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February 2, 1998


'Paedophile' Arthur C Clarke sparks protests in Lanka

Child right activists in Sri Lanka have expressed shock over science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke's confession in a newspaper interview of a life of paedophilia and called for his deportation just around the time Prince Charles was to knight him.

Clarke, 80, widely regarded as a visionary and author of the celebrated 2001: A Space Odyssey and some 80 other books, was quoted as saying in the interview published in London's Sunday Mirror that having sex with children was all right.

''Once they have reached the age of puberty, it is OK... It doesn't do any harm,'' said Clarke, who has lived in Sri Lanka for 40 years.

"I am trying to think of the youngest boy I have ever had because, of course, you can't tell it here. I think most of the damage comes from the fuss made by hysterical parents afterwards. If the kids don't mind, fair enough,'' he was reported to have said in the interview which was conducted at his house.

''I am amazed why the law has not been enforced as far as Clarke was concerned,'' says Maureen Seneviratne, co-ordinator for a non-governmental organisation called Peace -- Protection of Environment and Children Everywhere.

''Why do we have strong laws in Sri Lanka?'' she asked, noting that such a law had been in place since October 1995 when parliament passed a bill without division on prevention of abuse of children below the age of 16.

She said that a bill replaced a 1983 law, under which abuse of children below the age of 12 was an offence, though the child was equally guilty as the perpetrator. Under the new law, child abuse carries a minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment and a maximum of 20 years. The laws were put in place following a public outcry over paedophilia and child prostitution in Sri Lanka.

Referring to Clarke justifying sex with children who had attained puberty, Seneviratne said even homosexuality was a crime under the country's penal code.

She noted that a German was undergoing prison sentence in the island after being convicted of paedophilia and said, ''It is strange that while some people are sentenced, others are going scot-free.''

She said she intended to take up Clarke's revelations with the presidential task force for the protection of children and inform all concerned, including the police.

She said her group had indeed heard rumours about Clarke's activities, but being a small NGO, her organisation could not take it up as that would be like ''tilting at giants who have written books and been made chancellors of universities.''

''It would have been like signing our own death warrant,'' she said in a reference to the official patronage enjoyed by Clarke, the first foreign celebrity to be given tax-free status on the island. The writer has also been made chancellor of the Meratuwa University in Sri Lanka.

Clarke is to be presented with a knighthood by Prince Charles, who will be the chief guest at Sri Lanka's 50th anniversary of independence on February 4.

Dr Nalin de Silva, a former Colombo university lecturer and an activist of an ultra-Sinhala Buddhist organisation, said he would launch a strong agitation, demanding Clarke's immediate deportation from the country.

''This is child abuse. It is a shame to have him as chancellor of a university. Now it seems Arthur C Clarke not only pioneered the concept of geo-stationary satellites, but also abuse of children. He has not brought recognition to Sri Lanka; he only projected the country to the foreigners as a paradise for paedophiles,'' Dr de Silva said.

The master was right

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