Election day is a lot like Avurudu. During our new year, the sun is moving from one house to another. While it’s in motion – while it’s between houses – Sri Lankans don’t do anything. Today, election day, is still a working day, but the streets are quiet as a poya. I’m at work but I don’t hear any honking, any traffic. The whole town is relatively still. It’s actually quite a beautiful day.
I vote at a school near my parents house. Walking in there wasn’t a huge crowd, but I was early. A line formed behind me. It really is a wonderful feeling, the voting part of democracy. It was early in the morning, there were shadows on the yellow school wall. Two policemen leaned on their T56s rather lackadaisically. There were kids playing in the yard.
The voting was in the basketball court, where it always is. There’s one side with people checking your name off a list. On the other side there are party representatives double-checking the names as they read them aloud. Some uncles have ID cards that are like 50 years old and you can see the polling agents struggling to match the schoolboy with the hairless rotund thing in front of them. After they check your name a lady paints your fingernail with this stuff that stays for weeks if not months. She was conscientious with mine and wasn’t sloppy, which I appreciate.
Then they give you the ballot and you go to a little cardboard stall. Mark an X, fold it twice and then put it in the ballot box. There’s a man there with a ruler who pokes the votes in. And that’s it, at least from the voters perspective.
There are 12,324 polling booths this year to serve almost 15 million potential voters. Dunno how many will actually turn out, probably around 70%. You could guesstimate that each booth serves about 1000 voters.
From there the ballot boxes go to 1,115 counting centers (plus 304 for counting postal votes) in 46 counting premises. At each stage party and independent monitors are, well, monitoring. Including at the counting centers this time. Each room’s counting sheet is stuck on a wall where monitors can see it before the results go out. This is somewhat new. This is why elections here are hard to rig. You can’t just fudge the final number, you have to cheat a little bit in a thousand different places, watched by hundreds of eyes. I think they should just put cameras in there and be done with it, but as it is, the system is pretty robust. As they say, the jilmart happens before the election, with massive abuse of state resources and power by, generally, whoever has it to abuse.
Anyways, I guess that’s all academic. Now it’s just a matter of waiting till the results come out, early in the morning or sometime tomorrow. Maybe even Friday evening.
After I voted I was early enough to go to Lasantha Wickremetunge’s memorial. The Editor of the Sunday Leader was murdered on this day six years ago, in 2009. Strange that this was considered an auspicious day by the incumbent, but in a way it fits. The Kanatte Cemetery is quite and peaceful, shaded by trees. His family and friends said a few words, people lit candles, I knocked some candles over. It was nice to see people again, to remember.
Today’s a day in-between, but today at least I could feel a real palpable love for Sri Lanka. I always love this country, but it’s not often that it slows down enough to just look at it. We are, in a very human way, a beautiful place.