Colombo, January 31 (The New Indian Express): Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni, a former Sri Lankan naval rating who shot into infamy for hitting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with his rifle butt at a Guard of Honor here on July 30, 1987, and who has been predicting the death of President Maithripala Sirisena by January 27 this year, was arrested by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department on Tuesday.
After his release from prison in the Rajiv Gandhi assault case, Wijemuni had been a practicing astrologer, appearing on TV and also using the social media to publicize his predictions.
In December last year, he got into trouble by using the social media to announce his prediction about President Sirisena’s death by a specific date. He even declared that he would stop reading horoscopes if his prediction was proved false.
On December 21, 2016, the then Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Mass Media Nimal Bopage demanded that the Sri Lanka Police investigate a potential assassination plot on the President allegedly devised by this “cyber astrologer.”
Bopage told the media that an “YouTube astrologer”, Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni, had uploaded several videos predicting the death of President Maithripala Sirisena . Bopage said that Wijemuni had said several times that the President would die of a sudden illness or an accident before 27 January, 2017, and that this could be suggestive of a possible assassination attempt on the President.
“His motives are suspect and led me to believe that there are ulterior motives in his so-called predictions. His predictions are utterly false and I have evidence that could disprove him. His claims do not correlate with the fundamentals of astrology, according to my research. And he has a network of followers who share his thinking,” Bopage said.
Accordingly he had referred a case to the Criminal Investigation Department’s Cyber Crime Unit two months ago. However, he had not received a response to date. Bopage said he had not broached this issue with the President.
Wijemuni came into the public focus when he struck visiting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 30 July 1987 with his rifle, when he was a member of the Navy Guard of Honor accorded to Gandhi. The Indian PM was in town to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord on July 27, 1987.
Gandhi ducked as Wijemuni swung his Lee-Enfield ceremonial rifle at him and escaped serious injury, though the butt grazed his neck. Wijemuni was restrained by Lt. Mendis and the Chief Petty Officer of the detachment along with other Indian security personnel.
Arrested by the CID ,he faced a Court Martial headed by K.R.L. Perera, Group Captain Buddhi Siriwardhen and Colonel Vijaya Wimalaratne. He was charged with attempted murder, acting contrary to navy discipline and insulting a state leader.
Prosecuted by Senior State Counsel Captain Raja Fernando, his defense team was made up of top notch lawyers like Sarath Wijesinghe, Susil Prmajayantha, Stanley Thilakaratne, Brigadier (Rtd.) and Nalin Laduwahetty among others. The defense argued that Wijemuni was not aiming to kill Rajiv since he did not stab him with the bayonet affixed to his Lee-Enfield.
But the court martial found him guilty of attempted culpable homicide not amounting to murder and insulting the Indian Prime Minister. He was sentenced to six years in prison. Wijemuni was dishonorably discharged from the navy.
However, President Premadasa gave him a presidential pardon after two and a half years.
In 2000, Wijemuni was a candidate of the nationalist Sinhala Urumaya Party in the General Election.
After his release from prison he gained a degree from the University of Jayawardenapura and learnt astrology. He practiced astrology and sold DVDs and CDs of Hindu and Buddhist religious music in a shop in the Nugegoda market.
(The featured picture at the top is that of Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni the ex-naval rating who attacked Rajiv Gandhi with a rifle butt and subsequently created a stir by forecasting the death of President Sirisena in January 2017)