Sri Lanka is staging its first peace-time presidential election after declaring victory in its decades-old conflict with the Tamil Tigers.
Here are the key dates:
Armed with just a revolver, Velupillai Prabhakaran forms a Tamil militant group that eventually becomes the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Sri Lanka adopts a presidential system of government, borrowing elements from the French, US and British constitutions.
July 23, 1983:
LTTE ambushes an army patrol, killing 13 soldiers in the Jaffna peninsula and sparking anti-Tamil riots elsewhere that leave about 600 people dead.
July 8, 1985:
Sri Lanka opens first direct talks with Tamil guerrillas. They fail.
July 29, 1987:
India and Sri Lanka reach agreement on deployment of an Indian peacekeeping force. India loses 1,200 troops at the hands of the LTTE, and withdraws in March 1990 leaving the Tigers in control of large swathes of northern Sri Lanka.
May 21, 1991:
Former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi killed, allegedly by an LTTE suicide bomber.
May 1, 1993:
Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa killed by LTTE suicide bomber.
October 24, 1994:
Opposition presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake is assassinated by a Tiger suicide bomber, in Colombo.
December 2, 1995:
Sri Lankan army captures the Jaffna peninsula. Fighting escalates.
October 8, 1997:
The United States declares the LTTE a foreign terrorist organisation.
December 18, 1999:
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is wounded in a suicide bomb attack at her final re-election campaign rally in Colombo.
Britain outlaws the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, followed by Canada and Australia. The European Union follows with a similar ban.
February 23, 2002:
Government and Tamil Tiger rebels sign a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire agreement.
At peace talks in Norway, the government and rebels agree to share power, with the minority Tamils enjoying autonomy in the mainly Tamil-speaking north and east. Despite several rounds, the talks break down.
March 3, 2004:
Renegade Tamil Tiger commander V. Muralitharan, known as Karuna, leads a damaging split from main rebel movement.
November 17, 2005:
Mahinda Rajapakse narrowly wins presidential elections which were boycotted by the Tamil Tigers.
January 2, 2008:
Sri Lanka withdraws from the ceasefire agreement and steps up attacks against the Tigers
March 13, 2009:
The United Nations human rights chief says both sides in the conflict could be guilty of war crimes.
May 13, 2009:
The UN Security Council for the first time asks warring parties to spare civilians as the world body describes fighting in the last remaining patch of Tiger territory as a "bloodbath" for civilians.
May 18, 2009:
Defence officials say Prabhakaran and his two deputies are shot dead while trying to flee advancing troops.
Army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka declares an end to military operations.
November 23, 2009:
Sri Lanka's government announces presidential elections two years ahead of schedule.
December 17, 2009:
President Mahinda Rajapakse submits papers to seek re-election at the January 26, 2010 election. He is challenged by his former army chief Sarath Fonseka and 20 other candidates.