Sri Lanka’s outgoing President Maithripaa Sirisena has caused public outrage by pardoning a death row prisoner who had murdered a Swedish teenager in 2005. Jude Jayamaha, from a wealthy, high-profile family, walked free from prison following President Maithripala Sirisena’s highly unusual decision to pardon him.
The victim’s sister, Caroline Jonsson, said the killer had shown no remorse.
Sri Lankans criticised the move online.
Mr Sirisena is not standing in next Saturday’s presidential election. He had failed to get support from his own party to contest the poll.
President Sirisena announced last month he was considering a request to grant Jayamaha a pardon, saying he had behaved well in prison and had been jailed aged 19 “over an incident of impatience”.
Victim Yvonne Jonsson, a dual national whose mother was Sri Lankan, was beaten to death in the stairwell of the apartment block where her family was living in Colombo in 2005 after an argument.
During the trial, the court heard that her skull had been fractured into 64 pieces.
Jayamaha was initially given 12 years in prison. His subsequent appeal against his jail term was rejected and he was sentenced to death instead, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.
Last month Yvonne Jonsson’s sister Caroline said the family had been distressed to learn that Sirisena was considering a pardon.
“We’ve worked hard to rebuild our lives and here we are, going into 15 years, still fighting for justice,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“Unfortunately, we now have to prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome, the pardon of my sister’s murderer.”
She dismissed Sirisena’s characterization of her sister’s murder, saying it was a premeditated act and he had waited for her outside the family’s apartment before attacking her.
Many Sri Lankans took to social media to condemn the pardon.
Here is the full text of Caroline Jonsson Bradely’s letter to President Sirisena on her Facebook page:
President Maithripala Sirisena,
I am writing this letter to you, but I am fully aware you may never read it. Just as you pardoned my sister’s murderer on a Saturday night and chose to do it on a long weekend in Sri Lanka so you could avoid facing what you have done for as long as possible.
I cannot begin to understand how a father of two daughters reached the decision to release this monster? I know every single injury my sister sustained that night. I could write the extensive list right here, it is tragically clear in my memory, but I need to protect my parents from having to go through it all again.
I can’t stop thinking about what she went through that night. She fought for her life, even running from her attacker with broken ankles.
I know you didn’t follow due process for this murderer’s release, but did you even take the time to look into this case at all?
No one will ever truly understand the impact a murder has on a family and how loss follows loss. We lost friends who themselves couldn’t cope, our country which we called home and ourselves over and over again.
My parents and I occupy ourselves every moment so we don’t sink into dark thoughts. Pretending to be fine and normal has its own weight and repercussions. We know this too well but it has been the only way to make sure that the murderer didn’t take more from us.
I watch my father be so strong in front of people, but behind closed doors, he is a broken man.
President, do you know how many years it took for my father to stop crying in his sleep? My mother has been unable to express herself or fathom what had happened to her firstborn child. She is highly protective of me and rightly so. People close to us never understood this, but I have always stuck by my mother’s side because I understand. I understand it even more now being a mother to a little girl.
I remember feeling this hollow and lost when my sister died. Since I heard the news confirming the pardon, I have felt completely on edge and I haven’t stopped shaking. It took me about 10 years to start to feel close to normal, but now here I am, in this same dark hole again. Worst of all, I have a 4-month-old daughter that needs her mother, so I’m aware that this will be the greatest test of my inner strength.
I have come to live with this pain and it has become a part of who I am today. This type of pain never heals, it matures with you. I dealt with it as a teenager, then as a young adult and now as a parent and I know I will continue feeling its strife whilst it transforms itself until I am at rest.
Finally President, now that you have once again inflicted this unbearable pain on my family, I think we and all the people who have expressed concern with the recent events, deserve to know the true reasons you involved yourself in this case.
There are countless Sri Lankans in custody for lesser crimes, yet you have chosen to pardon a prisoner convicted of premeditated murder, and in doing so undermined the highest level of judiciary in the country.
The reasons given in your public speech in no way justify the pardoning of a murderer. Your silence on the matter since your speech makes me fear we may never know the truth behind your decision, but you will now be attached to this case forever and for all of the wrong reasons. It would be impossible for any action to make better what happened to my sister and the subsequent pain for my family, but you have used your Presidential power and ended your term by succeeding in making it even worse.