No pardon for Ranjan until apology

  • Says that pardon should not undermine Judiciary   

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Minister of Justice, Prisons Affairs, and Constitutional Reforms Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC said that he has made a recommendation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to grant a pardon to former Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Opposition MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who is serving a four-year term of rigorous imprisonment over contempt of court – but only after the latter submits an affidavit to the court expressing his regret for the statement in question he made regarding the Judiciary.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday (10), he said: “It is not necessary to consult the Attorney General (AG) in this kind of matter, as the AG should be consulted only on matters pertaining to those who have been convicted of murder, with regard to the grant of a pardon to such a convict. However, I consulted the AG in order to ensure transparency in this case regarding any pardoning of Ramanayake. I have also obtained a letter regarding the matter from the Commissioner General (CG) of Prisons.”

Taking into account the submissions made by the AG and the Prisons CG, Rajapakshe PC said that he has made a recommendation to Wickremesinghe to pardon Ramanayake, subject to a condition. Noting that he was not imprisoned due to a political matter, a common incident or a crime, he said that Ramanayake was imprisoned for the offence of contempt of court. 

“We believe that it is very fair to pardon Ramanayake because he has been serving imprisonment for a long time, and he is a person who can contribute to society. He has also exhibited good behaviour within the prison. However, we have to pardon him in such a way that the Judiciary is not undermined in any way. Therefore, we are of the opinion that it is appropriate for the President to pardon him after Ramanayake submits an affidavit to the court expressing his regret for the statement he made about the Judiciary.” added Rajapakshe PC.

The Supreme Court, in January 2021, sentenced Ramanayake to a four-year term of rigorous imprisonment over contempt of court. The case was filed by Ven. Magalkande Sudaththa Thera, and Air Force Officer (Retd.) R. Sunil Perera, in 2017 following some remarks made by Ramanayake, allegedly insulting the reputation of the Judiciary, when commenting to the media in 2017. The case was heard before a bench composed of Justices Sisira De Abrew (since retired), Vijith Kumara Malalgoda PC, and Preethi Padman Surasena. Ramanayake subsequently pleaded guilty to a second contempt of court charge in a separate case, and he was given a suspended sentence. 

Since then, a number of parties, including the SJB and Ramanayake’s fellow film industry colleagues, had been pressuring then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Government to release him. As a step towards his release, then-SJB MPs and incumbent Ministers Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara addressed the last session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Meanwhile, claiming that even the group that boasted about working towards the release of Ramanayake had forgotten him today, Opposition and SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa recently said that they would have to wait patiently for Ramanayake’s release under the prescribed procedure. He added that they are not only looking forward to Ramanayake’s release, but would also work hand in hand with him to build a country, where there is a clean Government free of corruption, fraud, and theft.