The United States has lodged a “strong protest” to Sri Lanka over remarks by Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, on state radio that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has forgotten the “Monica Lewinsky episode” and should “put her house in order.”
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya, was summoned to the Department of State to be told of the US Government’s displeasure. Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary, South and Central Asian Affairs, had expressed ”great concern” over the remarks and wanted to know whether this was the official position of the Government of Sri Lanka.
The call for the meeting had come on Thursday, just a day after Premier Wickremanayake had made the remarks. There was no immediate word on the official response of the Government.
The US protest is the latest turn of events after US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who chaired the UN Security Council a week ago remarked, “we’ve seen rape used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.”
On Wednesday, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation’s (SLBC) Subharti programme featured Premier Wickremanayake. He fielded questions on a number of subjects. According to a recording heard by the Sunday Times, when asked about Ms. Clinton’s remarks, he replied in Sinhala “Meka Maara Magulak ne. Clinton nonata Monica gena amathakawela. (This is a hell of a problem. Ms. (Hillary) Clinton has forgotten the Monica Lewinsky episode it seems). He said Ms. Clinton should put “her house in order
without trying to live in a glass house and pelt stones at others.”
The Prime Minister’s office later issued a statement based on Mr. Wickremanayake’s comments to SLBC. However, the references about Monica Lewinsky were left out. It only said that Ms. Clinton should put her house in order.
Following angry reactions from Government leaders over Ms. Clinton’s remarks, three different US officials issued “clarifications.” The first came from US Ambassador Patricia Butenis who said Secretary Clinton’s remark “was to raise awareness of such brutality, not to implicate specific perpetrators.”
Melanie Verveer, Ambassador at large for Global Women’s Issues, said in a letter to Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama that “in the most recent phase of the conflict, from 2006 to 2009,….we have not received reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tools of war…”
Later, P.J. Crowley, US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, said the reference the Secretary made …. was to “very well documented reports of significant levels of rape that were documented (sic) through, I think, 2002 or 2003 in a variety of reports including State Department reports and also reports done by Amnesty International.”