It's a SHAM. I am such a tube-light for not realising it until now. There I was SMS-ing my vote for the singer whom I thought deserved to win and here they are putting on an hour of entertainment under the guise of a reality show. I was naive enough to think that my vote was counted and mattered and the person with the highest votes would ultimately win the competition but it turns out the winner has already been selected by the producers and it's just nothing but a giant hoax of a media event to promote his upcoming album.
It all started last Saturday (February 18th) - after watching the final six perform songs by Clarence, I decided to vote for a contestant - let's call him X. The lovely and competent host Kamal ( here's how much I like him) repeated the telephone number and two other numbers (7788 and a Suntel #) which accepted SMS votes. The same numbers also appeared on the screen while the song was performed and for a few seconds after the it was over. I sent an SMS to the Suntel # which was 114-93700X and then was stumped to find the delivery report mentioned "Not Sent to 114-93700X". I then called the number and received a mechanical voice message informing me the number DID NOT EXIST. I then sent the vote to 7788 and received a confirmation of delivery. I was still wondering why the suntel number was all wrong and on Sunday evening, during the elimination round, I found the contestant I had voted for was in the bottom 3!! He made it (narrowly) into the next round but I started to have doubts about the authenticity of the vote collection and counting (just like our elections, huh?!).
The following day at work I mentioned this to a couple of people who both looked at me like I was nuts. They told me that it was all a hoax and that voting for it was just a waste of money. One of them gave me a link to a scanned newspaper article (go to page 2 for a message posted by flashyskyline on February 18th on the message board) from a Sinhalese newspaper (which I must admit, I do not read regularly) which had written extensively about the "SMS Fraud" going on with the show. It also mentions that the winning contestant hardly ever looks nervous or upset during the elimination round whilst all the others looked like they would cry. I had noticed this myself and I must say that initially when a contestant was voted off, he looked extremely sad and some had tears in their eyes whilst singing their farewell song. But since two weeks ago, I noticed the contestant who hears he has been voted off doesn't even look surprised - it's like he already knew about it or didn't care. An extremely emotional chap was voted off two weeks ago and he used to look almost teary when he was in the bottom three on an earlier occasion but on hearing he was going home, he just nodded his head. Does this mean the rest of the contestants have realised they are fighting a losing battle and are just performing because they are under contract?
More than anything, what a crime it is for encouraging people to vote using SMS to these numbers!! The cost of a vote is Rs 10 (normal cost of an SMS is Rs. 2.50) and if it's not getting counted, what's the point?? Sirasa might as well abolish the voting system and call in a panel of judges who decide who goes and who stays (like the Apprentice). Tricking the public into paying four times the normal rate of an SMS and not accepting the result of the SMS votes is just plain wrong.