Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Footprints | Herbert Samuel Walker, OJ, CD - Stalwart fondly remembered

Published:Tuesday | September 19, 2017 | 12:12 AM

The passing of the Hon Herbert Samuel Walker signals how near we are to the end of that era where public servants of extraordinary talents first engaged in building the institutional foundations of our nascent nation and then proceeded to assert our sovereignty in the international arena.

Herbert Walker was a trained economist from McGill University, graduate of Manchester University; and enrolled as a barrister-at-law from Gray's Inn. The splendid combination of law and economics and his early exposure to the challenges of development in Guyana, equipped him admirably for his assignment in the planning and economic hub at our Ministry of Finance when he eventually returned home.

Mr Walker's long and distinguished public service included working as the permanent secretary to the late Hon Robert Lightbourne in the Ministry of Trade and Industry; and my first permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Tourism. He managed to recruit the brightest and the best for the ministry and then proceeded to train them in order for every civil servant to reach the highest standards of performance on which he insisted.

He ensured that every board and corporation within his purview be dynamic in realising their statutory purpose and yet maintain due accountability. He oozed that sense of self-confidence which made failure out of the question.

He was a model Permanent Secretary with clear lines of demarcation from that of the Portfolio Minister. "Tell me what you want done, and I will show you how to do it," he remarked on my assumption of office. When he was confident of my grasp, he was ready to conquer new fields of endeavour.

Having mastered the local landscape, Herbie Walker entered the foreign service and in quick time became a rising star in the global constellation.

As Jamaica's Permanent Representative to UN agencies in Switzerland, the entire diplomatic community in Geneva came to recognise his sterling value. When he spoke, his colleague ambassadors were forced to listen, learn and be persuaded.

Ambassador Walker became chairman of the Group of 77 at the Second UNIDO General Conference in Peru.

When the portfolio subjects of foreign affairs and foreign trade were joined, we worked in close harmony in seeking to promote the justification for a New International Economic Order.


Strong protagonist


At the UNCTAD Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1976, he was the leading diplomatic spokesman for developing countries as a strong protagonist for the Common Fund. He was a fine scholar and articulate spokesman in promoting the interests of the Third World in every forum.

When the exigencies of our economic situation required it, Herbert Walker was called home to serve as the governor of the Bank of Jamaica from 1978 to 1981.

As high commissioner to the United Kingdom, his style and knowledge were well suited to operate at the Court of St James, and make his presence felt in the halls of the Commonwealth Headquarters. His fine vintage was evident in all thorny issues which the Commonwealth of Nations was forced to confront with the fight against apartheid and the advent of globalisation.

Herbert Walker's extremely heavy work schedule was undoubtedly supported by his strong Christian faith and the exemplary family life created with his wife Eva of 67 years and which nurtured two wonderful daughters, Barbara and Susan.

The departure of Ambassador the Hon Herbert Samuel Walker, OJ, CD, reminds us of the urgent need to replenish the cadre of those with extraordinary talents who are essential to the well-being of every Jamaican citizen, at home or abroad.

Let all Jamaica give grateful thanks for a life of courage, sacrifice and noble service. We must cherish his memory and build on this rich legacy of excellence he has bequeathed.

- P. J. Patterson