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Astrologer predicts against SL Prez, arrested

Reuters
Jun 26, 2009 at 10:12pm IST

Colombo: A popular Sri Lankan astrologer was unable to foresee his own arrest after his family said on Friday he had been taken into custody by police for making an unfavourable political prediction against the president.

The police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested astrologer Chandrasiri Bandara after he predicted political changes unfavourable to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting of the main opposition United National Party.

"He is being questioned over a political statement he made," police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara said, without elaborating.

IN TROUBLE: The astrologer made an unfavourable political prediction against the Lankan President.

Given that many Sri Lankans give credence to astrological predictions, astrologers can play a role in influencing decisions at the voting booth and have done so in the past.

Sri Lankans from all walks of life follow astrology very closely, and politicians frequently consult personal astrologers to help them decide the most auspicious day, hour and minute to do anything from facing elections to assuming office.

Bandara writes a popular astrology column, hosts TV and radio shows discussing horoscopes and gives private readings for a fee.

"He has been questioned for the last three days and he was taken into custody by the CID," a family member told Reuters, asking not to be named out of fear of reprisal.

Rajapaksa's opponents say his administration has been intolerant of criticism, and has not stopped assaults and murders of journalists critical of his government. Rajapaksa has vowed to catch those responsible.

This week, a coalition of media and rights groups urged him to reconsider a decision to reinstate the long-unused Press Council, which has the power to jail and fine journalists.

"A media culture cannot be based on slapping charges against journalists, fining them or sending them to jail," the group said in a statement.

The government said the move was made on a parliamentary committee recommendation that it should be reinstated since the council's staff and office rent was still being paid despite the fact it was doing no work.

"It was a directive by a parliamentary committee which some opposition members are also on," said secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information A Dissanayake.

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