Disaster foretold? Sri Lanka ex-president's seer packs bags

Disaster foretold? Sri Lanka ex-president's seer packs bags
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse has conceded defeat in his re-election bid and promised to clear the way for a smooth transition, his press secretary Vijayananda Herath told AFP on January 9, 2015.

COLOMBO - As a defeated Mahinda Rajapakse slunk out of Sri Lanka's presidential palace, the astrologer who counselled him to call a disastrous early election was gloomily packing his bags on the other side of town.

"Not all of Nostradamus' predictions have come true either," said Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena as he reflected both on the fate of his vanquished boss and his own reputation as a seer.

"There was only so much I could do to help him win, maybe five per cent. But you must have luck to be the president."

The 63-year-old Abeygunawardena has been avoiding the media since last Thursday's election, his reputation having taken a pounding from veteran leader Rajapakse's defeat to his rival Maithripala Sirisena.

During his increasingly authoritarian rule, the president became hugely reliant on his astrologer's counsel and even timed the announcement of the snap election after consulting Abeygunawardena.

On voting day, Rajapakse appeared oblivious to his impending demise by declaring he was headed for "a resounding victory".

While the outcome spelt the end of Rajapakse's decade in power, it was also a disaster for Abeygunawardena who had been lavishly rewarded by the man he calls "Our Sir" after advising him for 32 years.

In an interview with AFP, the normally ebullient Abeygunawardena admitted he was trying to keep a low profile for the moment while confident that the setback would not lead all his followers to desert him.

"I am avoiding talking to people, especially the media, but I have a big following and they will not abandon me," he said in a phone interview from his home in the coastal city of Galle.

Abeygunawardena said he had tried to console Rajapakse after the outcome became clear in the early hours of Friday, before his old boss made his pre-dawn departure from his official residence in Colombo.

As Rajapakse made his exit, Abeygunawardena had to hand in the keys to a grace-and-favour bungalow in another part of the city. He also lost his limousine, chauffeur and vacated his seat on the board of a state-run bank.

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