Royal Park murder convict seeks second chance at life

Royal Park murder convict Jude Shramantha Jayamaha has appealed for a second chance after growing outrage over his release from prison.

Jayamaha was serving life in prison over the 2005 murder of Swedish national Yvonne Johnson at the Royal Park condominium but was released last week on a Presidential pardon granted by President Maithripala Sirisena.

In an open letter issued today 34-year-old Jayamaha said that nothing can replace Yvonne but he will keep on trying to make amends with her family.

The full letter:

 

An Open Letter to Sri Lanka from Jude Shramantha Jayamaha

 

I write this letter to every family and individual who is affected by the recent news of my release from prison and consider it unfair.

This is my story.

I am the product of a broken home as my parents are divorced. I grew up lonely, hurting, insecure and never understood what it’s like to belong to a close knit family. By the time I was 16, I had grown into a disgruntled youth with little control over how I behaved in society.

Today, I stand as a 34 yr old, who has spent the best years of my youth in prison, enclosed in a 6 x 8 ft room with access to only 30 mins of sunlight everyday.  It was the darkest period of my life, locked up for over 12 hours of each day, with a bucket as a latrine, which also served as my chair.  I slept on the floor and the pillow I lay my head on was also my desk.  If there was a hell on earth; I experienced it in the last 14+ years.  I’m out now, but in a world that I hardly know or recognize.  And all I see is your anger and hate directed at me – not that I don’t deserve it, but please understand that I am not the same 19 year old who was imprisoned

TO THE JOHNSON FAMILY :  I don’t have adequate words to express my grief towards what has come upon the Johnson family. I want you to know that I never intended to harm anyone. I don’t have the words to take away the pain. This is what has played on my mind; every day for the last 14 years. Sadly, I know that nothing I can ever say or do; will make this go away and make things right for you, although I so wish I could.  You knew me as a child,  I have been in and out of your house and you have always been so gracious and kind to me. 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.

TO SOCIETY : I understand the anger you feel. But please judge me for what I am today and what I am attempting to do with my 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.

I met Ven. RathanaThero for the first time, when I was at a particularly low point in my 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.  I did a distance education BSC Economics degree from the University of London/London School of Economics against innumerable odds. Please understand I had no access to a computer, online research, desk, table, or even a chair or lighting. I sat on my toilet bucket and used my pillow as a desk. Every tutorial or assignment was hand written and posted – I did this to prove to myself and everyone else that I was a changed man. I kept at it and even went on to do a Masters of Business from the Open University; a first for any prisoner in Sri Lanka.  I promise you that I did not receive special privileges while doing any of this.  But doing it all despite the odds helped me and gave some direction to the mess I had made in my life.  For me it was a turning point, and now plan to complete my Phd on Development Economics, so that one day, I can give back by working for the development of my country; that is if I am given the opportunity.

As for my release from prison, I must place on record that it was not an arbitrary decision by the President as currently being portrayed. It was a process that began 3 years ago, with continual sequences of reviews and approvals.

Following is a brief outline of the process:

2005 – I entered prison

2013-   The Prison Review board comprising of retired judges, police, prison commissioner, phycologist, criminologist, AGs dept and Justice ministry started reviewing all Prisoners on Death Row, myself included!

2016 – 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.

2016 onwards – A range of civil society members, Buddhist monks, other religious clergy and professionals started a movement to release young rehabilitated and educated prisoners.

2018 to 2019 – The judges report, Prisons Department report, Attorney General’s review report and Justice Ministry recommendation, amongst other documents, citing a fair release for me were reviewed by the Presidents legal review board.

2019 – Based on the recommendations above, constitutional procedures and the opinion of the Legal Review Board –  my release was approved.

In closing, I would like to say that 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.  Yes, I was hopeful but as a prisoner for 14 plus years, I did not know what to expect or imagine what it would be like if the prison gate opened for me. There are some who still think I should be inside prison and I 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 several hundreds of people who are fortunate enough to be afforded a second chance at life through the merit based pardoning system.

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.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Gabriella, I totally agree with every word of your statement above. I could not have said it any better. This man deserves to spend the rest of his life locked up. His excuses are just excuses for a horrendous crime for which to date, he is not taken responsibility. He is just looking for excuses for a dastardly heinous crime he committed. There are millions of children from broken homes, none of them ended up evil murderers. This man is the personification of EVIL. I hope he is ostracised from society completely for ever.

  2. Hi Jude, I have bn following up ur story since the day one I heard this, any one deserves a second chance , many chances, what was done was done , but I as a young woman belive you, we all have our weakest moment. You reacted to it in a different way(Im not trying to say its fair or ok), But a greater responsibility goes to your parents ,thus I belive this chance you got, will make you a usefull person in the rest of your life cos you know the value of life more than anyone else. The elite society that you are belonged in may have reacted differently.Just think that it is their deed. Do not get your self disturbded by any negative response.According to Loard buddha , we buddist should do Maithree to everyone, so being a good buddihist why not to you, who am I to judge you. I really dont know what I might have done in my past lives where I have born and died.
    You have a kind heart in this world always you feel alone …….

  3. We have no right to chose whether he dies or lives.
    Ones who commits crimes will eventually get what they deserve.
    This man may get out of prison, but his sins will always follow him. I pray for everyone’s sake, that this man has in fact changed and will do only good things from now on.
    As a sri lankan buddhist, i believe all lost souls can find a path to follow. This man is a lost soul.
    At first when i read about what he has done, i was immediately outraged.
    As a mother of my own daughters, i can only imagine how excruciating it must have been for the johnsson family.
    But then i thought of the story of angulimala, the man who killed 999 people and wore their fingers on his neck as a necklace.
    Lord buddha told him,
    To remove a branch of a tree,
    And then once he had done it, he told him to put it back.
    Angulimala was confused.
    And the lord buddha explained that,
    One who cannot give life has no right to take life.
    And hearing these words, angulimala was able to change his ways.

    If angulimala, a massr murderer can be forgiven by lord buddha,
    Then i realised that this man can be forgiven to.

    Because by forgiving him, we are free from the rage, hatred. It doesn’t mean that we believe he hasn’t done anything wrong.

    Im sure not everyone can understand what i mean.

    You must think i have no right to say that, and that if it happened to one of my daughters, i would never say that.

    But i think we have no right to destroy anyone’s life.

    That’s all.

    Ms yvonne johnsson,

    i hope you are in a better place now, with a loving family, and people who you can trust.
    I pray that you will never have to face something so cruel and inhumane ever again.

    Mr.jude jayamaha,

    Please don’t say empty words such as you will make ammends with the johnsson family.
    “Making ammends”
    How exactly?
    You cannot bring back their daughter.
    For their sake, please stay away from them.
    They don’t need to keep reliving that horrfiying experience.
    You will eventually reap what you sow.

    That’s all.

  4. Accepting this presidential pardon illustrates your privilege, the acknowledgement of your own privilege (although vehemently denied), and that you’re once again above the law. Does it not?

  5. I am very sure he judged and understood his life himself during his imprisoned time. As we all are human beings must give up any angry at him. So I also give mercy and forgiveness him. Thanks his Excellency President Maitreepala Sirisena for your kindly decision. I beg you all Sri Lankens, please give him another chance.
    – Deepananda W. Rev.
    [email protected]

  6. Your behaviour 14 years ago shows a deep state of instability. No matter how much you appeal to the public and how many PhDs you get, this Colombo society is never going to accept you – especially not the strata of society you come from. Your parents should understand that better than Sirisena who comes from some rural village. When society rejects you and are mean to you, there is a very high likelihood that you will snap and hurt somebody again. Now that your parents got you out of jail, we can only hope they will bundle you out of this country. Please go enjoy your freedom someplace else.

  7. Looks like he had terrorized Yvonne’s family as a youngster. A person whom the Johnson’s family haven’t had a choice but to let this person to allow to come with his forceful trespassing of the premises to associate the 2 young girls in the family. I can not imagine what the parents of Yvonne had gone through. The best could have happened instead of releasing him was to give him a bit of sun light, a desk, a chair and a pillow with a WC to poop, in a little wider cell., Or send Ratana and Sirisena to this cell instead.

  8. With all due respect to all what has been mentioned, you still deserved at least, *mind you at least*, another couple of decades in prison. Even the persons found in the possession of only a few milligrams of drugs would be handed over the imprisonment for life, so how anyone can justify a disgruntled monster who had shattered someone else’s skull into pieces would be beyond any rational mind. This is a very irresponsible and lunatic act on the part of president, nothing but misuse of power for personal preference. Allowing this guy to escape in this way sets forth a clearly bad example for others to follow, that is the sinister reality here. Had this come as part of a presidential pardon after having analyzed the entire list on the death row or the life-long imprisonment, this could have been at least a bit more justifiable, but this seems to be a case of nothing but arbitrary choice and discrimination, hence questioning even the principles of equality. As far as the president is concerned, his skills on reasoning and judgement have been nothing but horrible to say the least, more often than not. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be tempted to play any more blunder within his few remaining days in office. As far as Ven. Rathana thero is concerned, the less said, the better it would be. Shame on all those involved, to say the least. BTW, I’m a Sinhalese Buddhist having no connection to victim’s family. I do not believe in revenge, but you should pay at least sufficiently for the crime/s you have committed.

  9. Jude Shramantha Jayamaha,

    You, like all psychopaths are expert at manipulating the innate decency and compasssion of normal well adjusted human beings . Yes, most people are forgiving, and will graciously give you an undeserved second chance.

    You speak about then and now. What you “were” and what you now “are”. When, what you should be is Dead ! If the sentence passed by a Learned member of the judiciary was carried out by gutless politicians.

    You justify your heinous,barbaric,depraved,sadistic,perverted,vicious and brutal crime on being the product of a broken-home, and a troubled youth. If this was the justification for murder, then, three out of five homes in the Western World would produce a murderer (given the rate of marriage breakdown).

    Let us then remember a defenceless little girl who died terrified; because of your merciless beating and rape.

    Yvonne was nineteen at the time with her whole life ahead of her. With from all accounts a doting family to love and support her. This year Yvonne would have been thirty four years old. None of her dreams have been realised. Her parents will never hear her words Mum and Dad again. Her parents will never hear the words Grandma or Grandad from her children. Her sister will never feel the warmth of her hug or sisterly love. She will never hear the word Aunty from her children. A family will never know peace for the rest of their lives.

    In reality, you have taken more than one life. Yet, your life has been preserved. And, the Johnsson family rightfully ask : Where is the justice ?

    • Gabriella, I totally agree with every word of your statement above. I could not have said it any better. This man deserves to spend the rest of his life locked up. His excuses are just excuses for a horrendous crime for which to date, he is not taken responsibility. He is just looking for excuses for a dastardly heinous crime he committed. There are millions of children from broken homes, none of them ended up evil murderers. This man is the personification of EVIL. I hope he is ostracised from society completely for ever.

  10. Utter BS. If so then go back to Prison. Everyone knows your rich family paid a huge sum for your freedom. The corrupt president last Financial Transaction.

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