- This has caused immeasurable pain to all of you and everyone in my family
- Requests society to judge him for what he is today and what he is attempting to do with his life.
- There has only been sadness, loss and grief throughout this 15 years for everyone. I have tried many times to contact you and express my heart
In an open letter, Shramantha Jude Jayamaha, who was convicted over the Royal Park murder and released on a presidential pardon recently, requested the society to give him another chance.
“I ask for your understanding, because that is the kind of country we live in - where there is hope for even the worst criminal and mercy and forgiveness is a way of life. Please give me another chance,” he said.
In a lengthy letter, Mr. Jayamaha elaborated on his story, his family background, the murder, conviction, prison life and the pardon. He said he has no adequate words to express his grief towards what has come upon the Johnson family and said he was so ashamed for what has happened.
“I’m so ashamed for what has happened. This has caused immeasurable pain to all of you and everyone in my family. There has only been sadness, loss and grief throughout this 15 years for everyone. I have tried many times to contact you and express my heart; but I was never successful. I can’t replace Yvonne, and even if you don’t believe me now, I will keep on trying to make amends,” he said.
He requested the societyto judge him for what he is today and what he is attempting to do with his life. “I ask for your forgiveness, as I am a changed man - I have had days and years to do nothing but look at myself and think of everything I could have done different,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said he met Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera for the first time, when he was at a particularly low point in his prison life - around 5 years ago.
“He was meeting prisoners to give us meditation advice, and in a very long time, someone looked at me with kindness. It was he who gave me the desire to believe in life again and even motivated me to pick up my studies again,” he said.
As for his release, he said it was not an arbitrary decision by the President but a process that began three years ago, with continual sequences of reviews and approvals.
“In 2013, The Prison Review Board comprising of retired judges, police, prison commissioner, psychologist, criminologist, Attorney General’s Department and Justice Ministry started reviewing all Prisoners on Death Row, myself included. After detailed interviews; 250 Prisoners out of 600, were commuted to life imprisonment with reports specifying that we are fit to be reintroduced to society in 2016 and a range of civil society members, Buddhist monks, other religious clergy and professionals started a movement to release young rehabilitated and educated prisoners,” he said.
From 2018 to 2019, he said the judges report, Prisons Department report, Attorney General’s review report and Justice Ministry recommendation, amongst other documents, citing a fair release for him were reviewed by the President’s legal review board.
“Based on the recommendations above, constitutional procedures and the opinion of the Legal Review Board - my release was approved in 2019. Despite all the procedure, my release on the 9th of November 2019, still came as a surprise to me as it would have been to you all,” he said.
He said there are some who still think that he should be inside prison and he can’t change that.
“But if you don’t believe anything else, at least believe that the pardon that was given to me, was not a result of any coercion or influence, but purely through process and as I pointed out earlier. I am one of the several hundred of people who are fortunate enough to be afforded a second chance at life through the merit based pardoning system,” he said.
I’m so ashamed for what has happened. This has caused immeasurable pain to all of you and everyone in my family