Bernal hailed as ‘a towering public servant’
The death of Professor Richard Bernal, former Jamaican ambassador to the United States, has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Bernal, whose latest project was with the P. J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, reportedly collapsed last night while walking with his wife, Margaret, in Norbrook, St Andrew.
His work colleagues say they were in office with Bernal up to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, “laughing, talking, and planning. He didn’t show any signs of feeling ill”.
In a statement, Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed sadness at the passing of the 72-year-old, who he described as a pillar of the academic and diplomatic community.
“Ambassador Bernal gave committed service to his beloved country, Jamaica, and to elevating our status and relations with bilateral and hemispheric partners. He represented the people of Jamaica with honour, dignity, and professionalism,” the prime minister said.
Holness added that Bernal 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.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding also expressed shock at Bernal’s passing.
“A towering public servant, he was both a consummate diplomat and an important advisor to the Government of Jamaica over many years,” Golding noted.
He added that Bernal “excelled to the highest international standards, and Jamaica owes him a debt of gratitude for his immense contribution and service”.
Bernal was renowned as a researcher who was committed to the economic development of his country and the region.
A former colleague, who watched him in action on many occasions, Dr Luz Longsworth, said Jamaica has lost someone who thought very deeply about the future of the region.
“He was so well informed of the global elements that affect the region. He was held in high regard by the diplomatic and international community and was always in demand for comments on global affairs,” she told The Gleaner.
Bernal, who was the UWI’s first pro vice chancellor for global affairs, was instrumental in the institution’s global thrust.