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Sri Lanka astrologer is arrested

Chandrasiri Bandara
The astrologer made one prediction too far

The authorities in Sri Lanka have arrested a popular astrologer who predicted that the president will be ejected from office, police say.

Chandrasiri Bandara announced last week that the government would flounder in September and October because of political and economic problems.

The opposition have condemned the arrest and warned that the country is heading towards a dictatorship.

Astrology is taken seriously by numerous Sri Lankan politicians.

Inauspicious

Police told the AP news agency that Mr Bandara told an opposition meeting that the prime minister would take over as president on 9 September and the opposition leader would become prime minister.

He was arrested on Wednesday night to investigate the basis of his prediction, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

Mr Bandara made his forecast despite the president's high approval ratings following the defeat of Tamil Tigers rebels in May, bringing an end to nearly 26 years of civil war.

"The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) is questioning the astrologer," Mr Gunasekara said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (left) and Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka (18/05/09)
President Rajapaksa takes astrological predictions seriously

The astrologer predicted that a planetary change on 8 October will be inauspicious for parliament and the government may not be able to contain rising living costs - a forecast which correspondents say has already been made by private economists.

"The crime which Chandrasiri Bandara committed was publishing an astrological column which was adverse to the government," said opposition United National Party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake.

So convinced are Sri Lankan politicians over the accuracy of astrology that many have their own personal seers who decide the auspicious times to launch any new initiative.

President Rajapaksa has declared himself to be a believer, telling foreign reporters earlier this year that he has often consulted a favoured astrologer for advice on what time to make speeches or to depart for trips.

Mr Bandara - who has a weekly television show and writes controversial political columns for a pro-opposition newspaper - is one of the most popular astrologers in the country.

Media rights groups have complained of continued efforts by the government to stifle freedom of speech despite the end of the war.

On Wednesday the main media organisations in the country urged the government not to re-establish a body that can fine and imprison print journalists.

According to Amnesty International, at least 14 journalists and staff at news outlets have been killed by suspected government paramilitaries and rebels since the beginning of 2006.



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