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Tribute from the Institute

Service of Thanksgiving

Saturday, February 4th, 2023 at 2pm

University Chapel

The University of the West Indies,
Kingston 7

Donations may be made to: The Jamaica College Foundation 
in the name of Richard Bernal at:
Trees That Feed Foundation at:


Please send tributes to Debra Hamilton at

The Rex Nettleford Foundation regrets the passing of Ambassador Dr. the Honourable Richard L. Bernal, OJ, a Director of the Board of The Rex Nettleford Foundation. The Rex Nettleford Foundation was founded in 2010 after the passing of Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford to ensure that his immense life and legacy would be recognised in perpetuity and to support the development of young people especially in regard to their understanding and appreciation of service to mankind, On his return to Jamaica, Ambassador Bernal was enthusiastic in his response to the Foundation’s invitation to join the board in 2016, as his long and rich relationship of mutual respect with Professor Nettleford and their collaborative partnerships spanned several decades. Ambassador Bernal brought with him a wealth of experience through his considerable global experience, intellect and creativity and contributed significantly to the development of the Foundation. He was a man of balance and integrity who was held in high regard by those who had the great fortune to work with him. His passing will leave a tremendous void in the Foundation and his clarity of vision and indisputable love of his people and culture will be sorely missed but we and his family can find comfort in the fact that his considerable body of work will live on in perpetuity.
The Most Honourable P.J. Patterson
Chairman of The Rex Nettleford Foundation on behalf of the Foundation
Jamaica and the Caribbean, indeed the international community, lost a human being who was a superlative diplomat, an exceptional economist, a skilled writer and impactful author, and a great friend of the Jamaican diaspora community across the United States. His laser focus on Jamaican and Caribbean development led me to collaborate with him on several issues. I met Dr. Richard Bernal in the early 1990's during preparation for the election of the Most Hon. P. J. Patterson when I went to Jamaica to support the campaign. Richard was among a small group of economists advising Mr. Patterson. Richard was by then a respected economist and many who are familiar with his work over the years will agree he grew into one of the most respected economists in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as internationally. He became the go-to person if one needed the views and opinions of a well-qualified development economist on issues related to Jamaica and the Caribbean. When Dr. Bernal was appointed ambassador to Washington, and having heard I was about to visit Jamaica, he called and asked if I could meet with him and brief him on the Washington political landscape. We met in downtown Kingston, and I laid out for him the dynamics in Washington, how to navigate the political environment, and how to avoid pitfalls that usually befall inexperienced diplomats. When Ambassador Bernal took up his new post, he hit the ground running and never looked back. He infused new energy and proactive actions within the Caribbean diplomatic corps. His masterful leadership during his tenure has often been referred to by his former diplomatic colleagues. As one of his former colleagues attested, Ambassador Bernal was always well prepared. He was impactful as he effectively advanced the interests of Jamaica and the Caribbean in the milieu of Washington’s evolving political landscape. I had the distinct pleasure of having a cooperative and friendly relationship with Ambassador Bernal throughout his tenure as Jamaica’s top diplomat in Washington and during the time he spent at the Inter-American Development Bank as Caribbean Director. We collaborated on several initiatives to benefit Jamaica and the Caribbean. There are two I will highlight as I pay tribute to a Jamaican ambassador who always recognized the value of the Jamaican diaspora to his work and to Jamaica’s development as a nation. The first was the Chiquita banana issue. I was reminded of this when Ambassador Bernal was writing one of his most recent books. He sent me the draft of a couple chapters and asked my input in verifying the important role members of the Jamaican community in Washington played in this effort. Specifically, our group, the National Coalition on Caribbean Affairs, which in addition to myself, included the late Leopold Edwards, the late Dr. Alston Meade, and Dr. Ransford Palmer, a Howard University economics professor, as we created history with our interventions with the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council making the case for the Caribbean in opposition to Chiquita, the banana exporting behemoth which threatened Caribbean banana exports to Europe. We met, as needed, with Ambassador Bernal to exchange briefs on the latest efforts by Caribbean governments and Caribbean banana producers, and by our group to ensure synergy and oneness of purpose. He also facilitated briefs by others who were integrally involved on the side of the Caribbean. Our collaboration was on many fronts, including in the halls of Congress and in mobilizing members of the Jamaican diaspora to lend support to this and other causes by contacting their Congressional representatives to urge their support for Jamaica and the Caribbean. Ambassador Bernal built upon the diaspora engagement legacy of the late Ambassador Alfred Rattray who preceded him by several years. Ambassador Bernal never ceased trying to exploit what the diaspora had to offer to help in Jamaica’s social and economic development. To this end, in the early 1990s, Ambassador Bernal encouraged a group of us to establish the Jamaica National Development Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, with a focus on health and education development in Jamaica. And this is where Ambassador Bernal must receive full recognition for his role in facilitating one of the most impactful initiatives advancing healthcare in Jamaica’s history. Under my chairmanship, and Ambassador Bernal as Honorary Chair, we planned and executed a major game-changer in surgical healthcare delivery at the University of the West Indies Hospital. The late Dr. Michael Jackson and the late Dr, Stanley Samms, chair, and vice-chair, respectively, of our health committee, led the initiative with the support of foundation board members, including the late Leo Edwards, then Maryland Delegate the Hon. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, George Willie, Darien Green, John Christie, and others, with Dr. Basil Bryan, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Jamaica Embassy, and Mrs. Margaret Bernal both providing invaluable support, all made this project the success that it was. But it was Ambassador Bernal who was the catalyst and facilitator in chief who made it possible for us to undertake this ambitious project in the first place. It was Ambassador Bernal who engaged the management of Air Jamaica to transport gratis the 64 containers of supplies, medications, and equipment, including two respirators, to set up the surgical and recovery rooms, and to provide discounted airfare for our medical team. It was Ambassador Bernal who removed the red tape normally experienced during diaspora humanitarian missions. We were fortunate to have a top heart surgeon and a support team of other medical and healthcare professionals from the Washington Hospital Center who volunteered for this mission. We restarted heart surgery at the University Hospital. Our first of four missions replaced damaged heart valves for four patients. On the ground in Jamaica, then Chief of Staff of the JDF, Major General John Simmonds, arranged transportation by the JDF for our medical team operating on 24-hour shift throughout the mission. The success of our mission was best expressed by a fourteen-year-old girl whose heart valve was replaced on our first mission. In a letter she wrote to us, she said, “Thank you for coming to Jamaica to save my life. Now I can walk to church.” Her statement touched all of us deeply. From a professional perspective, Dr. Howard Spencer, the chief cardiologist at the University Hospital at the time, wrote to us following our first mission saying, “Thank you for coming to Jamaica to show us what we can do.” All of us involved in this initiative were quite grateful for Ambassador Bernal’s advice and support throughout the planning and execution of this landmark undertaking. It would not have been possible without him. I personally benefited from the many personal conversations we had during this entire process. This is a testament to Ambassador Bernal’s laser focus on helping Jamaica and Jamaicans and is a testimony to his humanity and caring for the less fortunate. Ambassador Bernal’s enduring legacy is imbedded in the memories of all those who knew him. He will never be forgotten. May he rest in eternal peace.
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
Professor the Hon. Ambassador Richard L. Bernal, OJ, was a true servant of the people and the region. He dedicated his life to pursuing economic, social growth and development. Ambassador Bernal’s impact as a member of the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank (2008-2016), as the Executive Director representing the Caribbean Constituency Office (The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago), reflected his keen understanding of the complexities of economic and social development, and a deep empathy for improving the lives of people around the world, especially of those in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, his ability to navigate the complex environment of International Financial Institutions and his tireless work to ensure the IDB was agile and responsive to the needs of governments in the region made him an effective leader and a true champion for the region. Ambassador Bernal’s dedication to the cause of public service – local, regional, and international – will be remembered for generations to come. His legacy is a testament to the power of public service and the importance of working to improve the lives of others. His guidance and leadership will be missed, but his contributions will continue to inspire us to strive for a more just and equitable world. In his own words “Economic development is a critical component that drives economic growth in an economy, it is unacceptable to ignore the facts”. The Hon. Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal was not just a colleague, he was also a friend, and will be surely missed. Thank you for your service. Rest in peace.
Office of the Executive Director of The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago
Inter-American Development Bank
Professor the Honourable Richard Bernal was a quintessential product of The University of the West Indies. 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. He was a public advocate of the social justice principle and contributed to the democratization of the postcolonial culture. He was a skilled and effective teacher and enjoyed the art of academic communication.  He was a kind and reasonable colleague who believed in the values of the academy and was keen to participate in their consolidation. He was a friend to many university leaders and offered sound advice over several decades. On his retirement from national service within the diplomatic realm, it was my honour to invite him back into the university community where he facilitated the development of the global agenda, and the UWI’s Reputation Revolution which was being launched. He served The UWI with distinction and dedication as 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 P.J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy.   On behalf of The UWI community I offer condolences to our dear friend and colleague Mrs Margaret Bernal, their children and the entire family. The UWI embraced and empowered him to the end. May his soul rest in peace.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles
Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies
On behalf of the Toronto Metropolitan University community, I wish to convey to you and your sons our deepest condolences on the passing of Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal. For many years, our university has been aligned with Dr. Bernal through our Jamaican Canadian alumni and connections with the University of the West Indies. In December 2009, when we were formerly known as Ryerson University, we were honoured to welcome Dr. Bernal as a distinguished speaker at our Global Management Symposium, where he spoke eloquently on the subject of the new world economy. Dr. Bernal made an indelible mark on the world as an economist, academic and diplomat. His legacy of outstanding public service and scholarship is one we will endeavour to uphold with the same dedication, wisdom and selflessness. We keep you and your family in our thoughts at this difficult time.
Mohamed Lachemi
Toronto Metropolitan University
Richard Bernal was undoubtedly gifted and fortunate enough to have played many parts in his well-lived life of service. I knew of him long before I met him – I knew of his scholarship as a young bright economist at the University of the West Indies and one of Michael Manley’s brilliant acolytes. But we got to know him and Margaret well when he served as Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States of America in Washington. The intellectual jousting and the noisy Caribbean arguments around our dinner table always left our guests energized and Richard would say that they gave him yet another idea for a book. I would marvel at his scholarly output and the ease with which he wrote cogently and lucidly about a range of social issues while carrying out a job with heavy time pressures. I admired him from a distance as he represented his country in Washington and the ease and aplomb with which he moved in diplomatic circles-easy of address, courteous to a fault and quick of wit. By all accounts he was an excellent ambassador. He believed and wrote that size should not be a barrier to the capacity of small states to exert influence beyond their size. Thomas McLarty, President Clinton’s Chief of Staff would say this of him in the foreword to Richard’s book “The influence of small states on superpowers” which I had the privilege of launching in Washington. “For the creative, clever, and persistent ambassador, Washington is not impenetrable nor is the US government impossible to influence. With an understanding of how the city operates, a keen sense of timing, and an ability to put one’s own priority issues within the context of the overall Washington agenda, a skilled envoy can help a small state to have outsized influence in the United States and beyond. Richard Bernal was a master at the ambassador’s craft”. Although he wandered very far literally and in terms of occupation, his heart and soul were always in the University of the West Indies, and he had and showed openly a deep and unswerving belief in its destiny as a force for Caribbean development and integration. There was no issue relating to the University or its alumni too small for his attention. He never tired of saying that the seeds of his success were planted and watered in the University of the West Indies, and I know how proud he was to serve his alma mater in his later years. He could not have achieved all he did without his wife Margaret whose boundless optimism and good humor were a tonic that seemed inexhaustible. Sylvan and I extend our condolences to her and the family.
George Alleyne
Chancellor Emeritus, The University of the West Indies
Total loss for words and in pure shock… A great friend and colleague of decades and a great Caribbean/Jamaican regionalist whose ideas, thinking, and practice we needed more than ever and will never be filled! ☹ Our heartfelt condolences to Margaret Bernal and their sons and grandchildren. Prayers for faith and strength in this difficult moment… Rest well my friend Richard, Mr. Ambassador…
David & Maritza Lewis and colleagues from and
I remember the late Amb. Bernak's very open and friendly disposition. He will be missed. Condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.
Mike Singh
I was privileged to work closely with Richard Bernal during his tenure as ambassador in Washington, while I served at the National Security Council. Ambassador Bernal was a first-class advocate for his nation, indeed for the Caribbean more broadly. Richard’s brilliant intellect was matched by his personal charm and grace. Inevitably, he was in full command of his brief, and just as inevitably he left me with little choice but to work hard to fulfill his wishes. His frequent messages were always punctuated as “emergencies.” Yet I always received notice of his messages with great expectations. Invariably, speaking with Ambassador Bernal was a high point in a busy day. In more recent years, I enthusiastically read and reviewed his books, each one an outstanding contribution to our understanding of inter-American relations. Richard Bernal demonstrated in his writings, as he had in his many diplomatic accomplishments, and in no uncertain terms, that capable, dedicated diplomats can make a real difference in molding a better world. I cannot imagine Jamaica, and the Caribbean, without the shining presence of this Prince among Men.
Richard Feinberg
Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego; Former Special Assistant to President Clinton for Inter-American Affairs
It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of Professor, The Honourable Richard Bernal, O.J. I join you in  mourning the profound loss of this esteemed colleague and friend. Yet, together we must celebrate the  legacy of his outstanding services  as ambassador, academic, author, advocate and practitioner. It was my profound pleasure to share this earthly space with Richard at UWI, CARICOM and during his various roles as Jamaican Ambassador to the USA, Member of  IDB Board of Directors, and more recently as Pro Vice Chancellor UWI, Professor of Practice at SALISES, UWI and  Research Fellow at the PJ Paterson Centre for African-Caribbean Studies. It was an enriching experience to engage with Richard professionally and socially. In this regard, his erudition, enthusiasm  and commitment to the Caribbean Region will  keep his memory alive.  Vice Chancellor Prof. Paloma Mohamed Martin and other members of the University of Guyana Community, join me in expressions of sympathy to  his wife Margaret, sons,  grandchildren, other members of his family and UWI colleagues.  It is our hope that you will be comforted by reflections on the good times you shared and in remembering him as he was.
Edward Greene
Chancellor, University of Guyana
Once again, the passing of a friend measures my own life. I grew up with Maxie as original Mona Heights citizens. I met him and his family shortly after a tragedy that left him as the only child whom his parents showered with endless love. I shared some of that as his friend who, I later understood, was enfolded in the family by his father to temper Maxie’s only-child-ness. His late father, Franklyn Bernal, the artist who drew classic buildings and beautiful birds and who epitomized the generation of civil servants that led the transition to Independence, included me in family activities. He loved to go to movies or to buy ice cream spontaneously, and he would round up whoever was at the house playing with Maxie, throw them in the bath for a quick scrub, and off to the drive-in or to the ice cream parlour. He was always ready to play football, cricket and marbles with us in the backyard. Maxie got his nickname from his mother’s maiden name, Maxwell. She was quiet, neat, and unassuming, but the centre of organization of Maxie’s life, and by extension, the Bernal family. Outside of the inner circle of family and friends, he was called, Richard, the kid who had the full backing of both of his doting parents unlike some of us who were being raised by mothers only. We played with his electric toys – a rarity way back then -, his cricket everything, his footballs, his ping pong racquets on his ping pong board that sometimes doubled as a ramp for racing toy cars. Then on to JC he went with some of us, played cricket, developed his social skills, did well academically – Franklyn made sure of that – and then on to UWI and UPenn, and ultimately a career as an academic. He and I re-connected at this stage as economists searching for the forces that constrained the development of Jamaica and the Caribbean, and the ways in which we could overcome those constraints. Richard got caught up in the academic fervour around crafting an alternative to the IMF strategy for Jamaica in the late 1970s. In the process, he set his sights on a more activist career that led him to the management of the Workers Bank, advising Michael Manley on international economic relations, the ambassadorship to the USA, the head of the Regional Negotiating Machinery that engaged the European Union’s re-set of its trade relations with the Caribbean, and finally to Pro Vice Chancellor of the UWI with special responsibilities. Along the way, he participated in many international conferences and events, in official capacities and in his own right. It was quite a stellar career, with a long list of academic publications, many awards, and most recently regular commentary on global affairs. He built his career around a solid family which he and his wife Margaret nurtured along the lines that their parents had inspired. They were both children of builders of Jamaica, and their lives epitomized the advances that their parents had worked hard to bring to ordinary Jamaicans. He and Margaret nurtured two sons who are now repeating the process with their own families. I think many will remember Richard as a warm, bubbly personality, affable, with a quick wit, and on the move from somewhere to somewhere else. He spent his professional life helping Caribbean leaders negotiate the global trading system and grew to understand the cold realities of international competition. By many measures, he had a successful career and a fulfilling life. The early Greeks had a theory about life that revolved around the activity of four muses, or goddesses. One muse holds a ball of string that symbolizes a person’s life; a second takes the loose end and walks with it unravelling the ball of string as she walks. A third muse follows along with a ruler measuring the string. The fourth muse walks with a “scissors” and cuts the string at the point of the end of life, which only she knows. RIP, Maxie! Innings, well played!
Michael Witter
It is with deep sadness that the faculty, staff, and students at the Institute of International Relations (IIR), The University of the West Indies (UWI), extend condolences to the Caribbean diplomatic and academic community on the passing of Ambassador the Honourable Dr. Richard L. Bernal (OJ), on Wednesday January 4th, 2023. With heavy hearts, we grieve with his family, colleagues, countrymen, the region and diaspora, for we have indeed lost a son who exemplified unwavering dedication to the region and personal and professional commitment and excellence. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Ambassador Bernal pursued an incredible academic and professional journey beginning with the attainment of a BSc in Economics in 1971 at The UWI, and culminating at the moment of his untimely passing, in a decades-spanning career spent in service to the UWI’s highest ideals of teaching and research in a multiplicity of roles across various units and departments. After attaining an MA and PhD in Economics in 1979 and 1988 respectively from the New School for Social Research, University of Pennsylvania, Ambassador Bernal then broadened his scholastic resume even further with the attainment of a Master of International Public Policy in 1996 from the School for Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. Returning to Jamaica after each stint at universities abroad, he would go on to serve his country as an economist, External Debt Management Advisor at Jamaica’s National Planning Agency and Ministry of Finance, and in the dual capacities of Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS) and as Ambassador to the US from 1991 to 2001. Heralded as the quintessential Caribbean regionalist, Ambassador Bernal’s persistent dedication to finding pathways towards diverse trade and sustainable economic development throughout the region earned him the positions of Director General of the CARICOM’s Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) from 2001 to 2008 and Principal Negotiator of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement from 2004 to 2007. As an ardent advocate for the voice of SIDS within international fora, through serving as Chief Trade Negotiator, Ambassador Bernal also led CARICOM’s negotiations in the WTO’s Doha Development Round and the Free Trade Area of the Americas in the early 2000s. During his tenure as Head of the CRNM, he engaged with the IIR on a collaborative effort towards determining a way forward to employ digital diplomacy regionally. Ambassador also made himself available for consultations with students of the IIR and considered them for CRNM-related international trade training programmes and researcher employment opportunities. Although he was an eminent trade and economic development practitioner, and internationally respected diplomat, Ambassador Bernal will, however, will be most fondly remembered by the IIR and the UWI fraternity for epitomizing rigorous scholarship at the highest tier, and consistently exhibiting thoughtful generosity as a teacher, mentor, and colleague. Lecturing in the UWI’s Department of Economics, Mona, from 1979 to 1987, Ambassador Bernal went on to become Professor of Practice at SALISES, a Research Fellow at the P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, and from 2016 to 2020, holder of the inaugural post of the UWI’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs. Richard Bernal was admired and respected for his contributions in the areas of Caribbean diplomacy, engaging with the US, the EU and China as well as with major international financial institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the IDB, also for his academic acumen and his ability to distil his professional and policy experiences into academic reflections. A prolific researcher and author, Ambassador Bernal wrestled with the region’s most difficult trade, development and economic growth quandaries and applied his research and analysis to numerous publications over his career, books, journal articles, monographs, and policy papers. He is the author of a fine manuscript on Jamaica's foreign policy towards the United States, and a pioneering study of China in the Caribbean, among his many academic contributions. He had the not so common ability in his analyses to zero in on the geopolitical and geoeconomic strategic aspects of any situation, and to present sound, practical policy recommendations. The IIR was incredibly fortunate over the years to have him accept invitations to attend and present at the Institute’s seminars and conferences. This often culminated in his erudite contributions being included in IIR publications including the Caribbean Journal of International Relations and Diplomacy. With a keen eye on Caribbean-Chinese economic and diplomatic relations, Ambassador Bernal also collaborated with the Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean (DAOC) to develop a module on the rise of China. During Ambassador Bernal’s tenure at Global Affairs and even before when he headed the CRNM, he engaged in several collaborations with the IIR. He contributed to fora and workshops on regional and global issues organized by the IIR in collaboration with other institutions, such as the ones about the regional implications of the Venezuelan crisis, China's engagement with the Caribbean and the implications for the Caribbean of the 2020 US electoral results. As always, his analysis was excellent, based on his former experience as Jamaica's ambassador to Washington, as Caribbean representative on the IDB Board and as a fellow at the CSIS at Georgetown University. Ambassador Bernal was urbane, affable and had a fantastic dry sense of humour. He walked to his own beat. It was always good to meet and interact with him. He made a sterling contribution not only to his country, Jamaica, but to the entire Caribbean and a whole range of Caribbean regional institutions, most notably CARICOM and The UWI. The IIR salutes him and honours his memory. With sorrow, we say goodbye to a Caribbean giant. We hold his wife, children and the rest of the family in our thoughts and prayers at this time, and present our deepest sympathies. Rest in eternal peace, Ambassador Hon. Dr. Richard Leighton Bernal.
Institute of International Relations
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Ambassador the Honourable Dr. Richard Bernal, who served as the Ambassador of Jamaica to the United States of America, and simultaneously, as Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, during the period 1991 - 2001. Ambassador Bernal was a respected and dedicated diplomat who made significant contributions to the promotion of Jamaica's interests and the strengthening of its relationships with bilateral and multilateral partners. The Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, DC, will open a Book of Condolences giving members of the diaspora and public an opportunity to pay tribute to Ambassador Bernal’s memory. The Condolence Book will be opened at the Embassy, located at 1520 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20036, from Tuesday, 17 January to Friday, 20 January 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We extend our deepest condolences to Ambassador Bernal's family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.
The Embassy of Jamaica
Washington D.C.
I join in expressing sorrow at the passing of Ambassador Richard Bernal. Ambassador Bernal was a giant among those, past and present, who have been at the forefront of the movement to advance the cause of the Caribbean in the global arena, and indeed of developing countries, more generally. In truth, few so ably combined the qualities of practitioner and thinker. His sharp intelligence, breadth of knowledge, and steadfastness will be sorely missed. Ambassador Bernal was, above all else, tireless. He constantly wrote to inform, influence, and persuade: at the same time he was always fully engaged and always ready to act. His written output was prodigious and reflected his rare talent to treat technical and complex subjects simply and clearly. Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the global community are poorer now that he has departed. Deepest condolences go to his wife and family, to his many friends, and colleagues, and to all who now mourn his loss.
Ransford Smith
Fmr. Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation and Commonwealth; Deputy Secretary General
With the untimely passing of Ambassador Richard Bernal Jamaica has lost an exemplary citizen, and a devoted patriot, who committed his life to the upliftment of the Jamaican nation. Beyond his evident patriotism, he was a true Renaissance man living life in the 21st Century. From his early days at Jamaica College (JC), 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. 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 renown 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. The breath of his intellectual pursuits is quite evident in the fact that throughout his career he worked variously at the Bank of Jamaica as a Deputy Governor, and at the Ministry of Finance of Jamaica. Also he served as Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States and its Representative to the Organization of American States. Subsequently, he was Director of the Regional Negotiating Agency (RNA) a mechanism through which CARICOM negotiated its trade arrangements with the rest of the world and as an Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Latterly, he was appointed Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies responsible for Global Affairs. From his earliest days lecturing at the UWI, he also devoted himself to Public Service. Significantly, he operated as Assistant to Michael Manley in relation to Manley’s activities on the South Commission and in Socialist International in the 1980s. The foundation of this exemplary career of public service rested on his prolific academic interests resulting in him authoring more than ten (10) books and scores of articles in academic journals, newspapers and other popular publications. From his earliest days he had the ability to write throughout the night. Again, this was a habit he pursued till the end: reading widely, distilling his thoughts through various academic publications. He shall be greatly missed in local, regional and international circles. Jamaica has truly lost one of its great sons, and I am bereft of a lifelong friendship which started years ago at Jamaica College and which has lasted to this day. I extend condolences to Margaret his wife and to his sons Brian and Daren and the wider family. Rest well Richard.
Peter D. Phillips PhD OJ MP
The news of Richard’s passing came with shock and disbelief. How could this happen, on an exercise walk, and with the promise of so much more to come? “Oh Fate, such a stupid thing, command a bird to fly, then clip its wings…” The memory of this passage came immediately to mind in thinking about the life and career of Ambassador Dr. Richard L. Bernal. My relationship with Richard started even before those heady days in Washington. We both pursued studies in Economics, lectured at the university level, and were interested in exploring solutions to the enduring problem of underdevelopment of our beloved Jamaica. By the time he arrived in Washington as Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, I was then serving on the faculty of Howard University. Soon thereafter, I accepted the challenge of switching career to join Richard at the Embassy to help strengthen the Embassy staff for a more meaningful impact in the hustle and bustle of Washington’s diplomatic and political world. In addition to the expected practice of traditional diplomacy, a more focused outreach was pursued in the area of Public Diplomacy, in order to awaken and enlist the support of the Jamaican/Caribbean diaspora in pursuit of our countries’ interests. This rekindled recognition and embrace of the enormous possibilities in the diaspora gave rise to many successes. To mention a few: a Chancery building was purchased allowing for the planting (for the first time) of the Jamaican flag on Jamaican sovereign property in downtown Washington, DC; the visit of a medical team was organized to pioneer heart surgery at the University of the West Indies; the coordination of the visit of Jamaica’s football team, the Reggae Boyz, to Washington to play the United States in a pivotal qualifying game which marked the turning point in Jamaica’s road to the World Cup Finals in France; the promotion of Jamaica’s trade, music, and culture in a 3-day cultural extravaganza, “Jamfest,” to better magnify Jamaica’s presence in the metropolitan area. These events and more brought much joy to an awakened diaspora. Richard was an energized, proactive, always on-the-move person, marshalling efforts to promote Jamaica. The success of these efforts is seen in the many evidences that abound. We who are left behind can use his sudden passing to refocus as we continue on this journey of life, and are reminded that we are all headed to that same destination. We know not when, nor where, nor how we will arrive at that final marker, so why not use this as a teachable experience to lend a helping hand to a fellow traveler, to extend a little more love, a little more kindness, a little more compassion? Deepest condolences to his wife, Margaret, sons Brian and Darren, grandchildren, and to the rest of the family, friends, and colleagues. As dark as this period is, the sun will shine again! Keep holding on to the beautiful memories that you created. Richard played his roles, got results, and the country and the region benefited. His legacy remains through his multiple contributions as an academic, economist, author, and diplomat. His innings was well played and impactful. May he now find peace in the arms of Sweet Jesus.
Ambassador Dr. Basil K. Bryan
Former Consul General of Jamaica in New York
Ambassador Dr. Richard L. Bernal, OJ has made a seminal contribution to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as a Scholar, Diplomat, Trade Negotiator and Head of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) from 2001 to 2008. He was a champion for small economies and one of the most effective advocates for the special and differential treatment for small vulnerable economies in the global trade and economic systems. His advocacy led to tangible commitments being secured for CARICOM economies in multilateral and bilateral arrangements. He has left for us in the Community a rich legacy preserved in the agreements he negotiated and his many speeches and publications on international economic relations of CARICOM members and small states in the global arena. On behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, I convey deepest condolences to the Bernal family as we mourn the loss of a champion of regional integration and development.
Dr. Carla N. Barnett
Secretary-General, Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
The Government and People of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, extend sincere condolences to the Government and people of Jamaica on the sudden passing of H.E. Dr. Richard Bernal. Ambassador Bernal was known for his comprehensive understanding of international economic policy and economic development. In addition, Ambassador Bernal served as Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) from May 6, 1991 to August 31, 2001. His distinguished diplomacy will long be remembered by many.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
The Honourable Dr. Richard Bernal will be remembered for his distinguished long career in service to the people and Government of Jamaica. He would also be recognised for his tireless commitment to the Caribbean region, especially the heading of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM). On behalf of the Government and people of Guyana, the Permanent Mission wishes to convey profound sympathy to the Government and people of Jamaica and would appreciate the assistance of the Permanent Mission of Jamaica in extending sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Dr. Richard Bernal, former Ambassador of Jamaica to the United States of America and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Guyana to the Organization of American States
It was with a great deal of grief and a profound sense of sorrow that I learnt of the passing of Ambassador Richard Bernal OJ on January 4, 2023. I first met Ambassador Bernal as a young teenager as he and his wonderful wife, Margaret, were friends with my parents. I remember vividly, Ambassador Bernal playing cricket with me at home to improve my cricketing skills. His patience and calmness were personal traits that I would never forget. Over the years after I graduated high school and then the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, we kept in touch sporadically. We reconnected in 1989-1990 after I returned from graduate school and he was heading up Workers Bank. He extended an invitation to join him at the bank but I opted to go the private sector route. It was however the next phase in our lives that would prove to be a striking coincidence. As Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Bernal had a reputation as a master negotiator with an unmatched knowledge of international trade and economics. What is less known was the outstanding work he did in Jamaica’s diaspora including the establishment of Jamaica’s Consulate in Philadelphia. He worked with several Jamaican community leaders to make the case, successfully, to the Jamaican and US governments for a consulate to be established. The late Dr Alston Meade was ultimately appointed Jamaica’s first Honorary Consul in Philadelphia. More on this in a minute. Over the years, we stayed in contact and I would often attend events at the Embassy in Washington DC. He was always willing to talk to me and give sage advice and, as many people have said, he had a confident demeanor and an optimistic mindset. In 1992, he and his wife Margaret hosted our wedding reception at the Ambassador’s residence in Chevy Chase, Maryland and my wife, Margaret, and I will always cherish the hospitality and support of Richard and Margaret. After Dr. Meade retired as Honorary Consul in Philadelphia, the Jamaican Government began the process of searching for his replacement. I had been a banker for most of my adult life and had never considered a diplomatic career. In one of life’s coincidences, I was selected to be Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in 2019. Over the years since, we kept in contact and I would visit him at his office at UWI Mona when I was in Jamaica and had the opportunity. I always appreciated his advice and I had the pleasure of speaking with him just a few short few months ago. To Margaret and his family, my wife and I extend our condolences, love and support. I know his life was a life of public service for our country and our people and he excelled. He served as a mentor for me and ultimately he was my friend. May God Bless his family and May he Rest in Peace.
Christopher Chaplin
Words cannot express my sadness at the untimely passing of Richard Bernal. He was my dear friend, colleague, partner in lively discourse on anything and everything, and fellow traveller in the search for solutions for development of our beloved homeland. Rest in peace, Richard! Your extraordinary legacy lives on as a shining light for future generations, and our love for you remains strong. Heartfelt condolences to his dear wife Margaret and family at this most difficult time for them.
Donald J. Harris, OM
Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Stanford University
Jamaica’s former representative to The Organization of American States (OAS) and Ambassador to the United States, the Late Richard Bernal, was on February 1st 2023 hailed by the OAS as not only an economist, a diplomat, and a regionalist but also an educator and a consummate negotiator. Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the OAS and Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks said “Ambassador Bernal, who has had a long and distinguished career in business and in academia, counts among his many other signal accomplishments, his appointment as Ambassador of Jamaica to the United States, and simultaneously, as Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the Organization of American States, recording one of the longest tours of duty in that jurisdiction, from 1991 to 2001.” “He was unstinting in the service he gave to the Government and people of Jamaica, representing 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,” Ambassador marks said. Barbados Ambassador to the US Noel Lynch speaking on behalf of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors, described the late Ambassador Bernal as a committed and unapologetic regionalist who “believed strongly in CARICOM and the story of CARICOM. He also believed in the process and power of regional integration and multilateralism, in determining the social and economic improvement of people the world over,” Ambassador Lynch said. Speaking at a special sitting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States in the Hall of the Americas today, Ambassador to the OAS Francisco O. Mora said Ambassador Bernal will be remembered as an outstanding diplomat, educator, public servant and a friend of the people of the United States.” “I knew him as Professor Bernal as we worked on several projects, he was a teacher to me, and I will miss him very much. The US diplomatic community offers our deepest condolences to his wife and family. His service was a legacy and example to many generations of Jamaicans,” Ambassador Mora said. In his tribute, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said, “Ambassador Bernal embraced the OAS as an institution for the “promotion and consolidation of democracy, the protection of human rights, and the fostering of economic and social development throughout the Americas.” He said Dr. Richard Bernal was a visionary in many respects, whose indelible economic and trade development policies continue to serve as a reference point for his fellow countrymen and the peoples of the Americas. The OAS Secretary General pointed out that “Dr. Bernal played an intrinsic role during negotiations as a member of the Core Group on the Situation in Haiti, noting that the restoration of democracy in Haiti in 1994 was one of his greatest highlights observed during his diplomatic career at the Organization.” Tributes were also delivered by the representatives to the OAS from Belize, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico as well as an Observer from the Holy See and other Latin America representatives. The OAS extended sincerest condolences to his wife, Margaret Bernal, his children, and his cherished friends.
Ambassador Dr the Honourable Richard Bernal, OJ, entered the halls of diplomacy as the Ambassador to the United States of America in 1991. He was already a known personality to many of the staff members in the Foreign Service who had studied International Relations at the University of the West Indies, where he taught International Economic Relations. He would proudly boast of this once an officer arrived at the Mission for the first time. He therefore took pride in claiming to having been an integral part of the formation of the staff of the Foreign Service. Only a few weeks before his passing, he donated some publications from his library to the Foreign Ministry. He took time to join us in the very first Foreign Ministry Day held in June 2022, even though he had a commitment for which he had to leave this activity early. As a former banker, economist, he brought all these skills to bear on his representational duties. We recall his insistence that instead of renting the Chancery which was on K street in Washington, Jamaica should seek to own its own building and put the high rental money towards purchasing its own building. As a “go getter”, he convinced the powers that be that this course of action was economically viable. Being a true academic, Dr Bernal was constantly writing papers, either for presentations at seminars or for lobbying purposes to ensure that Jamaica’s position on trade matters was well represented on Capitol Hill. Many times, he would enlist the newly-arrived officers to go and represent him at conferences, having passed to them beforehand one of his many seminal pieces. His passion during the early years was seeking parity for CARICOM States with those involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it was called back then. He was tenacious and unrelenting in this pursuit. As astute as he was as an academic, he also possessed savvy political skills as he navigated the corridors of Capitol Hill, forming alliances and eventually engaging well connected lobbyist as advocated. He was also instrumental in overseeing the first engagement with honorary consuls in the USA, where he ensured that they had the requisite tools, including pertinent information, to do their jobs effectively. For the ten years of his stewardship as Ambassador to Washington, DC, and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, the longest serving, he injected energy and creative thought into his representational activities. This, however, was well enabled by the partnership between himself and Mrs Margaret Bernal, his devoted wife. This was most pronounced in activities within the Jamaican Diaspora throughout the USA, as together, they promoted the Jamaican culture through the arts, sports and gastronomy. Mobilizing the annual Jamaican Day activities in the 1990s was a known staple for the Jamaican community. Ambassador Bernal’s tenure as Ambassador ended in 2001. However, he remained actively involved with the affairs of the Ministry through his assistance with negotiations as CARICOM Lead Negotiator for the European Partnership Agreement that was enacted in 2008, and other CARICOM trade agreements. He continued to support the Ministry’s efforts in capacity-building through his presentations to staff in recent years on many issues, including effective negotiation strategies. Ambassador Bernal’s legacy in nation building is unquestionable and as he passes the baton, we salute him for his commitment and loyalty to Jamaica. May his soul rest in peace!
Sheila Sealy Monteith, CD JP (Ambassador)
Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
My sense of seismic shock and utter dismay is second only to Margaret’s. Just before midday on Wednesday January 4th, Richard unexpectedly pushed my office door to say he was back a day earlier than expected from a weekend in Bluefields. We exchanged festive greetings, and he even telephoned his wife, “Management” as he called “her” to confirm 2 social engagements with me during the next 5 days. He left my office for his section, cheerful, confident and with the customary swagger. – “See you for our talks tomorrow and I will bring you two bags ackee from our freezer.”. I have yet to cope with the awesome reality that within 6 hours, lying on the ground in Margaret’s lap, my treasured friend and a precious stalwart colleague, who seemed in the pink of health at noon had suddenly gone away by dusk to the realm of eternal peace. Professor the Hon Amb. Richard Leighton Bernal inherited the DNA of a family renowned for excellence, integrity, community engagement and passion for patriotic service. These endowments account for the depth and breadth of his professional accomplishments as scholar, academician, economist, banker, diplomat, author and advocate. Richard Bernal made seminal, far-reaching and defining contributions to some of the most critical institutions in Jamaica’s national development: Bank of Jamaica, the Central Planning Agency [now the Planning Institute of Jamaica], Mona Institute of Business and Management, Workers Savings and Loans Bank, the Jamaica Stock Exchange and the Ministry of Finance. He was a skilled technician in helping to build the architecture of Jamaica’s modern economic development. He was a spirited and passionate participant in the intellectual fervour that defined the search for sustainable social and economic development at various stages of our nation’s growth and subsequently the Caribbean Community. But as others will attest today, it is as our Ambassador to Washington and Permanent Representative to the OAS that Ambassador Bernal leaves his most indelible footprint. Ambassador Bernal’s tour of duty, spanning three American Presidencies, was nothing short of remarkable and spectacular. This was so, both for the substantive work he accomplished, and as a result of the immense burnishing of the profile of Jamaica in the heart of American political and diplomatic power that was derived from his sterling representation. I mention here as well, the superb work of his wife Margaret, as a cultural ambassador for Jamaica and an astute organiser among the Jamaican and Caribbean Diaspora. They were indeed Mr. and Mrs. Washington D.C.! Richard has told the tale, as only he can, of the ingenious methods he employed to break down the resistance from the relevant Ministries at home, to purchase a well-appointed property in the heart of Dupont Circle, a stone’s throw from the White House and the Capitol, which proudly serves as Jamaica’s Mission in Washington. His book The Influence of Small States on Superpowers reflects the tenacity of audacity and sagacity in reflecting how a little country like Jamaica could have such strong positions and so much clout. His wide-ranging expertise in the OAS and the other global space was evident when he gave convincing testimony on trade, global affairs, diplomacy and development in the United States Congress. He was universally acknowledged as an expert on international trade and development during in the Doha Round and Hemispheric Negotiations. On reflection, how did he realise a lifetime of stellar and decorated accomplishments at the “tender” age of 73? It was by his intellectual activism, his dedication to social justice and his indefatigable energy. This fully equipped him to lead with panache, the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery as Director and Principal Negotiator for CARIFORUM to conclude the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement. His banking experience was immensely valuable to Jamaica and the Caribbean during the several years he worked, including his stint as Executive Director at the Inter-American Development Bank where he made sure to secure for Jamaica and the Caribbean every available dollar for our sustainable development. Richard Bernal had an acute sense of history and the importance of documentation for posterity, so that generations to come will be able to delve into the themes of his scholarly preoccupations through his formidable and veritable treasure trove of published works. His full dossier encompasses some 20 pages, including 6 published books, nearly 200 learned articles in prestigious monographs, journals, dissertations, book chapters, policy position papers. Topic – Does Fidel Eat More Than Your Father? There are still 2 books and 4 articles in his computer left for completion. His research extended well beyond the well trodden ground. Recognising China’s growing importance as a world power, he is now acknowledged as the leading authority on Chinese-Caribbean Trade and Diplomacy. It was due to his abiding belief in the innate ability of the Caribbean, Africa and the African Diaspora to illuminate a path and engineer workable solutions for the sustained development of their people that he joined me at the P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy as Principal Research Fellow. His work and worth have been phenomenal in organising and advancing the work of the Institute globally. His passing has left a crater, more than a gap. His energy, enthusiasm, passion, brilliance and intellectual rigour will not be easily be replicated. Richard Bernal led a life of purpose, dedicated to upliftment of our people which has made a significant national, regional and global impact. Even as we, his friends and professional colleagues adjust to his passing, the deepest grief, of course, will understandably continue to be borne by his close-knit family, to whom he was a loving husband, devoted father and doting grandfather. To them we extend our profound sympathy. A personal word to Margaret. We recognize your loss is immeasurable. But remember, that’s why he called you “Management”. You must manage for he knew you will. You have so many memories to treasure. Brian and Daren are there for you and so are Nile and Elle, for you both taught them to love each other. We his friends and colleagues will be standing always with you. May the memory of this colossus, Richard Leighton Bernal forever remain in our hearts and be a shining light throughout our own journey.
The Most Hon. Percival James Patterson, ON, OCC, OE, QC