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LST statement on the Presidential pardon for Shramantha Jayamaha

November 13, 2019

The Law and Society Trust is appalled that the Presidential pardon has been used to release Jude Shramantha Jayamaha – a man convicted of brutally murdering a young woman, Yvonne Jonsson, at the Royal Park apartment complex in 2005. This is the second presidential pardon given in quick succession that has done much to undermine the rule of law and the judiciary in Sri Lanka.

We are informed that ‘many religious leaders, former Supreme Court Judges, lawyers, civil society leaders and youth leaders (yet to be named)’ have made representations to President Sirisena, recommending sympathetic consideration of the appeal for granting a Presidential pardon, but as many have condemned and criticized this move. The arguments expressed by these champions of Mr Jayamaha have not expressed a single word in consideration of the victim and her family.

While we reject the death penalty and have publicly declared this stance, we do believe that punishments must be meted out for heinous crimes. Mr. Jayamaha committed a heinous crime and acquiring a PhD. in prison does not absolve him of his actions.

We are moved to ask if this pardon was discussed and endorsed in cabinet and whether the wider impact of this action was considered. Besides the gross injustice done and disrespect shown to the victim and her family, and to the judiciary, it sends a message to the world that due process and justice has little value in Sri Lanka.

If Sri Lankans are not assured of the rule of law and justice, who will have confidence in Sri Lanka – be it as investors or as tourists? It creates a belief that one does not have to fully pay for the consequences of wrongdoing.

We live in trepidation that with the days left for the presidential elections more damage of this nature may be done.

We urge all the presidential candidates to assure the country that they will not damage our judicial institutions further, in this manner and will act with responsibility.

We urge the Bar Association and civil society committed to promoting and upholding human rights to condemn this action and consider what remedial actions may be taken.

This is also the time to reflect on the commitment made in 2015 to abolish the Executive Presidency. That it is an institution that is vulnerable to abuse is further reiterated through such actions.

We further urge that constitutional reforms are undertaken to ensure that the power to pardon is exercised in consultations with the Cabinet and the Attorney General so that ill-conceived decisions are not made in the future.