I haven’t decided my future yet

His refusal to accept any official position reflects a commitment for independent action. Gaining limited freedom from imprisonment, former Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake walked out of the Welikada prison amid masses after serving a one year and seven month sentence. Ramanayake had been sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment by the Supreme Court for Contempt of Court.

He received Presidential Pardon for his actions and after apologising for committing Contempt of Court and was released from the Welikada prison on August 26.

“I haven’t decided yet on how I am going to proceed after my release. I was jailed for one year and seven months. Things have changed a lot during this period. Therefore, I am gradually getting back into my routine these days,” Ramanayake informed the media.

Reflecting on his experience behind bars Ramanayake notes that it was no bed of roses.

“One can complain about what is served at the canteen at a Government institute but who can complain about what is put on the plate of a person serving a sentence in jail? The food is of low quality because it is the prisoners themselves who prepare food for themselves and their inmates. They are not chefs but are from various other professions. Some of them have no experience with cooking at all. This is a pitiful situation,” Ramanayake added.

Speaking about his experience at the Angunakolapelessa Prison, Ramanayake says that he had been put in a ward with around 60 inmates first.

“Later I was moved to a single cell, stating that it is for safety reasons. I was at the Karapitiya Hospital for about one and half months. Later I was moved to a ward in Welikada and then to a single cell. I was moved to a ward again. It is questionable as to why I was sent to Angunakolapelessa – a place which is known to house the most dangerous criminals in the island. Since I am from the Colombo region, I should have been kept in Welikada. I made a request too to be kept in Colombo because I needed to meet my lecturers to proceed with my studies and for someone to bring me food. But all my requests fell on deaf ears. I was sent to Angunakolapelessa intentionally and was there from January, 2021, till November, 2021,” he said.

Ramanayake had been at the Negombo Pallansena Youth Correctional Centre for a span. It is a rehabilitation centre for those who have been addicted to drugs.

“It is a very unhygienic place. Children are being beaten daily there. I am an eyewitness to such incidents,” he expressed, adding that though he had not been harassed physically, he had to face some verbal abuse.

Whenever a prisoner makes a request for some kind of relief, he is informed that it is a jail, not a five-star hotel. Ramanayake had gotten mixed treatment from the prison officers. Some of them had got the job from the Rajapaksa regime so they had not treated Ramanayake well. However, there were also prison officers who loved artistes and those in favour of the UNP. They had not mistreated him.

Ramanayake has encountered many well known criminals during his stint behind bars at Angunakolapelessa, Bogambara, Welikada and Pallansena Youth Correctional Centre.

“We bathed in tanks together and we went to the toilet with a bucket. We were each handed a bucket and a steel plate when we entered jail. I had to sleep on the floor first. Then they gave me a cloth to lie on. An inmate lent me a small mattress similar to the one they give in the Army. Then I was given a reed mat. I did not get a mattress till I was moved out from Angunakolapelessa,” Ramanayake revealed, adding that he got the mattress due to doctors diagnosing a spinal issue.

Putting his time to good use even behind bars Ramanayake had engaged in further studies, choosing ‘Youth and Community Development Leadership Skills’ as the subject for his BA. He got into it after passing his GCE Advanced Level examination a few years back.

“I have passed two semesters. My next step is the law entrance exam,” he stated.

Queried on whether he has plans to come to the fore in politics, Ramanayake notes that he has yet to make up his mind on the next step.

“There have been various suggestions made by people around me. Some suggest that I should stick by cinema and try to uplift that sector while some say I should proceed in politics. Likewise some say I should continue with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa while some request me to join President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Some even suggest that I should join the National People’s Power party. I am still overviewing and exploring these options. I do not know what the future holds for me,” he said.

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