World Affairs



This is my Paradise







Naming and renaming without rhyme or reason

Sri Lankans have a great passion for renaming places, roads, parks and the like. The idea behind it all is to confer some form of immortality on those whose names have been used to replace old names. If there are sound reasons for renaming, so be it. But at times we arrive at ridiculous situations such as in the case of the name of the road I moved into about 10 years ago. Old timers say that this road in Nawala has been called Galpotha Road since living memory, for whatever reason.

One bright morning, however, residents were surprised to see that the road had been given a new name - the name of some writer of sorts who had written about Kotte, the ancient capital of the country at the time of the arrival of the Portuguese. The re-christening or renaming has been by courtesy of the Municipal Council Kotte.

Some residents apparently did not like it. A few days later it was strewn with mud and dung and the name was unreadable. Undaunted, the Municipal Council, sometime later, replaced it with a new board and the new name back again. Some days later the new board disappeared. But months later a new board reappeared with the new name on top and the old name of Galpotha Road below.

It is a unique road now, a road with two names! But I wonder how it stands in law. If a policeman or judge asks you: Are you so and so of No. X, Galpotha Road what are you to say? Yes, no or yes alias the other road name too?


All this passion about the name of the road however does not match the state of the road! It is pot-holed and without proper drainage.  Stray dogs control every cross-road intersection.  Rarely a tractor comes along to fill up the holes with some kind of rubber paste which disappears with the first few showers. Those loyalists to the names of the road do not have the same passion for road repairs as renaming!

Perhaps, I am incorrect in claiming that the name of my road is unique. There is at least another road with two names - the busy, congested road running from Maradana junction to Eye Hospital junction. It was called Deans Road in the old days but many years ago renamed after a reputed Buddhist monk. The addresses given in some of the name boards of this street lined with shops and boutiques are Deans Road while some others have the new name only. Some occupants obviously do not want to change to the new name!


Some years ago there was the controversy of renaming Moratuwa Stadium as Tyronne Fernando Stadium. Tyronne  is a son of Moratuwa and  was a minister and MP for Moratuwa at that time. Others opposed it saying that the land was donated by a Moratuwa philanthropist and if any renaming was to be done it had to be named after the philanthropist.

The name of the stadium, if my memory serves me right, changed with the change of government from UNP to SLFP but now with Tyronne batting for Mahinda we wonder what the name of the stadium is. Earlier a wag suggested that it be named Puran Appu Stadium, an ancestor of Tyronne who led a rebellion at Matale against the British, but others said it should not be so because Puran Appu who was strongly anti-British would not have played pandu - cricket.


Now there is the controversy about renaming the historic Asgiriya Grounds after Muttiah Muralitheran, the best bowler in the world. Poor Murali has nothing to do with the demand. He is too humble and modest for that - a sign of really great men. But there are those who want to bask in the glory of Murali. There are practical aspects to be considered too. Murali is still playing for the country and usually such honours are conferred on retirement.

Besides these are the grounds of Trinity College and old boys are against it being renamed after a person from their rival school, however great he may be. There is also the case of Kumar Sangakkara who was recently topping the international rankings in batting and he is an old boy of Trinity. So why not Sanga, it could be argued.

 Last week there was a report of Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge saying that Asgiriya has to be named after Murali. Apparently he knows nothing about old school traditions. Murali certainly deserves the highest award the country can confer on him but let the time come. The greatest honours are conferred on sportsmen only on retirement.

And speaking of retirement what about Arjuna Ranatunga, the man who led the team that won the World Cup for Sri Lanka?  Surely that is the greatest achievement of a Sri Lankan cricketer so far?


The only praiseworthy naming of a monument of a truly great person was that of naming a building at the Peradeniya Campus after Sir Ivor Jennings, a truly great scholar who helped our first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake to gain independence from the British and participated actively in establishing a truly great and beautiful campus at Peradeniya.

Vandals have tried their best to destroy it since then but it still stands. Some pigmies objected to naming a building after Sir Ivor and instead wanted it named after one of their colleagues. The Peradeniya dons did themselves an honour by refusing to give in and instead conferred honour where honour was due.


This lunacy of naming and renaming is fast spreading like an epidemic. The latest we heard is naming a housing scheme in the northeast Mahindapuram. We make no comments except to quote the often quoted lines of the English poet Percival Shelley.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert, near them on the sand a shattered visage lies.

And on the pedestal these words appear.

"My name is Ozymandias King of Kings

Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair."

Nothing remains, round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.


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