Sri Lanka probes 'dog' translation slur on public signs

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's government said on Friday it is probing incorrect and insulting translations of signs into the minority Tamil language, including one that says seats "reserved for pregnant dogs" instead of women.

The government said they have received 218 complaints of misleading, wrong or offensive public notices that were correctly written in the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka's majority but wrongly translated into Tamil.

"We have probed 91 out of the 218 complaints and ordered corrections," a ministry of national languages and integration ministry spokesman told AFP.

"Offenders have been given two weeks to correct or face legal action," spokesman Mahendra Harishchandra said.

He said one of the signs, highlighted by local media, on public buses around the country was meant to say seats "reserved for pregnant women" but instead used the Tamil word for "dogs".

"We investigated this and found it was a genuine mistake by the artist who painted the sign. He did not know the language properly," he added.

He added that some of the Tamil notices in the Tamil-majority north of the island had been mis-translated into Sinhalese.

Sri Lanka ended a decades-long war in 2009 between ethnic Tamils fighting for a separate homeland and the military, backed by the Sinhalese-majority government, that claimed at least 100,000 lives. The government replaced English as the official language with Sinhalese in 1956. Tamil was granted equal status in 1988 under reforms, but the policy has been poorly implemented and the issue of language remains a highly sensitive one.

Tamils, who account for about a quarter of the 20-million strong population, complain of a lack of translators and that government officials do not understand them, adding to a sense of alienation.