Bernal remembered for commitment to Jamaica, region

Political leaders and an academic head have expressed sadness at the passing of former Jamaica Ambassador to the United States Dr Richard Bernal, who died suddenly Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Jamaica has lost a “pillar of the academic and diplomatic community”, saying Ambassador Bernal gave committed service to Jamaica, elevating the nation’s status and relations with bilateral and hemispheric partners.

“He represented the people of Jamaica with honour, dignity, and professionalism. He had a wide breadth of understanding of international economic policy and economic development as they affect small island developing states such as Jamaica and other countries of Caricom,” said Holness.

He added that Bernal’s experience with Caribbean Community (Caricom) institutions, international development financing institutions, and as an academic, demonstrated his competence and commitment to the promotion of Jamaica’s role in the world. Bernal’s legacy, said Holness, will live on “in the continued manifestation of Jamaica’s positive engagement with our global partners and dexterous navigation of global issues that affect the South and indeed the world as a whole”.

In her remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith said Ambassador Bernal was unstinting in the service he gave to the Government and people of Jamaica, as he represented the country in many regional and international engagements, always with keen insights and avid interest in preserving the integrity of diplomacy.

“He earned an admirable reputation for his clinical analyses on regionalism and for his commitment to promoting the higher virtues of regional integration,” she said.

“His tenure as ambassador was followed by his appointment as chief technical negotiator of the Regional Negotiating Machinery, which oversaw the negotiations of CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He was the quintessential negotiator, skilled in his advocacy for small economies, identifying the need for differential treatment, and carve-out for island economies with specific resource constraints,” said Johnson Smith.

Expressing similar sentiments, Opposition Leader Mark Golding described Bernal as a towering public servant, consummate diplomat, and important advisor to governments over many years.

He also noted that he was a Jamaican who excelled at the highest international standards, and that the country owes him a debt of gratitude for his immense service.

In a release, the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy recognised the stellar and indispensable contribution which Ambassador Bernal made to the work of the institute from its planning, inception, and up to the very day of his sudden and untimely passing.

Meanwhile, former Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips said Bernal was a true renaissance man living life in the 21st century.

“From his early days at Jamaica College, his interest and accomplishments on the sports field in cricket, football and tennis were notable. Later, while at university in both Jamaica and the United States he was avid in pursuit of wider cultural interests,” he said.

Reminiscing on their many voyages, Phillips said, “To travel with Richard, whether in New York, London, Mexico City, or any other global cultural centre, was an inimitable experience of itself. He knew where every renowned jazz combo was playing and was knowledgeable of the location of all the art exhibitions on display in that city, or the plays, whether of modern or classical genre, were being produced. He persisted in the pursuit of all these cultural interests throughout his entire life.”

Also expressing condolence was Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).

“His distinguished career included dedicated service to The UWI in various capacities, among them, academic in the Department of Economics and the Institute for Social and Economic Research, the first pro vice-chancellor for global affairs and, up to the time of his passing, professor of practice within the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and research fellow at the PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy,” he said.

“He was instinctively a regionalist and dedicated his considerable academic research and publishing to the regional development agenda. He was an outstanding scholar who committed his extensive internationally accumulated knowledge to the business of crafting the progressive Caribbean consciousness,” added Beckles.

While he served as an ambassador, Bernal was also permanent representative to the Organisation of American States, positions he held for 10 ½ years.

He also served as a member of the board of directors of the Inter-American Development Bank (2008-2016) and was a chief trade negotiator for Caricom.

Ambassador Bernal’s résumé also includes an eight-year stint in the position of director general of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery where he had responsibility for trade negotiations for Caricom.

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