Come election time in Sri Lanka, and there is one community that gets wooed, dined, wined, bribed and bullied. They are showered with money and gifts and, sometimes, even jailed. No, it is not mediapersons, but astrologers, who Sri Lankan politicians cannot do without. And, this devout attention comes with its share of trials and tribulations. In fact, the higher the realm of power, the greater the tribulations.
Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena, the former official astrologer of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who predicted a win for the former president in the January 8 presidential election, is now a recluse who claims that he could not have dared to reveal the correct prediction. His fears are not unfounded. In 2009, an astrologer named Chandrasiri Bandara was sent to jail for nine days, and he allegedly got a string of death threats after he predicted Rajapaksa would be put out of office. During the recent presidential elections, Bandara refrained from making any predictions.
Rajapaksa, a fanatical believer of the occult, is known to take advice on even simple matters like the best time to step out, and gems or jewellery he should wear to ward off bad luck. In fact, during the campaign trail, Rajapaksa carried a cylindrical gold talisman, which was supposed to have enchanting powers, in addition to a golden amulet on a chain that he wears round his neck and the stone-studded gold rings that he sports all the time in the hope of keeping luck by his side.
However, astrologer P.D. Perera and a visually handicapped young soothsayer, Indika Thotawatta, had openly predicted Rajapaksa's defeat in both the presidential and parliamentary elections. Perera, who rightly predicted that Maithripala Sirisena would win the presidential election, is a busy man today. Post the elections, his advice was sought on picking an auspicious date for Sirisena's swearing-in ceremony. He was also consulted while picking a date for dissolving the cabinet and for holding the parliamentary elections.
“If the parliamentary elections were held before August 17, it would have been detrimental to Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,” says Perera.
Currently, Perera has been assigned the task of looking at the birth charts of the 42 ministers who were sworn in on September 4 (on Perera's advice), to keep them on the right track.
Son of an ayurvedic doctor, Perera could read astrological charts at age 6. Today, he claims to know who will retire from politics and when. Rajapaksa, who virtually held the nation in the palm of his hand once, is on the verge of bidding goodbye to politics ‘due to causes as decreed by his fate’, says Perera. He brushes aside questions on the political pressures he might have faced because of the predictions he made prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“It is not important. The outcome of the elections is what was in store of the contestants and I predicted what I saw as an astrologer,” says Perera, who believes in the Biblical quote ‘you reap what you sow’. “A politician may have a strong chart depending on the ruling planets that control his life and he may be able to continue on this strengths, but his karma is determined by action as well, and suffering due to natural causes will prevail if his actions are not pure,” says Perera.
So, what is in store for Sirisena and Wickremesinghe? “The planetary compositions that govern Sirisena reveal his mental makeup, which is of a very shrewd politician who rarely reveals what is on his mind,” says Perera. “The prime minister will do well in politics for two years.”
And, will Sirisena keep his word and give up power in five years like he announced soon after taking oath? Perera dodges the question with a smile.
Meanwhile, though Rajapaksa will be remembered for his preoccupation with the occult, his legacy of superstition may not be a match for former President Ranasinghe Premadasa who walked into parliament with magicians brought in from Kerala, and coated each opposition chair with holy oil and cast spells to ward off an impeachment.