Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Earth Today | Colonel Oral Khan: From public service to retirement

Published:Thursday | May 3, 2018 | 12:08 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/ Contributing editor
Lt Col Oral Khan (right), now retired chief technical director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, with colleagues from the ministry and the United Nations Development Programme as they peruse a copy of Jamaica’s Third National Communication on Climate Change recently.
A section of Jamaica's Cockpit Country, which is itself rich in endemic species.

IT'S NEVER easy to bid farewell to a job to which one has committed years of effort; Colonel Oral Khan, now retired chief technical director for the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, knows this to be true.

Still, having closed that chapter of his life on Monday, the former military man, who spent six years with the ministry from the time it was the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, takes comfort in the milestones reached under his watch.

"I came to the ministry in 2012, shortly after it was configured ... We had to do the arrangements to get the Climate Change Division (CCD) up and running and then work with the consultant who was contracted to develop the Climate Change Policy Framework. Seeing the CCD established and overseeing and working on the Climate Change Policy Framework was significant for me," he recalled, mere hours after leaving his office for the last time on Monday evening.

There have been other policies and projects of which he is proud, including the Water Sector Policy and the recently announced National Spatial Plan. However, especially meaningful to him is what was achieved with the Cockpit Country - Jamaica's ecological gem, over which stakeholders wrestled for years to have a declared boundary that would ensure its protection.


Cockpit country


"The work on the delimitation of the Cockpit Country; that one I still can't forget. That was long and hard, and it really required a lot of perseverance in ensuring that in the long run, we could get the best deal for protecting the very valuable asset that is the Cockpit Country," Khan, who served some 32 years in the military before joining the ministry, told The Gleaner.

Following deliberations within and between ministries, including the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation - given urgency by years-long, aggressive lobbying from civil society - parameters for the delimitation of a boundary were finally agreed last year. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

"The Cockpit Country was by far the most stressful; it required the most energy and diplomacy and stick-to-it-iveness. I don't think it ought to have been so hard, but it shows how you have to balance different interests, know when you can compromise and when you have to stick to what is right and what is for the greater good," said Khan.

Looking back, he said it was all well worth it.

"I have enjoyed it. I have learnt so much. I have so many experiences interacting with a range of persons and personalities ... It has been interesting and we have achieved, I think, quite a bit over the period," reflected the man whose journey was supported by, among other things, his education, military experience and secondment to another ministry.

Khan holds a bachelor's degree in management studies and a master's in social policy from the University of the West Indies. He holds a second master's in military arts and sciences from the US Army Command and General Staff College, and served on secondment to the Ministry of National Security where he got exposure to policy work and was involved in strategic planning.

On his next steps, he said: "I have not made up my mind what that will be ... I will be doing some fasting and praying for the Lord to point me to where I should serve next."