WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka


'Astrology rigged' in Sri Lanka election


The politically influential here traditionally keep family astrologers, much like family doctors, to advise on choosing a marriage partner, starting a business or even before deciding when to start a foreign visit
Copyright By the BBC's Frances Harrison in Colombo

An astrologer offering prayers

Astrologers get more attention than political analysts

As Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new parliament many voters were keen to know what the astrologers were saying about the outcome.

It is not uncommon for politicians to consult the stars before fixing on any new venture.

But this time allegations of corruption have rocked the astrology world with accusations that the planetary positions have been rigged.

One fortune teller says the elections will throw up a hung parliament but eventually the opposition will form a government.

Coconut woman

She has deduced this from splitting a coconut and comparing the two halves of the shell.

The pointy end, which is considered the male end, is compared with the rounded female end to contrast the chances of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her rival Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Another astrologer says he talks to the gods for intimations of the future.

This is what his sources say about the outcome of the elections:

The coconut woman
Forecasting a hung parliament

"It's like a three horse race. The gods have told me that Ranil Wickremesinghe will win this election because he has a lot of educated people behind him.

"I have looked at his horoscope and according to the planetary positions there might be some obstacles but he will overcome them."

So important are astrologers in Sri Lanka that their pronouncements are given more weight than those of political analysts and opinion polls on the nightly TV news.

Needless to say the state run TV channel is foretelling victory for the governing People's Alliance.

Birth chart

Sri Lanka's premier astrology magazine - Ira Handa or Sun and Moon - claims a circulation of half a million which is more than the national daily.

Entering the politicians' date and time of birth in special computer programmes, the astrologers at Ira Handa magazine have calculated birth charts for the candidates and they have printed a list of which ones they think will be winners.

Astrology magazine Ira Handa

Birth charts of candidates have been printed

They have even worked out a birth chart for the country as a whole using independence day as the date of birth.

The magazine's editor says President Chandrika Kumaratunga's birth chart is especially powerful.

He says the next government will be a combination of two colours - blue and red - which happen to be the party colours of the People's Alliance and the Marxists who are likely to form an alliance.

'Friendly' predictions

You would not know the magazine had been hit by an embarrassing scandal when an employee recently resigned in protest at what he alleged was the rigging of the planetary positions in return for favours from the government.

Chief editor Priyantha Ratnayake strongly denies the accusations.

"He was not the editor as he claimed. He was not an astrologer at all, he was just a paste up artist on contract.

"Basically he was bought for money so he went and told all those things. But he was never an astrologer or editor."

Mr Ratnayake says in fact the opposition offered him money to predict an election victory for them.

But even though money politics seems to be threatening Sri Lanka's astrological community their credibility seems untarnished among those who routinely consult the stars for guidance.

Stars shine for Sri Lankan astrologers

AFP | March 26, 2004 10:07 IST

In a country where presidents are sworn in and governments are sacked at astrologically auspicious times, Sri Lanka's seers are seeing their own fortunes rise ahead of next week's elections.

With opinion polls still in their infancy in Sri Lanka, fortune-tellers are in high demand ahead of the April 2 parliamentary election, with the 6,024 candidates keen to know where their stars lie.

"Astrology plays a crucial role in politics and particularly at election time," said soothsayer Ariyarathne Hewapathirana.

"Politicians are busy getting horoscopes read and buy lucky charms to fight evil influences."

Hewapathirana, who is also a consultant to a group of astrologers seeking to preserve their profession, said that while legislator hopefuls paid through their noses for talismans and good readings, many of the supposed seers were fakes.

More affluent politicians from the island seek out astrologers from neighbouring India instead, hoping for a neutral prediction from an outsider.

A former Sri Lankan president was once reported to have commissioned charmers from the southern Indian state of Kerala to help him ward off an impeachment attempt.

The politically influential here traditionally keep family astrologers, much like family doctors, to advise on choosing a marriage partner, starting a business or even before deciding when to start a foreign visit.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's close aide Mangala Samaraweera is on record saying that the head of state attends to important matters of state at auspicious times and notes it is a tradition of her predecessors.

The publicity mileage from predictions is seized upon by political parties to influence undecided voters among the 12.8 million electorate.

But Hewapathirana said the candidates were expecting strictly favourable forecasts from their seers ahead of the vote, the third parliamentary poll in four years -- and are canny about what they give away.

"No leader will publicly declare his actual time of birth because a rival can take that information, prepare a birth chart and see what lies in store for him and initiate counter-measures," he said.

He lamented that a majority of "astrologers" in the country earned their fortunes by preying on the gullible.

But fortunes can also turn against the fortune-tellers. After the last parliamentary vote in 2001, some astrologers went into hiding as their predictions proved wrong.

The English-language Island newspaper commented at the time that Sri Lanka's obsession with astrologers might make outsiders think the island was driven by "loony politics".

An astrological paper, Ira Handa (Sun and Moon), apologised after the last election for rigging predictions in favour of the president's party, which was swept out of power.

This time around, the state-run Daily News, which is controlled by Kumaratunga, said that a seer had predicted victory for her party as her horoscope was powerful.

But another astrologer later disagreed with the Daily News, saying Kumaratunga's horoscope could not be used as she herself was not running in the election.


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