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'Self-Quarantine: Ponnaveli Village, Population One'



Sellaiah Rashanayagam has "been the sole resident of his village since Sri Lanka's civil war ended in 2009- and he doesn't plan to leave anytime soon," writes Vijayatharsiny Vijayakumar for Global Press Journal. 

"When the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009, the nearly 200 residents who called this village home chose to leave. They relocated to cities and towns where they would have better access to hospitals, shopping centres and jobs. But Sellaiah Rashanayagam, 67, chose to stay."

"Now, more than a decade later, he's still the lone resident of Ponnaveli, a village in Sri Lanka's northern province. The coastal village was destroyed during the war. Still, Rashanayagam says he refuses to leave and he doesn't want to open up the village to others either. He wants to preserve the village's Tamil name and farming traditions."

"His solitary lifestyle is a political statement. And it's evidence that tensions between Sri Lanka's Sinhalese, and mostly Buddhist majority, and the Tamil, mostly Muslim minority, still run deep."

"Rashanayagam says living here, alone, is the best way to preserve the culture and identity of his village, which was once home to more than 60 Tamil families, including seven of his own siblings."

"Government forces destroyed every homes in the village, Rashanayagam says of the civil war. He rebuilt his own home and continues to refuse offers from family to leave his soliatry life. He has refused a few marriage proposals too. He supports himself by chopping wood and selling spears to fishermen. Village leaders continue to encourage Rashanayagam to move. But that's not going to happen."

"We should not give up out rights or land to anyone," Rashanayagam says. 

"Before the war, he says the village had a school, a medical clinic, religious temples and dozens of residents. Today, nothing remains except Rashanayagam's home and palmyra crops."

"He says he eats just once a day, at dusk. The rest of his time is spent working, tending his crops, gathering water and studying religious texts. Whenhe's low on supplies, he rides his bike to Veravil, a neighbouring village, where he catched up on the country's latest political news."

"Rashanayagam says his solitary life is part protest and part plea- for Tamil people to return to the lands taken from them during the war. He says he hopes his example will teach Tamil people to return to traditional customs of faming, fishing and growing coconut trees."

See the full piece here


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