CARIBBEAN icon Sir Alister McIntyre, who will be laid to rest this Wednesday, has been eulogised by Professor Dr Richard L Bernal, a former Jamaican ambassador to the United States, as “a regionalist by conviction”.
Bernal, currently pro-vice chancellor for global affairs at the regional The University of the West Indies (The UWI, said he regarded Sir Alister as a friend, advisor and mentor, having known him for nearly 50 years.
Following are excerpts from a tribute by the ambassador to the former vice chancellor emeritus of The UWI. Sir Alister died in Jamaica, on April 20, 2019, aged 87.
“In more than 40 years of meeting world leaders and famous scholars, I have not met anyone who could match Sir Alister’s acuity of mind. In a flash, he could cut to the heart of the most complex issues and devise an innovative decision.
In addition to gravitas, he had what I can only describe as presence. That had an effect even before any engagement. Relaxed and without a trace of doubt he was convincing. His life and work is chronicled in his autobiographical book: The Caribbean and the Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career. He recounts his deeds but it is for others to characterise the value of his contributions, which I have made bold so to do.
Part of his task was to de-colonise the emerging field of development economics. As the only Caribbean lecturer in the Economics Department at Mona, he overcame the stout and condescending opposition of the rest of the Department, all English, to establish the validity of Caribbean economics.
The compromise was to allow him to teach the first such course, namely Caribbean Economic Problems. This breakthrough facilitated the increasing introduction of Caribbean economic material into the economics degree by Norman Girvan, George Beckford, William Demas and CY Thomas.
He was instrumental in making research by Caribbean scholars widely available by having it published as books. He was also a pioneering academic in another respect as he was the first non-white faculty at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.
He was a Caribbean regionalist by conviction, pragmatism and by his every action. Born in Grenada, he lived in England, Geneva and New York, spending most of his life in Jamaica, but was the quintessential West Indian, carnival, cricket and all.
Since the mid-1960s his work on trade and development laid the foundations for the formulation of a Caribbean approach to regional economic integration. In collaboration with his great friend William Demas, he shaped regionalism, starting with the Caribbean Free Trade Association and the Caricom Secretariat.
He was a principal architect of the Grand Anse Declaration of 1989 and the Caricom Single Market and Economy. He engineered several aspects of Caribbean regionalism at the regionwide level, the Eastern Caribbean sub-region eg OECS Commission on Tax Reform and Administration, and at the national level in nearly all the countries at one time or another, particularly Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad.
His imprint is to be found in all the major decisions in the last more than 50 years, including the report of the West Indies Commission which he oversaw with its chairman Sir Shridath Ramphal, which produced the seminal report “Time for Change”.
His view was in his own words: ‘the fundamental obligation
to make myself available to all the countries in the region’ but this willingness to serve took him far beyond the region, indeed, to over 80 countries.
He was secretary general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at a crucial early stage in its evolution…Despite the attractions of the international scene, his first loyalty was to his beloved Caribbean and he answered the call to be a decade-long transformational vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies (1988-1999), which commenced with the task of rebuilding the campus after Hurricane Gilbert.
His legacy lives on in the modernisation (switch from three terms to two semesters), improvements and innovations in administration, institutional culture, international outreach, financial management, academic standards, physical infrastructure (post Hurricane Gilbert) and fund raising (the annual gala in New York).