PRINCE CHARLES is long departed, but the furore over Arthur C Clarke's sex life, which erupted nearly three weeks ago on the eve of the prince's visit to Sri Lanka, refuses to die down.
The scientific visionary and novelist who has lived in the former British colony for 42 years was to have been knighted by the prince during the latter's visit to the island for the celebration of the golden jubilee of Sri Lanka's independence. But days before the planned investiture, the Sunday Mirror accused Clarke of being a confirmed paedophile. Clarke asked for the ceremony to be postponed to avoid embarrassing the prince.
Reaction in the island nation, where the allegations received minimal publicity, was slow to come. But last Thursday the influential Buddhist clergy joined two nationalist groups and a Christian organisation in demanding that the charges, which Clarke has vigorously denied, be investigated. Yesterday, Sri Lankan police took the first step by interviewing the friend of Clarke whose testimony to the Sunday Mirror had been particularly damaging.
Dayanada de Silva, director of current affairs at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Authority, was quoted in the Sunday Mirror as saying: "Arthur likes casual affairs with lots of different boys. If I think he might like one of my boys, I give them his phone number, he asked me to. The last time I saw Arthur, a few months ago, he was still having casual sex with boys. The boys do it for money, and money is nothing to Arthur C Clarke."
A senior Sri Lankan police officer yesterday said: "Mr de Silva was interviewed this evening and the investigation will continue from then on. After all the persons have been interviewed we will have to go and interview Mr Clarke, perhaps this week."
Clarke has enjoyed a position of enormous respect and prestige in Sri Lanka. He is chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, outside the capital, Colombo, and founder and patron of the Arthur C Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies nearby. He is a friend of the president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, and was the only foreign-born resident listed in a recent survey of the nation's most distinguished individuals.
After the Sunday Mirror's allegations were published, Clarke told The Independent that he believed they were "not aimed specifically at me but designed to embarrass Prince Charles. I have not been sexually active for more than 20 years." Several days later he issued a more robust rejection of the charges. "Having always had a particular dislike of paedophiles," he said, "few charges can be more revolting to me than to be classed as one. The allegations are wholly denied. My conscience is perfectly clear."
Last week, nationalist and children's rights groups called for Clarke to be deported. And the Buddhist clergy added their own weighty voice. "For the public to feel completely assured about Mr Clarke's innocence, the allegations should also be independently found to be false," the monks said.
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