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Dear Editor: Charles is wrong, the health minister was obliged to defend T&T on Daily Show

“[…] The minister of health had an obligation to embrace the opportunity to appear on the show, as the matter raised by Ms Minaj had received widespread international coverage both on conventional and social media platforms. 

“[…] More particularly from a health perspective, T&T’s vaccination programme has been hampered by vaccine hesitancy, and, given her high profile, the allegation referenced by Ms Minaj about impotency and swollen testicles could make a bad situation worse…”

The following letter to the editor which responds to Naparima MP Rodney Charles’ criticism of Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh for appearing on US satirical television programme, the Daily Show, was submitted to Wired868 by Louis W Williams of Maraj Trace, Freeman Road, St Augustine:

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (right) was a guest on Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, a popular American satirical news show, on 16 September 2021 to discuss Nicki Minaj’s claim about the alleged response to the Covid-19 vaccine experienced by her cousin’s friend in Trinidad.

I am appalled by the opinion expressed in the news media by opposition MP Rodney Charles, in respect of the participation last Thursday of the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh on the cable TV programme hosted by Trevor Noah, titled The Daily Show.

The minister of health, on the invitation of the host, appeared on the programme and sought to dispel some misleading information that had been placed in the public domain internationally, consequent upon the dissemination of a tweet from Ms Nicki Minaj—concerning certain side effects allegedly experienced by a gentleman known to a relative of Ms Minaj, after he had been vaccinated for Covid-19 in T&T.

First of all, the news media reports claim that Mr Charles accused the minister of health of breaching patient confidentiality. The Minister of Health did no such thing as he did not disclose the name of the patient. Indeed, the minister of health did not know the name of the patient as no such report of an adverse reaction was made to the public health authorities.

The minister of health had an obligation to embrace the opportunity to appear on the show, as the matter raised by Ms Minaj had received widespread international coverage both on conventional and social media platforms. 

Photo: Trinidad-born American rapper Nicki Minaj shows off a carnival costume during a music video.

Additionally, Ms Minaj’s subsequent comments about the limited availability of Instagram in T&T may have left some persons who were not familiar with T&T with the impression that T&T is a very backward Third World country, akin to a banana republic. 

Under these circumstances, therefore, this matter could not have been ‘ignored’, as suggested by Mr Charles. Mr Charles has stated that silence is golden, but this was not an appropriate matter for such inaction. 

I do agree with Mr Charles that ‘the world does not make a distinction between Minaj and the rest of us’. Accordingly, that makes it even more imperative that we promptly correct and disassociate ourselves from any misleading statements arising out of what she has said or written.

More particularly from a health perspective, T&T’s vaccination programme has been hampered by vaccine hesitancy, and, given her high profile, the allegation referenced by Ms Minaj about impotency and swollen testicles could make a bad situation worse. 

It is certainly not a non-issue, as claimed by Mr Charles, according to news media reports. 

Photo: UNC MP for Naparima Rodney Charles.
(Copyright Office of Parliament)

World renowned communications and health experts (including psychologists) are at a loss as to how to deal effectively with this issue, given, among other things, the misleading information that is prevalent on especially social media platforms.

Mr Charles identified, in his criticism of the minister of health, that Covid-19 was a serious issue. Doesn’t he understand why?

Mr Charles understandably has a soft spot for Ms Minaj and opined that the GORTT is adding to the global ridicule of her. However, the GORTT did not initiate this series of events. It was Ms Minaj who did so. 

Needless to say, the GORTT has an obligation to give priority to the protection of the health and reputation of the 1.4 million citizens who reside here.

Why does Mr Charles think that the minister of health’s highlighting of some of our rich cultural heritage such as carnival, chutney, calypso and our cuisine was a mistake? Do Mr Charles and the UNC not see the connection between the alleviation of poverty/economic diversification and the promotion of carnival, chutney, calypso, our cuisine, etc? 

Photo: Late chef Anthony Bourdain relaxes for a moment during a visit to Couva, Trinidad on 5 January 2017 for his TV show, Parts Unknown.
(Copyright David Scott Holloway)

The TV programme has wide global coverage and, far from being ‘trivial’, the minister of health embraced this opportunity to promote T&T as a tourist destination. Out of evil cometh good, and if the Devil brings it, say is God who sent it. 

Nevertheless, I now better understand why the UNC was so cavalier about the Sandals project.

I daresay that the vast majority of our citizens are patriotic and are not willing to sacrifice their lifeblood and dignity as a nation for anyone who is prepared to tarnish our good name and reputation—either intentionally, recklessly, unintentionally or otherwise. 

I wonder who higher up in the hierarchy of the UNC vetted Mr Charles’ statements on the matter under consideration before he made them public?

Silence is consent! How shameful!

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2 comments

  1. Earl Best

    It does not surprise me in the least that Mr Charles won’t shut up even when he has nothing of substance to say.

    Doesn’t the proverb say that a still tongue keeps a wise head?

    Yeah, Rodney, to borrow a pithy injunction from Denesh Ramdin, talk nah!

  2. Agreed! Minister of Health. Deyalsingh acquitted himself well and taking the opportunity to promote Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean was genius! Does Mr. Charles realize this matter became an international story that was addressed by numerous US government and health leaders, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and the US President’s Press secretary? It appears that his comments were just another opposition tantrum.