Ceylon No More

SRI LANKA, December 31, 2010: Sri Lanka’s government has decided to change the names of all state institutions still bearing the nation’s former British colonial name, Ceylon. The government wants the country’s modern name to be used instead. The change will be made as early as possible in 2011.

Reaction has been mixed to the new year’s resolution that gets rid of what some see as a vestige of colonialism.

The island’s British colonial name, derived from an earlier Portuguese one which is a phonetic approximation of “sinhalana” (Ceilao), was dropped in 1972 when the country became a republic and Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state. The adopted name, Lanka, to which an honorific “Sri” was added, is much older and is close to both the Sinhalese and Tamil names for the island.

But the name Ceylon has persisted in many institutions, including the Bank of Ceylon and the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation. One ministry now has the job of ensuring that names and signboards are altered. The Ceylon Tea label, however, is unlikely to change, as the industry believes it’s a brand of quality for the country’s most famous export.

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