Queen Victoria statue to be given a facelift in Colombo

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

image captionThe statue of Britain's longest-reigning monarch will be given more prominence

A statue of Queen Victoria in Sri Lanka's main city, Colombo, has been taken off its plinth for renovation ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held there next month.

The statue was moved from its original location seven years ago and placed in an inconspicuous position.

But the authorities say it will now be given more prominence.

The statue of Britain's longest-reigning monarch dates from 1897, the year of her Diamond Jubilee.

It was placed in gardens adjoining the residence of the governor-general of what was then the British colony of Ceylon.

The building - in Colombo's Fort district - became the presidential palace in 1972.

But the palace has barely been used by Sri Lanka's presidents. Local reports say one reason is that the statue was widely considered to bring bad luck.

There are also structural issues - the one president who did live there reportedly had to move his bed when it rained because of a leaking roof.

In 2006 the Queen Victoria statue was relocated to a new site near the back entrance to the National Museum but not facing any public thoroughfare.

After the renovation works, it is to be placed near that site but looking across a busy road into the city's main park - once called Victoria Park but renamed Viharamahadevi Park, after a Sri Lankan queen, in 1958.

The Commonwealth gathering will be the first that Queen Elizabeth has not attended since 1973. She is sending the Prince of Wales instead, with Buckingham Palace saying she is making fewer overseas trips because of her age.

The meeting has attracted controversy because of Sri Lanka's human rights record, with the Canadian prime minister saying he is unlikely to attend.

Those that do attend will have an improved view of Queen Victoria.

"She's been brought temporarily down to earth," a local political commentator said on condition of anonymity. "The seven-year curse has ended."

More on this story