | Contd. »)

              • 0

                Contd. »
                I do not think the Sinhalese had benefited at all since the British took over in 1815. Thousands of Sinhalese lost their lives in the wars with the British upto 1815 and then in the two uprisings 1818 and 1848. Our social, religious, economic basis was put upside down. Land was taken by the British and tea plantations were put up, bringing in coolies from India to work in them. Thousands of Sinhalese became landless and in the cunning scheme of the British to extract undue taxes people were made into debt slaves, that they practically legally lost their lands, to the colonial lawmakers (read: land robbers). And you are talking of “benefited”?! FYI the only people who benefited were the Tamils and the British, the British still earn from their colonies. (3 of 3 | End).

                • 0

                  I get the impression that intelligent readers should ignore almost all the comments, and focus on studying all the sensible things that are said in the article itself.
                  Thanks, CT for publishing it.

          • 1

            Shankar, I have no problem with anyone having xyz amount of children. After all, reproduction is a natural right. Nevertheless, there are economic implications that cannot be ignored. To give an example, after Merkel flooded the EU with unskilled Muslim immigrants, the British voted for Brexit. Not only that, but right-wing nationalists have made strong political gains in Italy, Hungary, and Poland. What is happening in Europe now is that the social system is crumbling because these unskilled immigrants do not work and pay taxes. Crime and poverty go up. If these rich countries in Europe are struggling with unskilled (Islamic) immigrants, what will be the situation in Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka is rather poor and very small, meaning there is a high population density. My prediction is that the Muslims will first become a majority in the North and East, then they will start pushing South. As I said, Sri Lanka has limited resources, so the potential for war and other conflicts is there. This is classic Malthusian economics. When the population of the poor grows exponentially, it puts a strain on resources, leading to war and other conflicts.

            • 3


              even though they reproduce more than the sinhalese that is no reason to rabble rouse the modayas and give them liquor to go and set fire to their businesses and attack their homes with terrified children hanging onto their mother crying.It is not a civilized way to behave and not a solution to the problem.In fact it does the opposite when those terrified children grow up into suicide bombers one day.

              • 1


                An interesting statistic: every single Muslim-majority country in the world is at least 90% Muslim. For example, Indonesia (biggest Muslim country) is 99% Muslim, Afghanistan is 99.7% Muslim, Pakistan is 97% Muslim, Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, Turkey is 96.4% Muslim, etc. Sri Lanka is only 70.1% Buddhist. We can safely say, no Muslim-majority nation will ever let any non-Muslim group increase their population the way Sri Lanka has. But if the Sinhalese government starts applying similar population control measures in Sri Lanka, you will have Yasmin Sooka and others start giving lectures on genocide.

                • 1


                  i think how they became 90% or over is because there is tremendous pressure on minorities to convert to islam.It is not genocide or population control as you think.However forcing people to convert is wrong.Your attitude seems to be two wrongs make a right.My attitude is do the right thing regardless of what others are doing.Imagine if everyone justifies doing morally reprehensible acts by saying others are doing it too,what will the world become.Do we want a world for our kids and grand kids that is doing the right things or the wrong things.Please treat our muslims kindly.

    • 1

      I think you are spot-on. There are 3 kinds of liars; Small Liars, Big Liars and Statisticians. The fact that the vacuum (in percentages) created by the exodus of Burghers and Tamils has been taken mostly up by Muslim population growth is hidden, when percentages are used.

      To be really relevant we should compare actual numbers not percentages from the past. The article is complicated and misleading effort, Izzeth Hussein also had a similar argument.

      • 2

        Based on the data for the 1981 and 2012 Censuses, the (compound) growth rates of the Buddhist and Muslim populations are around 1.1% and 1.9% per annum respectively.
        This translates to the Buddhist and Muslim cohorts increasing annually by approximately 156,000 and 37,000 persons respectively.
        This would mean that an estimated 120,000 MORE individuals are added to the Buddhist stock every year than that of the Muslims.
        Simply put, the GAP between the two communities is widening, NOT shrinking. This has in fact been the case since 1881.
        So why then is there so much fear among the Buddhists that the Muslims will someday overtake them in population size ?
        This is primarily due to the belief that unrestrained population growth follows an exponential growth (J curve) even in the long run.
        However, the landmark research of Hans Rosling has proved empirically that in the long run, population grows according to the logistical model (S curve) due to limitations imposed by external environmental factors.

        • 3

          Dear Bisthan Batcha,
          I remember
          that about two years ago you wrote some really really sound and insightful (I’m afraid of the very word – some may mistake it for “inciteful” -the very opposite) comments/ articles on this subject.
          I’d just like to tell you that I remember, and am grateful. This article by Nimal Siripala also is so comprehensive and rational. Let me hope that the views of people like you prevail.
          It’s getting so complicated that I feel that I’d better not pontificate, but tell you that what we desperately need is population control by all humans. This planet Earth must not be made to support any more of us pernicious creatures.


        • 0

          How dumb… The J curve is just a part of the S curve. The question and challenge is how not to get pass the mid point or point of inflection in the S curve. FYI All human populations grow according to the logistic model at all times – the exponential model is just the period prior to the limiting factors plays in, in other words, exponential model is just a part of logistic model.
          And Hans Rosling has done no such thing. How in the world is anyone going to prove what you say empirically anyways? Hans Rosling dedicated his life to eliminating poverty in the third world and giving correct and accurate information. Hans Rosling meant that poverty could be controlled only by controlling population growth and his key message was that the fertility rate must be brought down. And here we have people trying to push the high fertility rate of the Muslims compared to the other ethnic groups under the covers and project the Sinhalese growth rate as high (ref. “the GAP between the two communities is widening”). Theoretically the Muslims will out number the Sinhalese assuming that the present growth rates for the two groups (1.87 and 1.04) continue unchanged and limiting factors don’t play in. Hans Rosling has documented how the fertility rate of the third world which was 6+ before had been lowered to 2-2.5 even in very poor countries and how some of these countries have started to develop and get better quality of life. In SriLanka too enormous efforts have been made by people through out decades and we have achieved a lower fertility rate of 2.4, but the Muslims have a relatively high fertility rate of 3.3.
          Hans Rosling showing the facts about population growth

  • 2

    I am still looking for help to find out around which decade/century Muslim population was about 5% of the total.


    • 4

      Soma ,

      The Census of Srilanka by Kamalika Pieris – The Island Feb 16 2016.

      Just one part of her article makes you 5% in the following areas :
      Jaffna , Vanni and Mannar – Sinhalese 5 % ,
      Jaffna and Vanni – Tamils were 90 %
      Moors – 35 % Batticaloa and 30-20 % Mannar , Trinco and Puttalam.
      This is from the first census of Ceylon in 1871 . At the time Sinhalese
      stood at 69.40 % , Tamils 22.21% and Moors 6.79 % .
      To find out your 5% , you will have to track down the king who ruled
      25,332 Sq miles .

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.