The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) came out strongly today against reports that President Maithripala Sirsiena is contemplating a presidential pardon for Shramantha Jude Jayamaha who was convicted in the infamous 2005 Royal Park murder case.
CPRP Chairman Senaka Perera told RepublicNext that, while President Sirisena has the right to issue presidential pardons to convicted prisoners, there are more deserving prisoners than Jayamaha, whose murder of Swedish-Sri Lankan national Yvyonne Johnson made headlines for its sheer brutality and sensational nature.
In an address delivered at the third National Youth Model United Nations summit in Colombo last Sunday (20) highlighting the importance of tolerance, President Sirisena revealed his intention to pardon Jayamaha, claiming that the then 19-year-old youth had been driven to murder in a moment of impatience — a crime of passion, in other words.
Sirisena said a request had been made by the now 32-year-old Jayamaha to grant him a pardon, prompting Sirisena to consider it on the account of the “child”’s good behaviour in prison. The President also remarked that Jayamaha has completed his PhD behind bars.
Jayamaha was sentenced to death in 2012 over the murder, following an appeal filed on a previous conviction on the same.
The CPRP chairman, a human rights lawyer, however, believes that Sirisena’s comments were politically motivated.
“As the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, we have always opposed the death penalty, even having gone to Courts against it. Recently the President vowed to carry out the death penalty against drug taffickers. Yet he now wants to pardon the Royal Park convict,” said Perera.
“He absolutely has the power to issue presidential pardons; there is no doubt about that. But it is clear that he makes these comments to gain some sort of political advantage,” he added.
There are prisoners either on death row or serving life sentences, said the activist, who are far more deserving of a pardon.
“There are many more prisoners who deserve to be pardoned before Jayamaha, and we have to ask whether this was a fair decision on the part of the President. There is a 75-year-old woman who has been seeking a pardon for many years, and she’s still in prison.
“The Constitution states that law should be equal for everyone, but recently the President granted a pardon for a former Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman who imprisoned over a bribery case,” he said.
Leading lawyer and human rights activist Lakshan Dias, however, commended the president’s remarks, albeit with a caveat similar to Perera’s.
“I believe in rehabilitation. It is good that the President thought Jayamaha should be pardoned, considering he has served a reasonably lengthy sentence. That said, there are many other prisoners like Jayamaha in prison. A proper system must be introduced to pardon those prisoners, too. They, too, must be rehabilitated. Forgiveness must not have a price,” Dias told RepublicNext.
Meanwhile, in a statement posted on Facebook (FB), Caroline Jonsson-Bradley, the sister of Jayamaha’s victim said that the murder was not a crime of passion as claimed by President Sirisena, but was in fact premeditated.
“I wonder how anyone would feel if it was their daughter, sister or family this happened to. The murderer not only destroyed my family but his family too. My sister’s murder was not someone losing their patience over a disagreement, it was premeditated. I still recall sitting in court and hearing how her skull was fractured into 64 pieces. My father had to identify his daughter in the morgue with no face. Are those the actions of someone who deserves to be pardoned? This was no accident nor a small incident as some have claimed,” said Jonsson-Bradley.