The only authentic apology is changed behaviour.
That was the response of The Lost Tribe masquerader Candice Santana to former health minister Dr Fuad Khan who, around 10.30 am yesterday, apologised for body shaming her on social media.
She added that she humbly and respectfully declined the offer to meet with or obtain assistance from him “because of the extent of damage done to me as a person.”
In a Facebook post, Khan said, “I apologize to Miss Candice Santana for my insensitive remark of referring her to a “TUB.” I was harsh and very insensitive and I apologize to all those I have offended with that name calling. Please forgive me Candice if I hurt you. However, should you wish to hear my experience with the weight loss, please call me. I can also assist with any medical problem.”
Khan caused an uproar when, on International Woman’s Day last Friday, he called Santana a tub, accused her of promoting obesity in children, and told her to “shut up and lose the weight” on a Facebook video post.
That was in response to another Facebook post by Santana, as well as a CNC3 interview where she detailed her experiences of fat shaming as a masquerader on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. On the TV interview Santana reiterated that she was not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle but encouraged people to treat each other better because they did not know anyone else’s health issues.
In his apology, Khan said he should have taken a different approach instead of name-calling and again apologised to her and to “all those overweight people who felt offended,” adding that he and Santana indirectly started a discussion about healthy lifestyles.
Half an hour later he posted a voice message admitting that he went “overboard,” and again apologised directly to Santana as well as to overweight people and anyone else who was offended. “It was harsh and insensitive, yes. I got carried over trying to bring the point across… However, I do feel strongly about NCDs and I have seen the complications of the non-communicable diseases affect very young people.”
In a message to Newsday, Santana pointed out that, as noted in a previous statement, she had forgiven Khan despite the “great damage” his statements caused and continued to cause to her and other overweight people.
However, Santana said a commitment to changing his behaviour would mean a lot more than an apology.
“As an office holder, Dr Khan and all officials are held to a higher standard of operation so even when passionate about an issue, the use of disrespect, embarrassment, and personal attack to a citizen should never happen. As a society, body-shaming and malicious name-calling regardless of size, shape or shade should never be encouraged. Office holders are expected to set a better example for us, especially the youth and children of the nation.”
Again, she encouraged people to make an extra effort to treat each other with kindness and respect, as they would like to be treated. “Let us show love for people and for country. Let us move forward positively. Act justly, walk humbly and love unconditionally!”
Previously Khan was unapologetic. In one post he said people hated to hear the truth, and preferred to ignore the message and shoot the messenger. Also, in response to a statement about the matter from the PNM Women's League he said he did not want to be “fat accepted” and so had no problem being told he had to lose weight.
“I am working out and have stopped stuffing my face. I will never insist that people love me up for being obese. I am happy when I am being fat shamed by the PNM women league (FAB) as they are known. It makes me continue my weight loss path.”
Since the incident, Khan also used his Facebook pages to warn that fat and obesity killed, as well as to share information and statistics on NCDs. He said more than half the country’s adult population is overweight or obese. He said chronic NCDs shared common risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, as well as behavioural risks such as unhealthy diets, obesity, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and physical inactivity. He said CNCDs, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, accounted for more than half of all deaths in TT and the Caribbean and it put a strain on public health facilities.
However, Sandra Des Vignes-Millington, aka Singing Sandra, said she did not believe Khan apologised “from the heart.”
In a Facebook video on March 10, Des Vignes-Millington expressed her disappointment and vexation about Khan’s video and called on him to apologise. She even asked for his phone number or for an appointment to speak with him because she did not want to disrespect him on a public forum like he did Santana. “Nobody said obesity is healthy. But that’s your only contribution you could make brother to a society that have so much of ills right now?”
Speaking to Newsday yesterday she said she believed Khan only apologised because he was a public figure. “If Fuad is so caring about obesity in TT, if he is so concerned about the welfare of the children, being a doctor why doesn’t he offer the nation, offer his constituency, some type of seminar or something to educate people about obtaining better health?”
She said he could also find ways to help people with medical problems such as thyroid or hormonal issues who could not control their weight through diet and exercise.
In response to his Facebook apologies, people said they realised obesity was a problem in the country but did not appreciate Khan’s “tone” in his original video. In the comments, some people thanked him while others did not believe his sincerity and yet others did not believe he should have apologised at all for “speaking the truth.”
Cliff Paray said, “I wouldn’t apologize as he is stating the truth of the matter, obesity is a sickness and people just need the right guidance. It’s my tax payers money have to treat them in a free healthcare society so who vex loss.”
Isaac Crooks said he respected and appreciated Khan’s apology and thanked him for “being a man.” However, he stressed that leaders should put more thought into any statements that could be misinterpreted or considered offensive.
Khan could not be reached for a comment.