Dear comrade Koshila Hansamali
BY The Liberation Movement
Comrade Koshila Hansamali is a relentless fighter and Frontline Socialist Party activist who has been in detention for the past 60 days without bail for protesting against the Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill. She continues to be detained in prison in spite of severe health risks as she suffers from a respiratory disease and has already contracted Covid-19 inside the prison.
Dear comrade Koshila, We know our prisons too well to ask you how you are. We hope you are keeping well against all odds. You have been a strong woman throughout all the years we knew you, and these men in power do not understand that putting a woman behind bars will not change her resolve to stand up for what is right, for justice and equality.
However, we also know that the struggle ahead can feel lonely and hard and that we all need love and solidarity to carry us through those times. This is a letter of love and solidarity Koshila, a letter of gratitude for being a relentless fighter. We are waiting outside prisons, yet our minds are not resting. Our conscience is pricking, Koshila. Every day, we are reminded that we have let you down. We could not do enough to release you and the other comrades from prison. Everything outside prison is as bleak as inside prison, sometimes.
Our people are struggling to eat two meals a day while men in power make a mockery of their own power. The same men who refuse to let you out cannot use all their power to control the food mafia. Food prices are rising every day. Therefore, workers and people in the economic margins now cannot afford a plate of rice. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can only flex their power against the poor, the downtrodden, the women and the powerless. Therefore, our President and the Government in effect are regulating dissent and deregulating prices, imprisoning protestors, filling the pockets of the business elites and starving the people.
The weather is temperamental just like our politics – heavy rains in the morning and humid heat in the night. Our economy is not temperamental though. It is on a downward descent. Safe landing is not guaranteed.
Remember the US dollar crisis? It seems that our exporters were legally not barred from bringing back foreign exchange. Therefore, whilst our country is struggling to even import essential food and lifesaving medicines, our exporters have decided to not bring back $ 2.75 billion into the country. The exporters have jeopardised our economic sovereignty and the health of our nation. None of them are questioned though. Not by the Government or the media or the people. People need to be distracted. So, the Pandora Papers came out. So, we the people forgot to force the Government to open the Pandora’s Box on who these exporters are and who were given free handouts of land, taxes, and concessionary loans, so that they can save their profits in safer havens.
The European Union Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP +) trade concessions team came to the country. Some of us met them. We, the civil society, told them about the many problems in the country. They nodded. Listened. Looked concerned (but they always look concerned, you know?). One never knows what they are concerned about though. Human rights or price controls? Union busting or International Labour Organisation bail out? Imprisoned activists or counter terror measures? One never knows. But one can always hope. Unfortunately, our Government’s ears are wide open when white people speak and close when we speak. So our Government leaves us with no choice but to speak to the people who were our oppressors not too many decades ago. Such is our plight.
It is a strange country where men who loot the land, oppress workers and steal their wages and harass women are out here free and you are kept in prison for more than 60 days for burning a cardboard coffin on a tar road. People in this country dry the grains of rice from the heat rising from the scorching tar roads. Must tell the Government in Colombo. The Colombo Government and its servants are sometimes out of touch with the streets. Probably thought the streets were made of cardboard and easily destroyed like their political integrity. Cannot blame them.
Despite the doom and gloom, all is not lost, comrade.
Teachers are protesting and demanding the abolition of the KNDU and 6% of the Gross Domestic Product for education. Students are protesting demanding to not destroy free education and the release of all of you. The streets are alive again with people protesting and demanding. The struggle for which they have imprisoned you is very much alive, loud and thundering. We are waiting for you to come back. Do not lose hope, sister. Tomorrow is yours.
The Liberation Movement
(The Liberation Movement’s membership includes Swasthika Arulingam, Lakmali Hemachandra, Marisa de Silva, Amali Wedagedara, Amalini de Sayrah, Megara Tegal, Rasma Razmi, Geethika Dharmasinghe, and Sarah Arumugam)