Voters voice their opinion on Election Day | Sunday Observer

Voters voice their opinion on Election Day

Sri Lankans flocked to polling stations yesterday with the Elections Commission announcing an island wide high voter turn-up where all island numbers were recorded at over 80 percent.

Save for several isolated incidents the elections were mostly said to be peaceful.

The Sunday Observer visited several polling stations to get an insight in to the voter’s expectations.

In the capital city, without the usual Saturday traffic and the hustle and bustle people were gradually lining up at polling stations.

The polling station located at the Al Iqbal Balika Maha Vidyalaya in Slave Island was a busy place. Slave Island being an area with a majority of Tamil and Moor communities showed a greater enthusiasm to elect their next President.

Mohammad Naazeer, a resident in Wekanda road, Slave Island thinks that the election was very peaceful in general. “It was very calm and quiet. People who live in the area are very united. So, I did not see any terrible incidents in this election,” he said.

Nazeer had come to the polling station with a few of his friends. A resident in the area for more than 20 years, he has always cast his vote at the Al Iqbal Balika Vidyalaya. “This time there are more than 30 candidates. It is actually a waste of public funds,” Naazeer lamented.

Compared to the younger days of his life, Muttuvel Pathkunaraja (64) a resident in Stuart road, Slave Island, feels that people are less excited about elections nowadays. He recalled his memories about elections held a few decades ago where people gathered around polling stations and then eagerly await to see results in the night.

Working as a labourer, Pathkunaraja was also concerned about the huge amount of money spent to hold the Presidential elections. “It is a little too much isn’t it? Compared to the economic situation of the country it is a little too much” he commented.

He also said that it was a bit difficult for him to recognise the candidate he was going to vote for as the ballet paper was too long. “I had to spend a little time to identify the candidate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gayani Buddhika who strongly believed that Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be elected as the next President, has not found any difficulty in the process of voting. “Not at all. Pohottuwa was at number 11” she smiled.

She also thinks that people were very eager to exercise their franchise. However, compared to other polling stations, the Sunday Observer team visited, Asoka Vidyalaya Colombo 10, the polling station where Gayani had voted saw a rather slow movement of voters.

Ganesh Kumara, a resident in Narahenpita, was also critical about the high amount of funds spent on the election. “This is an unnecessary expense to the country. Why do this many candidates come forward for the election?” Kumara questioned.

Nevertheless, Kumara was pleased with the peaceful environment of the election period. “This time the election campaigning was very disciplined in all the parties I believe. Only two or three people from our area visited homes as a part of election canvassing” he commented.

Piyatissa Hettiarachchi (65) who is a resident of Darley Road showed his displeasure towards having too many candidates in the ballot sheet. He accused the Government for not taking steps to reduce the number of candidates.

However, he said about a candidate who can receive a 75 per cent majority in the country. “I think he can win the hearts of the people. He was not a politician and we have seen what he had done as an administrative officer. If that person is defeated it is not the bad luck of that candidate, but of the country as a whole” Hettiarachchi explained.

Mohommad Fareed had returned to the country from Kuwait after 20 years, and had visited the polling station at St. Joseph’s College, Maradana yesterday. He was getting ready to go back home with his mother after casting his first vote after 20 years.

“I was not sure if I am eligible to cast the vote. But my name was on the list so I came today and voted” Fareed said. As a person who did not experience recent elections in the country, Fareed sees many differences in the Presidential poll yesterday. “ The election was extremely peaceful. But the ballot paper was very long” he said.

Voters of Wellawatte expressing their thoughts seemed heavily against Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, calling for a leader armed with experience and humane traits, after casting their crucial votes, yesterday (16).

Some were very vocal about how the island needs a president from the country as opposed to an overseas winner.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, subsequent to casting his vote, at the International Buddhist Centre and temple, Kasun Wijethunge said, “He should be humane person . We prefer Sajith Premadasa. People demanded for Premadasa, unlike Gotabaya Rajapaksa,”

Wijethunge emphasised that the latter was chosen by the family. “Had Rajapaksa not competed they were prepared to field another candidate. That demeans the democracy and is a slavish -attitude,”

On the other hand, Kalani Wijesinghe said, “Premadasa should prevail. The fact that Rajapaksa was ahead and Premadasa was trailing is all fabricated by the media. But people have already decided the most deserving candidate from their hearts,” she said.

Ruiz Jifry, ruled out anyone being labeled as pro or anti to a community.

“Those are each individual’s perspective. Based on that, you cannot say, a community is anti-Tamil or pro,” said Ruiz Jifry.

At another polling booth, St. Peter’s college, voting was still underway in a peaceful manner.

Here, it was mostly families who were beating the cut-off time and making a beeline to pick their next leader. The place also appeared calm and quiet.

Wellawatte, had a wee bit of life, unlike other areas which were asleep and appeared deserted.

Shiranthi A, 76, has come from Canada to vote ‘This is a crucial election because as it is we see what is happening. Even today, there are issues in the North and East. Whatever change that comes through this should be good for our country.’

Jagath Perera, 56, Kohuwala who was not satisfied with the incumbent government said that it’s time for a change. “We are burdened with economic issues. We can’t even lift our heads in this situation. Our time is gone. We need a future for our children,” he said.

Priyani Perera, 42, from Kalubowila is of the view that this time they have a candidate who can give what the people want.

‘We are voting especially because of this country’s current situation. We need our own country and nation. We didn’t have that for the last four years,” she said.

Abdul Hameed Farook (62) ,a fresh fruit drink shop owner, says that the new President must take measures to reduce the cost of living by lowering the prices of essential food items.

“I have opened my shop after voting for a President who will reduce my family burdens by making things which are essential for life cheap and easily available. Fruits are ideal for healthy living. The new President must realise this and encourage fruit cultivation by giving incentives to cultivators to engage in fruit farming. He should discourage by imposing heavy duties on artificial, essential colouring and flavours so that people will be encouraged to depend on fresh fruit without any chemical additives,” he said.

Some of the voters in the Dehiwala- Kalubowila area who were seen enthusiastically exercising their right to vote took a minute to share their views on the election.

Zacky Marikar, 70, from Dehiwala said that they are expecting a definite change from this election. “We need a secure nation and good governance. There is one candidate who can do it and that is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He can ensure national security,”he said.

The Batticaloa area was also mostly peaceful. Sinnaraja Kamalanathan ( 70) A retired English teacher speaking to the Sunday Observer said that living in a multi-racial and multi-religious country the President to be elected must be acceptable to all.

“With this idea, I enthusiastically went to vote early yesterday (16). As education is a very vital part of life the new President should be one who will give due emphasis to education. By encouraging job oriented skill education the new President can solve so many problems like unemployment and under employment. Education is a backbone ofa developing country and we must encourage the skill education and bona fides of the education sector employees,” he said.

K.Srikanthan (69) Ex- OIC – Security Division- Eastern University of Sri Lanka (EUSL) is of the view that protection and safety of the people should be the priority of the new President so that people can live freely and without fear.

“Though the conflict is over the problems arising from the past 30-year conflict like the problems of missing persons exists. The new President should be one who will be determined to solve all the unsolved problems of the war,” he said.

He also emphasised the importance of upholding the rule of law and said the new President must ensure that everyone is treated equally before the law and that justice is administered without fear or favour.