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Spirituality or ‘occult’? Mahinda’s visit to sacred city before resigning as PM raises questions

Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to Anuradhapura caught the public eye in Sri Lanka, but this is hardly the first time his religious and spiritual beliefs have become a talking point.

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New Delhi: Hours before he resigned as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa travelled to a Buddhist temple in the sacred city of Anuradhapura to seek divine intervention — his first public outing since nationwide protests broke out. He was booed and heckled.

Shortly after the trip, Mahinda sent his letter of resignation to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in an apparent effort to address public anger. The president, his brother, has accepted his resignation, which means the cabinet is dissolved and a new interim government will be sworn in under the President amid the ongoing economic crisis.

Mahinda’s visit to Anuradhapura caught the public eye in Sri Lanka, but this is hardly the first time his religious and spiritual beliefs have become a talking point.

“Looking at the past 24 hours and the way it’s played out, as well as the colossally flawed decisions made today in triggering violence against peaceful protestors, I don’t think there’s any reasonable thought left in Mahinda Rajapaksa,” said political analyst Dinidu de Alwis, who has also reported on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proclivity for the occult.

“He (Mahinda Rajapaksa) has crossed a line, and I think there’s no coming back from this,” de Alwis told ThePrint.


Also Read: Insolvent Sri Lanka should consider swapping its central bank with a currency board


Personal shaman, ritual to ‘break spell of dissent’ 

Although a Sinhala Buddhist, Mahinda Rajapaksa has been influenced by Hindu traditions and practices, and makes regular visits to South Indian temples like the Venkateswara temple in Tirupati and Tirumala temple in Chittoor.

His wife, Shiranthi Rajapaksa, visited a Hindu temple in Sri Lanka just last week in search of divine intervention, amid the family’s bid to retain power.

Gnana Akka, Mahinda’s ‘personal shaman’, was reportedly tasked with charming demonstrators at the GotaGoGama protest site at Colombo’s Galle Face. To carry out this onerous task, Gnana Akka “charmed tonnes of bottled water” that were then delivered as refreshments to the demonstrators in the hope that it would “break the spell of dissent” they were under. According to reports, flowers were imported from India to be used as part of the ritual to charm the bottled water.

What seems to have rankled Mahinda is that demonstrators have picked up on these rituals to make their point.

A trend has emerged in Sri Lanka in recent days of protesters performing rituals part of traditional Sinhala Buddhist funerals in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s “honour”. Many have even sent condolences to him and his son, former sports minister Namal Rajapaksa.

Social media users have also taken to performing superstitious rituals to mock the Rajapaksas, like circulating poems that bring evil to them, and posting pictures of ground chillies at midnight — an act associated with the occult practice of casting a curse.

‘Resignation only first step’

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to step down as prime minister was preceded by days of demonstrations that culminated in the opposition moving a motion of no-confidence in the country’s parliament before it was adjourned last week. Days later, the government declared a State of Emergency Friday.

Meanwhile, protests continue to break out across the island nation despite a curfew in place. According to reports, properties owned by several members of parliament — including the Rajapaksas’ ancestral home in Hambantota — have either been vandalised or set ablaze.

Curfew was imposed in parts of the island Monday morning, following reports of violence as hundreds gathered at Temple Trees, the PM’s official residence, to chant slogans in support of him and his younger brother, President Gotabaya. According to reports, pro-Rajapaksa demonstrators attacked peaceful protestors, setting fire to their tents and injuring over 150 in the process. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has said it will institute legal action against the perpetrators of violence.

Amarakeerthi Athukorala, an MP from the Rajapaksas’ ruling party SLPP, and an unidentified 27-year-old male, were killed in the violence that erupted in the town of Nittambuwa Monday afternoon. 

The situation remained tense in Colombo Monday night as violence continued, and mobs attempted to breach the gates of Temple Trees. Rajapaksa is believed to have left Temple Trees early on Tuesday morning.

“The resignation of the prime minister is only the first step in resolving the current crisis and has come after month-long protests. Even then, there were reports of resignation several times, followed by denials, illustrating the family’s attempt to somehow stay in power, and also most likely, power struggles within the Rajapaksa family,” said Ambika Satkunathan, former chief of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission.

“The main demand of the protestors, which is the resignation of the President, has still not been met. Hence, we have a long way to go before the political turmoil subsides,” she added.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)


Also Read: Economic reforms aren’t the answer, Sri Lankan crisis needs a political fix


 

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