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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Law Student Goes Underground

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Law student Thushara Jayaratne fears for his life. In order to contact him, The Sunday Leader was required to create a special Skype account. Speaking from an undisclosed location, Jayaratne said that though he had asked numerous people for help, no one had assisted him.

Jayaratne’s story was splashed all over the newspapers and was taken up by the Asian Human Rights Commission. Jayaratne claimed that one of the law exam papers was leaked, and that preferential treatment was provided to fellow law student, President’s son, Namal Rajapaksa.

In January, the Sri Lanka Law College issued a statement that the allegations were untrue. The office of the Chief Justice confirmed that investigations into the incident had commenced on January 12.
However, Jayaratne insists that he is telling the truth.

Thushara’s Story

On December 3, Jayaratne was at the Law College, preparing to sit for a Commercial Law paper, which was an open book examination. He noticed that an air conditioned room was unlocked.
The exam was starting at 2 pm, so Jayaratne was at the canteen, having lunch and talking to a student from the Open University. At that point, Namal Rajapaksa was also there with security personnel who were dressed in plain clothes. Some of the group proceeded to discuss a difficult question. Later on, Jayaratne discovered that the question they had spoken of was part of the paper. What’s more, he claimed that Namal Rajapaksa had a computer with an internet connection on his desk, whereas the other students were not even allowed mobile phones in the examination hall.

He also claimed that Namal had taken the examination in the air conditioned room, separate from other candidates. Jayaratne added that there was space in the exam hall he sat in, though it was claimed there was none.

Incensed at what he saw as an injustice, Jayaratne went to the Law College Registrar to complain. There he ran into his first roadblock, when the Registrar refused to accept his complaint. Undaunted, Jayaratne went to the Keselwatte police, but there too he met with refusal. Next he went to the Police Headquarters. By this time, the media had got wind of the story, Jayaratne said. The complaint was duly recorded. A fellow student at the Law College telephoned Jayaratne to tell him that the police had questioned the Registrar and Principal.

However, Jayaratne decided to go to the Bribery and Corruption Commission on December 4. Here too, his requests to record a complaint were ignored. Before leaving he spoke to an official who told him to drop the complaint, “or what happened to Aristotle will happen to you, if you tell the truth.”
The warnings didn’t stop there. On December 6, Jayaratne received at least three calls from the Law College Registrar’s office. The caller told him to abandon the issue or leave the college. It was around this time the law student began receiving death threats. He was unable to sit his final two exams, afraid something would happen to him if he entered the College again.

Several times police attempted to take Jayaratne into custody, but he evaded them with the help of friends.

Jayaratne went to the Human Rights Commission on December 15 and filed a letter detailing the threats to his life. The letter was also addressed to IGP Mahinda Balasuriya and the Commissioner Ombudsman.

Finally on January 8, Jayaratne received a letter calling him to appear at the Law College for an inquiry into the incident. They warned him that if he did not attend, legal action would be filed against him. Though he was afraid for his safety Jayaratne went back to the College, accompanied by IUSF Convenor Udul Premaratne amongst others, to tell his story.
A report was later released to the media to the effect that Jayaratne’s testimony was based on hearsay.

Around a month passed. Then on March 3 the Human Rights Commission said they would be taking no further action on Jayaratne’s complaints as it fell outside their purview. The next day, Jayaratne was en route to a family member’s home when two men accosted him. Though they were in civilian clothing, they were very fit and appeared to be military personnel, Jayaratne said. They had asked him to come with them to record a statement. Jayaratne agreed, but asked that he be taken in an official police vehicle. The two refused.

Seeing a 120 route bus passing, the law student jumped onto it in an effort to escape. However, on looking behind him he saw that the two men had followed him onto the bus. He alighted in front of the Boralesgamuwa police station, and seeing no other option had gone with the two men. The two wanted to know who had been contacting Jayaratne. They noted down some details, finally releasing him around 11 pm. A three wheeler parked outside then transported him away.

The Human Rights Commission said the abduction also fell outside their purview, though Jayaratne in a letter said that police officers later took down a statement, supposedly in response to his complaint. However the officer refused to note down Jayaratne’s complaints against Namal Rajapaksa and the Law College Registrar.

On March 28, Jayaratne was assaulted by two people while sitting outside his home. This was followed by another visit by two people in civilian clothing on April 10. Jayaratne said he recognised one of them, who had also threatened him in March. The duo forced Jayaratne to sign two documents, written in English. As he was afraid for his life, Jayaratne complied. He is afraid the documents might have amounted to a withdrawal of his complaint about the Law College. He has already written to the Asian Human Rights Commission about the incident.

The Other Side Of The Coin

The Law College Principal confirmed to The Sunday Leader that an investigation had been held into Jayaratne’s claims. “He was even allowed to bring a lawyer and give a statement,” the Principal confirmed. It was found that his allegations were based on hearsay, he said. “He had absolutely no knowledge. They were unfounded allegations,” he said. He added that as the matter was settled he thought it unnecessary to further publicise the issue.

For his part, Jayaratne continues to insist on the truth of his accusations. “The statement that my complaints are based on hearsay is a lie,” he said.

However Police Spokesman Prishantha Jayakody told The Sunday Leader in January that Jayaratne’s evidence was almost exclusively based on what he had overheard at the canteen. “He has no direct evidence that the paper was leaked. It’s just a rumour,” he told The Sunday Leader at the time.
MP Namal Rajapaksa did not respond to phone calls and text messages requesting a comment. IGP Mahinda Balasuriya was also unable to speak to The Sunday Leader.  Although Jayaratne’s claims have been largely dismissed by the Law College and police as false, he continues to fear for his life. His finances have been disrupted and he has come up against enormous difficulties, he says. To date, he remains in hiding, having abandoned his former residence.



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