Dear Sri Lankans,

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Through cold days and the blazing sun, successive resignations, tear gas tension, secret flights to safety, re-elections and an even worse economic situation to deal with from where this all began, we made it here. It’s going to be a historical 100 days of relentless protesting and fighting for change.

For our country; for each other, we’ve come together like never before. And while we are still figuring out how to move forward, in some ways we have won. Aragalaya also known as GotaGo Village (GotaGoGama) in itself, is an accomplishment – it’s like a model for the so-called incumbent. We’ve shown them how a country can unite when there is no corruption involved. We’ve demonstrated how efficient a system can be if you believe in a cause. The resilience, generosity and the undying spirit of our people does not burn out easy, we’ve told them that. How a bunch of strangers will go lengths to do everything they can to turn an idea into a reality. We’ve shown them it is possible to work together, even if you belong to divergent backgrounds or have differences of opinion. Most of all, we proved that they were wrong about us this time – our anger didn’t fizzle out after a week because our problems didn’t.

The upside to this, we redefined what protests look like. Now, it looks like anything from hand-written placards to music and art demonstrations, knowledge-sharing sessions, innovation coupled with critical thinking, and of course the old-school chanting-our-lungs-out-as-we-walk-along-the-road kind of dissension. We’ve made this excruciatingly painful time look fun enough for some to call us ‘cardboard heroes of the beach festival’ while a few others perceived this as a more frightfully threating image that they nonchalantly swung the utterly sinister label of ‘extremists’, our way.

Lessons to be thankful for?

We’ve learnt from each other. Individually, we’ve taken the responsibility to educate ourselves of our legal systems and our history. We have realised that all our problems as individuals, communities and segments of society, inevitably tie into our socio-political fabric and thus, we have (in the case of most) pledged to be more active participants in bringing in the change we want to see.

Key to progress?

We know better to hold officials accountable. No more allowing corrupt politicians and their propaganda to buy their way into governance, even if it doesn’t directly affect us, because eventually it will. We’ve embraced each other more, and given our various struggles a common platform. Oh, and the most important lesson, even the mightiest of them will fall from grace if their kingdom is made of bricks taken from everybody else’s houses.

Crusaders, yes, times are even tougher and we are at an impasse with quite literally no way to get on with the little life we had, but it’s our solidarity that got us here and it’s what will take us forward. Given our inherent response to trauma is humour and compassion, let’s just hang in there.

Remember that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, if this country is our baby then we know why we literally erected a village for the cause. It needs us all to do right by it for prosperity and splendour as opposed to, of course, just having it on an election manifesto that is full of empty promises.

Take away being, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Sincerely

Rooting for our win

By Dilshani Palugaswewa