Thursday, 17 March 2011

Local Government Elections

In the UK, voting in local elections is often carried out in school buildings; schools shut for normal business and the teachers and kids get a day off. It's the same here, except that the teachers and kids get three days off! It's quite crazy! Much of January and February was taken up with preparing for the annual Sports Meet, there are Poya days (full moon days), religious and statutory holidays, two New Year holidays and God knows what else - it's no wonder the kids all need extra tuition after school! I can well understand why the teachers complain about fitting the curriculum into the days when the schools are open!

So today is polling day. The day before yesterday, all teachers at public schools were sent an SMS message telling them of the extra two days' holiday. Talk about leaving it till the last minute! Yesterday the voting booths were set up and tomorrow they'll be removed. Five-minute jobs for which the kids lose two days' schooling.

In recent weeks the political parties have been out campaigning with their loudhailer-equipped vans and flag-carrying, horn-blowing motorcycle entourages, pasting up their posters and ripping down opponents', setting off firecrackers, behaving belligerently and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Every other tuc-tuc, taxi, van, and lorry seems to be displaying their political affiliation loudly with windscreen-covering posters.

The police have been very evident for the last few days, and today particularly so, accompanied by personnel from the army, air force and navy, plain-clothed officers, security people and special forces. But, judging by the trickle of voters voting at the primary school opposite my office, turnout was poor. Maybe it's just this town, the President's home town, but there were probably more security folk than voters!

Postscript 18-3-2011: Today, Friday, I heard news that there were several fights in Tangalle town last night after the polls closed. A member of the Green Party was knifed and subsequently died. Members of the Blue Party were trying to steal the voting box of a predominantly Green area. This being the President's town (Blue Party - UPFA), the police turned a blind eye to the fight. Alledgedly. With this kind of thing everyone has their own version of the 'truth' of events and circumstances. There was certainly little celebrating last night when the UPFA won again, though this time with a very slim majority.

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