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Australian former deputy prime minister falls ill after downing potent kava drink | CNN



A tour of the Pacific region took a woozy turn for one Australian politician after he downed a cup of a traditional drink in one hit.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack was visiting the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia to celebrate 35 years of bilateral relations while touring the Pacific in a delegation, when he was offered sakau – a type of Micronesian kava – as a ceremonial drink.


Kava is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from the kava kava plant, which encourages relaxation.

“In a bid to show my respect to local traditions I drank the whole bowl of sakau,” McCormack tweeted Thursday.

In some parts of the Pacific, a bowl of kava is typically drunk in one go. But McCormack soon realised the potent, Pohnpei-specific kava was a different beast altogether.

In a video of the ceremony shared by local media, the lawmaker is seen sitting down, holding his head in his hand, and being fanned, after appearing to vomit into a black refuse bag.


He was then treated in hospital for dehydration, according to CNN affiliate 7News.

McCormack told the Guardian that he went “cross-eyed” after drinking it and slept for 14 hours following his visit to the hospital.

“I haven’t slept like that in my entire parliamentary career. I don’t think I have slept like that since I was a teenager,” he told the outlet on Friday.

McCormack added in his tweet that he was feeling much better now, and saw the trip as a “great chance to connect with our Pacific family.”


CNN has reached out to McCormack for further comment.

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According to Pohnpeian lore, sakau was gifted by the gods and historically consumed only by the upper class and men. Now, it is more widely available, but it is still made by pounding the root on a special stone and mixing it with water and hibiscus sap, before serving it in a coconut shell.


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