By M.M. Janapriya –
On face value this Kegalle Peni Kolama appears benignly similar to the historical ‘Wadakaha Sudiya’. There was a total solar eclipse in the 1950s. This must have been the one of 1955 and I was just about 7 years old then but I do remember not least the eclipse we watched in a basin of water but also the famous stories of women drinking a decoction made of ‘Wadakaha’to become pretty. It was around this eclipse that the newspapers decided cheekily to lead young women folk up the garden path. Some of the Sinhala morning broadsheets decided to play this mischievous game. They reiterated anyone who drank ‘Wadakaha Sudiya’ during a period inside the ‘Sooriyagrahanaya’ became fair complexioned and pretty and the rest is history. Listen to this baila by one and only C.D. Fonseka which sums it up all. This potion remedy caught up in epidemic proportions and as expected by people with common sense didn’t result in the mass production of beauty queens but a large number of the gullible participants who drank the decoction ended up in hospital. If I remember right a few paid the ultimate price too. Remember `Wadakaha’ is poisonous.
Someone who is neither an Ayrvedic practitioner nor a proper traditional medical practitioner with registration to practice, wakes up one morning having been spoken to by Kali Amma about a “Wattoruwa’ for a Covid-19 cure. He then goes on to make this potion with Nutmeg, bees’ honey and two other secret ingredients and claims this to be a magic cure for Covid 19. I am at a loss to know how this Goda Weda Mahattaya established close enough contact with one of the Physicians of District Hospital, Wathupitiwala to trial his new found medicine so swiftly and also how he received and is still receiving an unimaginable degree of electronic media patronage.
Aftermath of discovery
Details of how the medicine was tested has not been made public but a printed list of patients and their PCR tests that had apparently become negative at the end of 10 days was shown repeatedly on a certain TV channel that would sing songs of praise of the Administration no matter what. It is my considered view that no praiseworthy test on the efficacy of this deluded chap’s peniya could ever have been done by anyone the way it had been done, in the whole world let alone by a puisne Consultant Physician, BH Wathupitiwala and for sure the whole story is either a fabrication or indeed a miserably flawed test protocol and hence also the testing process. Professional association with unqualified people comes under infamous conduct in the Sri Lanka Medical Ordinance which is punishable by erasure of registration and I hope the SLMC takes a good look at the saga and the involvement of the Wathupitiwala medical personnel in the matter.
TV channels both the state run and private were relentless in their effort to maintain the ‘peni news’ as the most important news of the day. This is exactly how the skin colour challenged young women were brain washed over 65 years ago to drink Wadakaha Sudiya about the composition of which, they didn’t have a clue but yet were unhesitant to drink it. The mass hysteria of the sector of the public possessed by the Kegalle Peniya, in similar fashion, thronged the premises of the discoverer paying scant regard to social distancing. Sri Lankan TV channels went overboard with the efficacy of this decoction. We watched with dismay and despair how some channels were at work morning noon and night in pursuit of this goal. The question is was this done at the instant of this TV channel itself or were they ‘Baron’s orderlies’?
Potion was taken in public by the Health Minister in the presence of some health officials and this was splashed widely over all TV channels. Then the peniya found its way big time in to the parliament premises together with its discoverer Mr. Dadi Bidi the first stop being the speaker’s chambers. How some MPP drank this syrup was shown on all local TV channels too. Quite a few MPP came on TV and spoke in support of the peniya. One fellow popularly known in social media as Sookarawansha went to the extent of being derogatory on and ridiculing the western system which advocated stringent testing before the peniya could be rolled out to the greater public.
It is interesting how this syrup attracted the attention of the powers that be who appointed a high level team comprised of university professors to determine its efficacy in curing Covid. The 6 professor investigative team is at work on the matter right now and it would take a few weeks for the report to come out if it is ever going to. The prime Minister has asked the test to be expedited as if it is like laying down a rail track or something similar. I would invite him to read the next paragraph.
Science behind Testing
I cannot see how the expert panel can establish whether or not this decoction is working without doing a randomised control trial. Randomised means the patients are picked up in random fashion for the two arms namely the test arm and the control arm. Though selected randomly the two arms should be comparable in age, sex, ethnic ratio, nutritional status, co-morbid status to name a few factors that could confound the result if not given due consideration. There is a thing called the power factor in statistics which calculates the number of cases needed to be tested to get a statistically significant result. Shall we say arbitrarily this number is 250 patients in each arm which means 500 patients have to be found conforming to the above criteria? They also need to be at the same stage of the infection like say the first day of the illness and all of them should be symptomatic. Both these groups have to give informed consent to be tested as none of the patients would receive anything more than the peniya or the placebo. Question then arises as to how many patients would prefer not to be treated by conventional means but to be treated as above. This will prove to be a difficult obstruction to get through. From the foregoing you would agree that testing the peniya scientifically is a nonstarter. Giving the benefit of our doubts to the investigators we shall wait patiently for the results to be released.
Dhamma Makes Peniya ‘Saangika’
This poor soul leading a crowd of twenty or thirty compatriots visited the Dalada Maligawa, and the Mahanayakes of the Malwatta and Asgiriya chapters recently. He carried his potion in gleaming silverware to the Maligawa i.e. lord Buddha’s relics. The high priest got a glass decanter full of the peniya each. The monks in turn invoked blessings on this ‘wishwakarma’ to become the first ever in the whole world to have discovered a cure for Covid. All these escapades were given a very high level of prominence by the usual TV channel and most other channels.
Woodpecker Hits Banana Tree Trunk (Pennika meets his Waterloo)
Encouraged and emboldened by how he was treated at the two temples at the pinnacle of Sangahood in Sri Lanka he made a Bee-line to the Jaya Shree Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura in the same fashion as before. With all the pomp and pageantry bestowed upon him by these TV channels of dubious integrity the guy reached the destination. Unfortunately for this one in a 7.4 billion man the Mahanayake of the Atamasthana was a person with intelligence and a backbone. He realized that this poor man needed help and without ordering him out, he let him offer the peniya to the lower tier of the sacred temple (Pahatha Maluwa). This subtle act brought the beast out of the God (or Angel Kali amma) and the sick guy tried to take the monk to task. Police had to intervene to tackle the restive crowd. This man is suffering from delusions of grandeur which is one of the cardinal features of Schizophrenia. Here is the link.
I consider this whole saga a matter of very serious concern for which patronage of the administration seems to have been received in no small measure. It is important to delineate how this was done and why. If I wake up from my sleep in the middle of the night having seen the God Pattini who gave me a wattoruwa for a Covid cure will I get the same media support and government patronage? Definitely not. So this guy was made by someone and why?
We have lost the battle against Corona big time. Judging by percentages of test positives from various parts of the country we must be having at least 2-3 million positive cases in the country. So if you are in a crowd of 7 one of them might have Covid. This is not a good position to be in. Also the Administration knows people are blaming them for acting carelessly for the second wave to come in. When the propensity of the virus coming from India is an astronomical high, trying to apportion blame to an unknown Airline pilot is definitely pulling wool over peoples’ eyes.
Administration realizes the importance of letting businesses and services go on for resurrection of the economy and hence they want the people to get used to the so called ‘new normal’. This is a situation of ‘live and let live’ meaning despite the virus being there, life will go on. The task force still seems to be testing tracing and isolating but the commitment and vigour shown first time around seems conspicuous by its absence. It seems not only the receivers of the stringent restrictions but even the imposers seem to have got tired of it.
Life will go on. Disease will go on as well and deaths will go on too. In a situation like this we can only endeavor to bring the R0 i.e. the number each sufferer can infect down to 1 or below 1 so that the virus would die away with time. This is where strict adherence to health guidelines becomes of paramount importance. While the country moves on in the ‘new normal’ mode it is important to give people hope. Feeling of being hopeless not infrequently leads to suicide. In advanced countries there is physical and emotional support including counselling etc and also there is a vaccine being rolled out. However in a financially and morally challenged countries like ours the easier thing to do is to distract peoples’ attention to something like this Kegalle Peniya given under God’s hand. (cf. recently diseased Argentinian football legend Maradona) In my opinion this is a mass distraction campaign organized by or with the blessings of the master strategists of the campaigners of the administration. How did they do it?
DB was picked up from amidst a whole heap of jokers as he looked serious and performed in a serious manner before the media. Even before this saga, one of the so called professors tried to promote another peniya. This man also believes in gods and other supernatural powers causing and curing disease. I watched on TV how a joker in politics went and doled out an automated crushing machine to DB to facilitate mass production. Remember this is public money, belonging to you and me. It seems DB had very swift contact with the VP Wathupitiwela base hospital who is purported to have carried out some tests and within hours of getting the flawed test report, the TV channel that followed DB like a hawk splashed this as headline news. There are two things glaringly wrong here. The doctor who did the test never made his material and methods public which is very suspicious. The medical fraternity should force him to do so. Secondly, there are two Physicians at BH Kegalle. Why weren’t their help solicited for the tests which would have made the process logistically less of a hassle. I am fairly certain the VPP Kegalle asked the joker to get lost whereas the bloke at Wathupitiwela must be a stooge of the Administration.
I think it is on the strength of the purported tests at DH Wathupitiwela that DB peniya earned it’s eligibility for further tests by an expert panel consisting of 5 or 6 professors connected to the field of Medicine. They have undertaken to test the decoction scientifically. I have already outlined the hurdles they will encounter for sure, on the way and I am eagerly waiting to see how the former are going to surmount them. Also I am intrigued as much as probably you guys out there are, as to why these learned or not so learned professors undertook to test the potion without rejecting it outright if the Wathupitiwela VP refused to put his materials and methods on the table. Had he done that the ‘mahadenamutta and his 5 wise men would have been able to study the flawed methodology that would definitely have made the wise men refuse to oblige with a proper scientific test on the decoction. Why didn’t it happen? Question of knowledge or a question of backbone or a bit of both?