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Victims, culprits of ‘Dammika Paniya’ and false national pride


26 January 2021 12:10 am - 17     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



Less than two months ago, a self-professed holy man ( Kapuwa) from Kegalle became the embodiment of the Sri Lankan ingenuity. The man who had no medical background concocted a miracle COVID-19 cure after being told of its recipe by Goddess Kali in sleep.     (He is not the only one; some years back, a Math professor from a local university published a research into the Chronic Kidney Disease also guided by divine intervention).

Dammika Bandara’s miracle drug dominated prime- time television news.  Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi took a spoonful of it in front of TV cameras. Bandara was entertained in Parliament, and the Speaker and a group of Parliamentarians drank the stuff in the full glare of cameras. The President ordered further research into the local concoction. Some government Ministers defended its sheer absence of scientific basis. Local medical authorities who held deep reservations on the product hesitated to voice their opinion. After much dillydallying, they gave ethical clearance for further research into the drug.

Crowds thronged around the residence of Bandara to get the magic potion. Good practices of social distancing were thrown to the wind. If you have a magic cure, why worry about getting ill?

That farcical spectacle has now exploded on the face of the health minister.  She and her husband have been tested positive for COVID-19, her office in the Health Ministry was shut down and staff had been told to undergo self –quarantine. She is the fifth Parliamentarian to contract the virus. Before that, another parliamentarian who consumed the miracle cure was tested positive for the virus.


  • The real cost will never be known. For many thousands, who were gullible enough to stay in long queues to buy his magic potion, and others who drank it and thought they were immune, and hence lowered their guard are the nameless victims
  • Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi took a spoonful of it in front of TV cameras. Bandara was entertained in Parliament, and the Speaker and a group of Parliamentarians drank the stuff in the full glare of cameras

Though there still are fools who hang on to the promise of Dammika Paniya as it is popularly known, the farce has now reached its predictable end.  However, its real cost will never be known. For many thousands, who were gullible enough to stay in long queues to buy his magic potion, and others who drank it and thought they were immune, and hence lowered their guard are the nameless victims.

The real culprits of the scam will also never be brought to justice. A popular pro-government TV channel that promoted this scam would move on to publicize another patriotic hoax.  Minister Wanniarachchi who sought many forms of divine remedies, including dropping charmed pots to the rivers, will carry on her duties.  Dammika Bandara himself has argued his medicine is fail-safe, and those who contracted the virus after drinking his stuff might not have taken the recommended dose. The local health officials and Ayuvedic authorities have not cautioned the public that what they promoted was a hoax. Only the e-bay, the e-Commerce site had removed its listing. 

The fiasco of miracle cure is microscopic of a greater ill, a regressive notion of patriotism that had beset the Sri Lankan society at present, and being whipped up and fostered by the current government. Its supporters and voters are especially vulnerable to be duped by this. And it comes in many forms, including when the Port Trade Unions clamour to run the Colombo Eastern Container by themselves –How can they, when they cannot properly run the only SLPA-owned terminal?  The world’s largest shipping liner, MCC that fed into the bulk of cargo handling of the Jaya Terminal had pulled out to avoid the congestion there.

This regressive patriotism overlooks the structural weaknesses and limits of individual and collective capacities. It gives a false sense of confidence to folks who have nothing much to celebrate. This is not uniquely Sri Lankan. From Madagascar where the state also patronized similar concoction to a large swathe of the White Working Class that pinned their hopes on Donald Trump, people have tended to place trust on conmen who speak what they like to hear. They relied on oversimplified solutions of which main criteria being a false national pride.

The first step towards progress is self-awareness of individual or collective limitations. The regressive patriotism of the present time blinds the nation of its limitations giving it a false sense of confidence. And politically affiliated wheeler-dealers who own television stations, among others are preying on this specific collective weakness. Also, aspiring states emulate the successful strategies of their peers.  Emulation is the most important element of the rise of nations, as the modern history of international political economy would attest.

But, how can you emulate others when a bunch of nincompoops think they are the best, and want to build the wheel every time, and run the show on their own? That is the central feature of the failure of a majority of nations that received independence in the second half of the 20th century.

Dammika Paniya might have made gullible few hundred getting infected, and caused a few deaths. But, the successive government policies that have whipped up this regressive patriotism, that turned back on reason, science and commonsense economics have robbed the people of this country both peace and prosperity for over the seven decades since independence. 

Follow @RangaJayasuriya on Twitter

  Comments - 17

  • S.H.Moulana Tuesday, 26 January 2021 08:26 AM

    This is the lead our politicians give to the masses. Vaccine for COVID took nearly one year to prove whether it is effective and safe but this unproven Peni is consumed overnight with no testing. The health minister consuming it in public to give the lead misled the masses. What an irresponsible act for the health minister to under take!

    Ranaweera Tuesday, 26 January 2021 09:04 AM

    This is a biased article without any research. The author should know that some people who took Pfizer vaccine died, some got infected. It is not the fault of anyone promoting a locally made medicine. Do you have evidence that people who drank the syrup died. But we have evidence that people who got the vaccine contracted covid later due to lowering their guard.

    sacre blieu Tuesday, 26 January 2021 10:37 AM

    How much more and how much longer are the hapless citizens will be subjected to be taken for a ride by these charlatans patronised by these ambitious strange people .

    R. Ranaweera Tuesday, 26 January 2021 01:22 PM

    The government can earn loads of much needed foreign exchange now by exporting this precious peniya to vaccine producing countries. They will undoubtedly rush to buy it as a sure source of coronavirus because apparently this peniya is guaranteed to infect anyone who touches it with covid 19. Patriot

    R.Ranaweera Tuesday, 26 January 2021 01:43 PM

    It is sad to see some people are trying to ridicule the efforts of this man who invented corona peniya . I don't agree with them. People should appreciate the explanation given by him when people who drank it got infected . He explained ; what happened was that when the God-given peniya comes into contact with an infected person with the virus , which is a " killa " or sacrilege , it's power is destroyed. What better scientific explanation we need ?

    Bernard Tuesday, 26 January 2021 04:00 PM

    The government was on the verge of distributing the peniya among the people instead of importing foreign vaccines to save foreign exchange as part of their inport ban when disaster struck.

    vince Tuesday, 26 January 2021 05:21 PM

    I too had a dream yesterday about a cure for covid EAT PINEAPPLES WITH THE SKIN.

    Roisin Tuesday, 26 January 2021 06:00 PM

    R. Ranaweera: this crook charges $ 13 for a bottle of lemonade. Taking advantage of uneducated poor peoples fear

    Raj Tuesday, 26 January 2021 06:19 PM

    Sir, If you have a degree in science or maths, you wouldn’t have been so critical of the indigenous syrup.

    vince Friday, 29 January 2021 05:13 AM

    That is what it is a scam. It is an indigenous syrup. It does nothing to covid. So this guy had a dream of a deity (if you believe that crap) gave him a recipe. What claptrap. And all these fools fell for it hook, line and sinker. Cure for a virus my ass.

    Vini Tuesday, 26 January 2021 06:28 PM

    Actually, I had the same dream as Vince. However, I was asked to eat only the skin of the pineapple. I am going to ask the ethical committee of the Rajarata University for their approval.

    Punchi banda Tuesday, 26 January 2021 08:37 PM

    Generally any vaccine has to go through scientific trials to establish its efficacy. Now with this panniya we are taught that Buddha has blessed Sri Lanka and Buddhists, so why has this Devine that gave us Buddha allowed this China virus to enter Sri Lanka.

    varuna Wednesday, 27 January 2021 06:20 AM

    Ranaweera, R. - Why don't you lead by example? Why don't you, your wife and children take the precise dosage of the "Dhammik Paniya" prescribed by "Dr Dhammika Bandara" and then intermingle with COVID-19 infected patients without any protection show the results? So easy. Please walk the talk!

    DAVID AMARASINGHE Wednesday, 27 January 2021 06:46 AM

    The minister of health appear to be a person who has no respect for science and/or the scientific method. However this is nothing new. The ex President of the United States promoted bleach as a vaccine. It is high time the not honorable minister resign.

    Kelum Srimal Wednesday, 27 January 2021 10:45 AM

    Sri Lankan health minister is an uneducated woman. She is a comedian. In Sri Lanka they call her the Watti Amma. What to do as most Sri lankan people fell into the trap and voted for this government. Now they are hopeless.

    Alphonso D Zoysa Wednesday, 27 January 2021 01:04 PM

    Beware this covid panniya is actually an international conspiracy by the suddha enemies of Sri Lankan shingalese to lull them into false confidence and decimate them with this covid disease so that the percentage of minorities increases.

    Mike Revere Wednesday, 27 January 2021 05:01 PM

    The health minister should be sacked from her job. With the next mutation being worse, she will depopulate parliament and health ministry while vanishing herself.

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