Sri Lankan rulers have always turned to seers for guidance, and the ruling Rajapaksa clan is no exception, although an oracle now dares to predict that “they are over.”
Politicians see their homes besieged by angry crowds after months of shortages of basic necessities, fuel and power outages.
Their own spiritual counselors feel the pressure building.
According to footage circulating on social media, fortune-tellers from senior administration officials have been called upon to use their influence on the Rajapaksa to persuade them to leave.
This week, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s personal astrologer even dared to say that the economic crisis marked the downfall of the clan that led Sri Lankan affairs for two decades.
“This is the end of the entire Rajapaksa family,” astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena told AFP. And to add, “even an elementary school child knows today that the Rajapaksa are finished”.
In 2015, the seer’s reputation was damaged after he suggested that Mahinda Rajapaksa call early elections which he lost following his advice.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s younger brother, and Shavendra Silva, army chief of staff, have long consulted with a clairvoyant in the Buddhist historic center of Anuradhapura.
The president makes frequent pilgrimages to consult with Gnana Akka, who is said to have played a huge role in the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
This month, activists who tried to enter a shrine belonging to the clairvoyant clashed with law enforcement.
Gnana Akka had had time to escape, having been warned by the authorities of the imminent arrival of the group.
The seer’s influence extends to other high-profile politicians, says Kusal Perera, a columnist who once joked that the seer’s powers failed to denounce her attackers.
“How can Gnana Akka protect the president when she is unable to protect herself?” she asked.
Astrology is widely practiced in Sri Lanka. The population turns to sighted people during the important phases of their life, before carrying out projects, concluding contracts, organizing a wedding.
Political speeches to the nation and new parliamentary sessions are organized on auspicious dates.
According to the former army commanders, the timing of the battles during the 37-year civil war was decided by the astrologers, who were also consulted to choose the codenames of the operations.
The Rajapaksa brothers, like so many other leaders of the country before them, have a habit of balancing advice from the afterlife with those of technocrats and public officials.
Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa had resorted to magic in hopes of avoiding impeachment proceedings in 1991, according to Vijaya Palliyaguruge, the then sergeant in arms of Parliament.
A magician had squeezed limes to spread the juice on the seats of the deputies to ensure their support for the leader.
While Mr. Premadasa escaped his dismissal, resorting to the occult sciences did not protect him against his murder two years later, in a suicide attack perpetrated by the Tamil Tigers.
The consultation of astrologers and other clairvoyants by political elites is not a Sri Lankan phenomenon.
The Burmese clairvoyant Swe Swe Win nicknamed “ET”, due to her resemblance to Steven Spielberg’s famous extraterrestrial, was consulted by the Burmese junta that would have transferred the country’s capital in 2005 on her astrological advice.
The former First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, consulted an astrologer to plan the program for her husband, then a resident of the White House, Ronald Reagan.
For the Sri Lankan Victor Ivan, a human rights activist and former journalist, the Rajapaksa will not escape the oracles.
“The leaders know they have done a lot of harm. Shamans and sorcerers are paving the way for their redemption,” he believes, “which explains why these people inspire so much reverence in our politicians.”