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Wheel of fortune turns for Sri Lanka’s political soothsayers

COLOMBO (AFP) – Generations of Sri Lankan leaders have sought guidance from seers and astrologers, and now one has dared tell the ruling Rajapaksa family that their time in office is up.

As politicians find their homes besieged by large and resentful crowds, incensed over months of fuel shortages and lengthy blackouts, spiritual advisers have also found themselves under pressure.

Images of soothsayers standing alongside top administration figures have been shared on social media by activists calling on them to urge President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stand down. One of the most prominent among them has already broken ranks with the government.

The long-time personal astrologer of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – the president’s older brother – this week said the economic crisis signalled the downfall of a clan that has dominated Sri Lanka’s affairs for much of the past two decades.

“This is the end of the entire Rajapaksa family,” Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena told AFP.
The fortune-teller’s reputation took a hit in 2015 after he suggested Mahinda call an early election that the leader lost – but his latest prediction is more emphatic.

ABOVE & BELOW: Personal astrologer of then-deposed Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena; and astrologer Dayasena Athukorale show a client’s ola leaf horoscope in Makola. PHOTOS: AFP

“Even a grade two child knows today that the Rajapaksas are doomed,” he said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – Mahinda’s younger brother – and Sri Lanka’s army chief are also known to have had a long association with a fortune-teller in the historic Buddhist centre of Anuradhapura.

Local media have reported the president makes regular pilgrimages to meet with Gnana Akka, and claimed she had a considerable role in shaping the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of activists clashed with police this month as they attempted to storm a shrine belonging to the seer, who fled after officers tipped her off to the crowd’s impending arrival.

Gnana Akka’s influence also extended to several other top politicians, said newspaper columnist Kusal Perera, who quipped that the powers had apparently not granted her advance warning of the protest.

“How can Gnana Akka protect the president when she is unable to protect herself?” he said.