Former President Maithripala Sirisena speaking to TV Derana yesterday (20) raised controversy over the pardoning of the murder convict responsible for the Royal Park killing, saying that Athuraliya Rathana Thero continued to press for the pardoning of the youth and that he did not receive a single cent in the process, but someone else had collected a sum of money from the convict’s family.
“How the events involving the Royal Park Killer are perceived by Society is entirely wrong. That being said, this youth served a twelve year-prison sentence at the time of being pardoned. His conduct throughout this 12 year-period was good. No President may have ever visited prisons as much as me. These prisons are a hell. Been there, I have pardoned 700 – 800 prisoners at once for Vesak, for the Independence Day. Because there are young people of 18 – 19 years of age. Very sad to see.
As I was releasing them by visiting the prisons, one day Athuraliye Rathana Thero paid a visit to me. He did not come alone. Without informing me, he came along with the family members of the Royal Park youth. They came to the residence on Paget Road. They brought a huge bundle of letters and said that their son had been serving for 12 years and that he had done nothing wrong since. They also said that he had completed his degree and that he had registered and was studying for his post graduate. So they made a request to grant him pardon. I did not give in to this request at all. I kept silent. I had never seen this young man before.
After that, even without my knowledge, Rathana Thero visited my place with the Royal Park family from time to time. Sometimes at 8 – 9 pm at night. The Thero pressed that this be done somehow. If truth be told, I do not know why he was so keen to do it. Even that family was Christian. I do not know what the connection between them and the Thera was. Then, the late Baddegama Samitha Thero also visited me and handed over a letter. Among the bundle of letters submitted by Rathana Thero and others were many letters from certain bishops, retired judges and chief Bhikkus of certain temples. Then, the family members along with Rathana Thero did not leave me alone. Then I responded that I may forward the matter to the Justice Ministry.
The letters were forwarded to the Ministry. There is an organisation within the Justice Ministry for prisoners. There are professors in it; about 7 – 9 members, if I remember correctly. The committee forwarded these letters to the Prison Commissioner. That is the standard procedure. He checked the letters and told the Justice Ministry that this youth’s conduct was good and therefore his pardon was recommended. Then the Justice Ministry too informed me that his pardon was recommended. As I asked my lawyers of the Presidential Secretariat regarding the matter, they too told me that there was nothing wrong with doing it. Then I signed. That was what happened.
After some time, many wrong speculations spread across Society. Some of them claimed that I got Rs. 05 crores, Rs. 800 crores for the release of this young man. So I told the then intelligence officials to look into this matter. Upon probe it was revealed that a commission had actually been paid to a ‘certain’ party. I did not collect a single cent from the affair. Those who had been keen of this affair must have collected a commission. But as I was preparing to conduct further probes, many issues began to surface. Those who had visited me began to behave in unpredictable ways. Then I gave up on the matter. Even my children blamed me for putting weight on this ‘garbage.’ So, even I can see that there was something wrong committed. But I have never gained a single cent.”