Sri Lanka official apologizes for naming cyclone after King Mahasen


Fishing boats tied up in the harbour of Chittagong on May 15, 2013 during preparations for the expected arrival of Cyclone Mahasen.


Munir Uz Zaman

Sri Lanka's top meteorologist publicly apologized Tuesday for naming a recently deadly cyclone after third-century ruler King Mahasen.

Director-general of the meteorology department SH Kariyawasam said he was sorry "if any insult was caused to King Mahasen or the country's proud history."

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In a letter to the National Council for the Protection of Historical Irrigation Cultural Heritage, Kariyawasam said the names "were merely proposed as Sri Lankan names and their selection did not have any basis, explanation or intention."

The council, along with Buddhist monks and political leaders, said naming the cyclone after Mahasen was an insult. It even threatened to take legal action if the meteorology department did not conduct a proper inquiry.

The department dropped the name from the cyclone on May 13, but Mahasen continued to be used across the region despite requests for other countries to follow suit.

Earlier in May, the cyclone killed 18 people in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Nationalist monks and President Mahinda Rajapaksa all criticized the use of King Mahasen's name when referring to the cyclone, calling him a great man who brought prosperity to Sri Lanka.