Strata exposed near Tabbowa Tank, Tabbowa Basin, western Sri Lanka have yielded the first representatives of the distinctive Permian Glossopteris flora from that country. The assemblage includes gymnosperm foliage attributable to Glossopteris raniganjensis, roots referable to Vertebraria australis, seeds assigned to Samaropsis sp., sphenophyte axes (Paracalamites australis) and foliage (Sphenophyllum emarginatum), and fern foliage (Dichotomopteris lindleyi). This small macroflora is interpreted to be of probable Lopingian (late Permian) age based on comparisons with the fossil floras of Peninsula India. Several Glossopteris leaves in the assemblage bear evidence of terrestrial arthropod interactions including hole feeding, margin feeding, possible lamina skeletonization, piercing-and-sucking damage and oviposition scarring. The newly identified onshore Permian strata necessitate re-evaluation of current models explaining the evolution of the adjacent offshore Mannar Basin. Previously considered to have begun subsiding and accumulating sediment during Jurassic time, we propose that the Mannar Basin may have initiated as part of a pan-Gondwanan extensional phase during late Palaeozoic – Triassic time. We interpret the basal, as yet unsampled, seismically reflective strata of this basin to be probable organic-rich continental strata of Lopingian age, equivalent to those recorded in the Tabbowa Basin, and similar to the Permian coal-bearing successions in the rift basins of eastern India and Antarctica. Such continental fossiliferous strata are particularly significant as potential source rocks for recently identified natural gas resources in the Mannar Basin.