Monday, July 19, 2010

Fasting unto death while on saline

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema | The Sunday Leader

NFF Leader and Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s failed attempt to politically re-engineer his image as a firebrand politician through a fast unto death outside the UN Office in Colombo has had many adverse repercussions on the country as well as on domestic politics.

The comedy of errors staged by Weerawansa from July 6 to 9 was nothing short of entertaining, where for the first time, Sri Lankans were able to witness an individual on a fast unto death while being on a saline drip.

A closer look at the whole fast unto death saga reveals the political game behind Weerawansa’s exercise carried out for three days outside the UN Office in Colombo.

Weerawansa, who claimed that he would not budge an inch until Ban Ki-Moon withdrew the panel of experts on Sri Lanka, immediately sipped a glass of water offered to him by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and ended his ‘fast’ without even uttering a reason for his decision to call it off.
After Weerawansa ended his fast unto death on Saturday (10) at 4.30 p.m., until the following day, Sunday (11) none of the NFF spokespersons gave a reason to the media as to why the fast was ended.

On Sunday, NFF spokesperson Jayantha Samaraweera said that the fast was called off after the President had agreed to several conditions, which included the appointment of a committee to inquire into the allegations to be taken up by the UN panel of experts and for the Sri Lankan government not to cooperate with the UN panel.

It therefore seems, that Weerawansa’s fast unto death was in fact aimed against the President more than the UN Secretary General.

Realising the disaster in the making, the NFF then resorted to claim that the life of their leader was at risk due to his continuous fast for three days. They claimed that doctors have said Weerawansa’s kidneys were badly affected due to the non-consumption of water.

A medical expert when questioned by The Sunday Leader said that a saline drip is generally administered to provide sustenance to a person who does not consume food or water.

He explained that the normal saline that contains water and sodium chloride along with 5% of dextrose (a form of glucose) and when administered to any individual, that person does not need to consume food or water, as the substances required for physical sustenance are provided medically.
When asked about the case of Weerawansa’s ‘fast unto death’ while on a saline drip, the doctor said there was no need for him to consume either food or water as he was on the saline drip.

“A person could wait close to seven days without consuming water and an even further period without food,” he said.

He added that not eating food for two days would not have a severe impact on a person’s kidneys, especially when a saline drip has been administered to the person.

According to the doctor, in order to determine for certain if there indeed was a problem in the kidneys’ filtering system, a serum electrolyte and a serum creatinin test could have been performed on Weerawansa. Meanwhile, doubts have also been raised about Dr. Sisira Siribaddhana’s involvement in the fast unto death, especially given the fact that he is one of Weerawansa’s close confidants.

A former supporter of the JVP, Dr. Siribaddhana had also changed his loyalties with Weerawansa’s defection from the JVP.

It is Dr. Siribaddhana, who initially claimed that Weerawansa’s kidneys were affected due to the non-consumption of water.

Several opposition politicians who called Weerawansa’s actions a bluff said that Weerawansa had single-handedly managed to stop any possible protests that could have been organised against the panel of experts on Sri Lanka appointed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

A senior politician from Weerawansa’s former party, the JVP, said that while a fast unto death is a protest campaign resorted to as a final option, Weerawansa’s fool hardy action of carrying out such a campaign at the outset of the protest against the expert panel has ruined any possibility of carrying out a future protest against the issue.

“A fast unto death is the last protest campaign to be launched under any circumstance, but Weerawansa resorted to it in the first protest itself. No, there is nothing that can be done. No protest, march or rally could match it now,” he said. According to him, the only other option would be to get about 10 individuals to commence a fast unto death – if any one is to consider the matter seriously.

© The Sunday Leader

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