Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

The Trinidad and Tobago Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance “TTNCD Alliance” is urging Principal Medical Officer of Health Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards to reconsider taking up the post as a director on the board of Angostura Holdings Ltd (AHL).

TTNCD Alliance president Karen Sealy says being on the board of a company that promotes the sale and consumption of alcohol, which has adverse effects on physical and mental health, cannot be reconciled with Abdool-Richards’ role as a health official.

Abdool-Richards was appointed to the AHL board, effective November 16. She has been criticised by the Opposition over the appointment with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar questioning her independence and ability to manage the Covid-19 crisis while serving on several boards.

Abdool-Richards is also a member on the boards of the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (NIPDEC) and the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA).

In defending her appointment last Saturday, Abdool-Richards said: “I do not see it as inappropriate to be on the board of a publicly traded company. My terms of employment do not prevent me from being a member of a board of a publicly traded company.”

In a release yesterday however, Sealy said it is the duty of the TTNCD Alliance to warn the public about the dangers of consumption of tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods.

She said while she has no doubt that Abdool-Richards is competent to serve in the position at AHL, she suggested that as a health official, Abdool-Richards should not be associated with a product as damaging as alcohol.

“The use of alcohol is one of the risk factors for NCDs, the priority being addressed by the Ministry of Health for improving the health of our population,” Sealy noted.

“Moreover, Dr Richards, in recent months, has become a very visible public face and voice of the Ministry of Health and her cautionary advice as it relates to the Covid-19 pandemic means that she is an authoritative figure whose views are highly respected.

“This may have been one of the reasons for her appointment but, equally, it is very concerning that in her role as director to look after the best interest of AHL, she may be regarded as championing the consumption and sale of alcohol while concurrently advocating for greater personal responsibilities and public health measures to combat Covid-19 and its NCD co-morbidities,” Sealy said.

Sealy said it is a matter of “great regret” that Abdool-Richards’ appointment may have the unintended effect of weakening the national resolve to combat NCDs.

“On behalf of the TTNCD Alliance’s members...we urge Dr Abdool-Richards to reconsider her decision,” Sealy said.

The TTNCD Alliance comprises several organisations aimed at combating NCDs including the Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society, the Chest and Heart Association of T&T, the Diabetes Association of T&T, the T&T Heart Foundation, Heartbeat International of T&T, the T&T Coalition for Tobacco Control, the Caribbean Sport and Development Agency, the T&T Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians and the Family Planning Association of T&T.

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