After serving one year and seven months of a four-year prison sentence, popular actor and former Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Ranjan Ramanayake walked out of the Welikada Prison and into the arms of an adoring crowd on Friday (26).
Mr Ramanayake walked out a free man after President Ranil Wickremesinghe granted a conditional presidential pardon. He was escorted out through the gates of the prison by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and other SJB MPs.
Also present was Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara. Mr Nanayakkara and Tourism and Lands Minister Harin Fernando, who had defected from the opposition to assume ministerial positions in the government several months ago, had insisted on granting a presidential pardon to Mr Ramanayake as one of the conditions for joining the government.
The popular film star was mobbed and garlanded by fans, well-wishers and SJB supporters who had showed up outside the prison in large numbers. They were far less charitable towards Minister Nanayakkara who had to make a hasty exit after being booed by the crowd.
Mr Ramanayake was sentenced to four years in prison in January last year after the Supreme Court found him guilty of contempt of court.
The President’s Media Division stated that Mr Ramanayake had been granted a presidential pardon after he signed a sworn affidavit apologising to the judiciary and promising to never again make any statement or indulge in any action that could be construed as being in contempt of court.
Addressing journalists alongside Mr Ramanayake at the Opposition Leader’s office later in the day, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said he notes with regret that Mr Ramanayake’s presidential pardon is a conditional one that prevents him from holdng political office.
The SJB had earlier considered appointing Mr Ramanayake to Parliament via the National List at the earliest opportunity.
“I can’t speak like I used to on certain issues as there is a risk of the suspended prison sentence against me being reactivated and me being sent back to prison for a further five years,” Mr Ramanayake told the media.
“I am built to always speak the truth, but I can’t do that anymore. I have to practise some self-censorship now,” he added. He thanked President Wickremesinghe for releasing him. He also thanked Mr Premadasa and all those who lobbied hard to ensure his release.
Mr Ramanayake was taken for a medical checkup yesterday. He is currently living at the Madiwela MPs’ housing complex in the unit belonging to Minister Manusha Nanayakkara. The minister has also appointed Mr Ramanayake as a goodwill ambassador for migrant workers.
Mr Premadasa meanwhile, tweeted yesterday that Mr Ramanayake will be appointed to the SJB’s Working Committee and be made a member of the party’s Parliamentary group. “He will also spearhead the anti corruption effort of the SJB,” Mr Premadasa said.