Colombo, Jan 7: Sri Lanka's "royal astrologer" Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena, who has stood beside the country's current president Mahinda Rajapaksa for a long time is set to face perhaps the biggest test of his skills on Thursday when the presidential election will be held.
Rajapaksa, who is contesting an unprecedented third presidential term against his former colleague Maithripala Sirisena, is believed to be facing a tough test this time.
According to a report published in the New York Times, Abeygunawardena's main duty nowadays is to identify auspicious timing for President Rajapaksa's political acts. He even recommends to the president on whether to submit the nomination papers to the election commissioner's right or left side, the report added.
But did the astrologer predict the sudden emergence of Sirisena, a former minister and general secretary of Rajapaksa's own party, when the president decide to prepone the elections two years ahead of the schedule? Abeygunawardena said January 8 will be an "immensely fortunate" date for President Rajapaksa but adding that he had no role in selecting the date, the NYT report said.
Rajapaksa, who was first elected in 2005, is not the first leader to engage astrologers to predict the future. A former president Ranasinghe Premadasa even changed the spelling of the country to Shri Lanka for he was advised it was an auspicious move.
In 2009, an astrologer named Chandrasiri Bandara was arrested and questioned after he predicted that Rajapakse might lose the elections, the report said.
What about Sirisena's chances? Abeygunawardena said the former's horoscope isn't strong.