Jamaicans in Washington Remember Alfred Rattray


Members of the Jamaican community in Washington D.C. turned out last Sunday (May 22) to honour the memory of Jamaica’s late former ambassador to the United States (US) and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Alfred Rattray.
Mr. Ratrray, who passed away earlier this year, was the island’s envoy in Washington from 1975 to 1980. The event was held at the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Washington and was organized by the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO), an umbrella organization of Jamaican philanthropic and volunteer groups operating in the US, which aids educational and health interests in the island.
Ambassador Rattray was also a key influence in the genesis of NAJASO, facilitating an organizational forum in Washington of Jamaican community organizations from across the US, which eventually led to the founding of the group in July of 1997. As a result of this involvement, the Jamaican community has always credited the former envoy with helping to raise Jamaica’s profile and increase the awareness of the country’s domestic and foreign policy priorities, during a period of significant social and political transformation in the island.
In his tribute, Jamaica’s Ambassador to Washington, Professor Gordon Shirley, noted that the deep respect and high esteem, with which Jamaicans held Mr. Rattray, was a testament to his ability to reach out to the community and was demonstrative of his characteristic sense of inclusiveness.
Professor Shirley credited the former ambassador with being a fervent advocate for Jamaica’s interests at a time when the country’s image and political choices were under significant external pressure. “He never apologized for defending Jamaica’s interests or taking principled positions in support of the country, whether in his role as ambassador to the US or Permanent Representative to the OAS,” Ambassador Shirley said.
The memorial service, which was presided over by noted Jamaican theologian and Dean of Howard University’s School of divinity, Dr. Bertram Melbourne, as well as Canon Kortright Davis, also featured several moving tributes from Jamaican community leaders, former colleagues and members of the Caribbean diplomatic corps.
Ambassador Curtis Ward, a colleague of Mr. Rattray who served with him during his tenure in Washington, paid homage to his memory by describing the former ambassador as a patriot who always stood in defense of this country. “(Ambassador Rattray) was a man of great intellect and integrity who did not tolerate those who were unpatriotic or spoke negatively about Jamaica abroad,” he said.
“It was a great privilege working with (him) and you could always count on him for guidance and counsel. He set a very high standard for his own performance and he expected the same from his staff,” he noted.
In addition to his diplomatic tenure, Mr. Rattray was a prominent attorney and noted scholar in commercial law, served as a government member of the Senate from 1989 until 2002 and was also a well-reputed accountant, who was instrumental in building the foundations of modern accountancy in Jamaica and aiding the development of the financial sector.
He was also principally responsible for the creation of the Companies Act of 1965 and the founding of the Jamaica Stock Exchange and pioneered the development of the Kingston transshipment port.
A lecturer and examiner in Commercial Law at the University of the West Indies and a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Institution of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica, Mr. Rattray also served as chairman and director of numerous statutory boards and businesses. These included the Port Authority of Jamaica, several hotel companies, as well as manufacturing enterprises.

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