It is not completely wrong to call Colombo Sri Lanka’s capital, like most foreigners do. Colombo is definitely the island’s only urban agglomarate and the cultural, commercial and industrial hub of the island. However, the official capital of Sri Lanka is the satellite city of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, a suburb of Colombo. It belongs to the Colombo district, but Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte has its own municipal council.
Kotte had already been the capital in late medieval times. Those days the city which sheltered the Sacred Tooth Relic was considered to be the capital. In the 15th century the Tooth Temple was in Kotte, and Kotte was definetely the political and cultural capital of the island. But with the arrival of the Portuguese, who chose Colombo as their main military base, the neighbouring Kotte was soon controlled by the foreign invaders. Local principals from, Sitavaka and later on Kandy were more successfull in resisting foreign occupation. The Dutch and the British also chose Colombo as their administrative headquarter. And Colombo remained to be the capital of the independent Ceylon and Sri Lanka until 1982, when the New Parliament building was opened in Kotte. President Jayawardene did not hesitate to call the new administrative capital Kotte “Sri Jayawardenepura”, meaning “Bright Jayawardene City”.
However, it is not completely wrong to call Colombo the capital. Remember, though Den Haag is the administrative centre of the Netherlands, where parliament and ministries are located and where even the Dutch King stays most of the time, Amsterdam is the official capital due to the - rarly used - official residence of the Dutch King. Similarly, you could argue, that Colombo ist the genuine capital of Sri Lanka, since the “President’s House”, alos called “Presidential Palace”, though rarely used, is located in Colombo Fort. By the way, don’t confuse the “Presidential Palace”, which is the president’s official residence, with the landmark building near Lighthouse Bay and Galle Face Green, at the southern edge of Colombo Fort. This colonial edifice, which was the Parliament Building till 1982, is now the “Presidential Secretariat”, the office of the President, though he spends more time in Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. So both presidential residence and presidential office are officially located in Colombo 1, reason enough not to protest if someone calls Colombo “the capital of Sri Lanka”. However, officially the capital is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, where the Parliament is located.
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