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Last updated: 05 December, 2011 - Published 11:45 GMT
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Changing Saddam Hussein village protested

Muslims in Sri Lanka protested the execution of Saddam Hussein (file photo)
Hussein was a major benefactor to Muslim-dominated areas in the east
People living in a village in Sri Lanka named after the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, have staged a demonstration against plans to change its name.

Mr Hussein was a major benefactor to the area as part of an Iraqi assistance programme.

But a desire for more aid is prompting a possible name change.

To some people it may seem odd that there is a Saddam Hussein Village in eastern Sri Lanka.

But the former Iraqi leader had close ties with numerous countries, many of them fellow-members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

'Iraq Village'

In November 1978 a mainly Muslim area of eastern Sri Lanka was damaged in a cyclone.

A parliamentary delegation led by two prominent Muslims visited Iraq to ask Saddam Hussein for help in reconstructing it.

By 1982 Mr Hussein had funded the building of an entire village, including 100 houses, a mosque, a playground and a madrassa.

The village was named after him, and Iraq continued delivering monthly aid until 1990 and the run-up to first gulf war.

The village went through its own trauma when the Tamil Tigers expelled the entire Muslim population.

Many of the people who have since returned to Saddam Hussein Village, revere the former dictator as a humanitarian and a fighter on behalf of Islam.

They have now sought renewed aid assistance from Baghdad.

And they have been promised many new houses and help for the mosque and an orphanage - but only if they change its name to "Iraq Village".

A decision has been reached to make the change with local government approval.

But the mosque committee is split on the issue and a group of villagers have staged a protest in favour of keeping the old name - recognising a politician they still regard as a benefactor.

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