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Official remembrance of the late Ambassador Emeritus David Allan Kirkwood Gibson

FeaturesOfficial remembrance of the late Ambassador Emeritus David Allan Kirkwood Gibson

“A highly accomplished statesman, diplomat, and academic”

April 2024

Introduction

A pleasant good morning to everyone in attendance. I wish to acknowledge: Ministers of Government, members of the Diplomatic and Consular corp., Senior Government officials, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, all.

With sadness in our hearts, we are here today to celebrate the life of the late Ambassador Emeritus David Allan Kirkwood Gibson, who transitioned peacefully, in his sleep, on the morning of April 1, 2024 at the age of 70. During his illustrious public service career, which spanned approximately 30 years, he served 22 years, with distinction, as a Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministries of Health, Works and Housing, Natural Resources and Industry, and as Financial Secretary.

Additionally, he was the longest serving PS/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a non-resident Ambassador to Japan and the Kingdom of Thailand; and a key member of the Belize Negotiating Team entrusted with preserving Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in light of the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute.

I am, therefore, privileged to deliver the Government of Belize’s official remembrance of the late Ambassador David Allan Kirkwood Gibson; and to honour his enduring legacy of excellent public service to this nation, which we are grateful for. To the Gibson family, loved ones and friends, I extend heartfelt condolences for this tremendous loss. Among our shining stars in the public service and in the foreign ministry, Ambassador Gibson held a special place; and can never be replaced or forgotten.

Family life and early education

The late Ambassador David Allan Kirkwood Gibson, affectionately known as: Dave, Uncle Dave, or “Gippo” by friends, and fellow Belmopan community members, was born on April 12, 1953 in Belize City to parents the late Karl and Olivia Gibson in Belize City. He was the middle child of 3 children, which included eldest brother Douglas and younger sister Stephanie Gibson. Growing up in Belize City he attended: St. Mary’s Primary School, Wesley College High School and Wesley College 6th Form, where he was greatly influenced by the free-thinking atmosphere encouraged by the then principal, the late Reverend Coleridge Barnett.

In 1980, he married Dalila Gibson nee Espat, who was the love of his life and supportive life partner throughout his life. Ambassador Gibson had eight (8) children: Elissa, David Jr., Darren, Douglas, Danielle, Nazhib, IIyich and Magdalen; and one (1) grandchild, Jameel Johnson, Jr.

Education and specialist training

Ambassador Gibson possessed an impressive educational background; and an array of specialist training, namely: Executive Training, High Level Strategic Studies, and International Negotiations which empowered him to make an indelible contribution to Belize’s public service, governance, and foreign affairs for over 3 decades.

He held a Bachelor of Science degree in Government (Hons) from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus; and a Master of Arts degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, with specializations in Public Policy and Administration and Macro Economic Planning.

Stellar public service career

Starting his public service career as an Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Health, in 1976, Ambassador Gibson would go on to have an outstanding career. He served 22 years at the pinnacle of the public service, as Permanent Secretary, in the Ministries of: Health, Works and Housing, Natural Resources and Industry, and as Financial Secretary.

Additionally, he served as Chairman of several government boards: National Food and Nutrition Council, Central Housing and Planning Authority, Belize Sugar Cane Board, Citrus Control Board, Human Resources Development Committee (HRDC) of the Public Service of Belize, Mexico-Belize Mixed Commission for Technical Cooperation, GOB Representative to the Pan American Institute for Geography and History (PAIGH), Director, Central Bank of Belize – Board of Directors, and Member of the Board of Directors, Republic of China (ROC)-Central America Economic Development Fund.

Notably, during his public service career he made history as the longest serving Permanent Secretary/CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 2003, which is a remarkable achievement. He served under a UDP administration from 1993 to 1998; and a PUP administration from 1998 to 2003, serving both administrations with distinction. This spoke volumes of the respect that Ambassador Gibson was able to earn from both parties, which also translated into regional and international respect for Belize’s Foreign Ministry. This was crucial to giving continuity to our bilateral relations with Guatemala at a critical juncture of time.

Very importantly, Ambassador Gibson played a key role in various rounds of negotiations to resolve Guatemala’s unjust claim on Belize; first as Head of the Technical Delegation that conducted the preparatory talks leading up to the OAS/Belize-Guatemala Facilitation Process in 2001, then, as Deputy Chief Negotiator for the Belize Negotiating Team. Ultimately, Ambassador Gibson will be rightly remembered for his intimate involvement in advancing negotiations with Guatemala in relation to the territorial dispute, which enabled both governments to submit the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for a final and binding legal resolution. I firmly believe that Ambassador Gibson’s absolute conviction that the ICJ’s judgement will guarantee Belize’s full sovereignty and territorial integrity, over its 8,867 square miles, will be vindicated in due course.

Ambassador of Belize to Japan and Thailand

On March 13, 2002, Ambassador Gibson became non-resident Ambassador of Belize to Japan when he presented his Letters of Credence to Emperor Akihito of Japan. In traditional Japanese style, he rode through the streets of Tokyo in a horse-drawn carriage on the way to the Emperor’s Palace for the Presentation Ceremony. He served in this capacity for the next 15 years, until September 2017.

Notably, Ambassador Gibson also became the first Ambassador and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the Kingdom of Thailand, on March 24, 2004, when he presented his Letters of Credence to His Majesty King Bhumibol Aduluadej. He served in this capacity over the next 13 years, until 2017.

This was the concrete manifestation of the ever growing and excellent relations that existed between Japan, the Kingdom of Thailand and Belize, which happily continue to grow till this day, thanks to Ambassador Gibson’s meaningful efforts. Further, it was proof that geographical distance is no barrier to the spiritual harmony which emerges when diverse peoples purposely endeavour to better understand and appreciate each other’s politics, culture, and way of life.

Undoubtedly, Ambassador Gibson contributed significantly to advancing Belize’s foreign affairs and diplomatic work through the skilful execution of the GOB’s foreign policy objectives, utilizing the cadre of foreign service officers, diplomats, and human resources available to him in an optimal manner; being the inspirational leader that he was. Based on the solid foundation that he helped to establish, Belize has become a respected voice in the international community, as a country with a principled, independent, and pragmatic foreign policy. For all these reasons, Ambassador Gibson has become a legend and a gold standard of what a diplomat and a CEO of the Foreign Ministry should aspire to.

Centre for Strategic Studies, Policy Analysis and Research (CSSPAR)

After retiring from the public service, Ambassador Gibson opened a new chapter of his life as an academic; specifically, Coordinator of the Centre for Strategic Studies, Policy Analysis and Research (CSSPAR), a virtual think tank, which he had founded in 1995. CSSPAR is a multidisciplinary body whose primary function is the conduct of research, including future oriented studies, in support of high-level public sector decision-making on major areas of public policy. At this point, Ambassador Gibson was able to apply his intellectual acumen, training, and experience to various strategic areas required for national development, which greatly enriched Belize’s intellectual landscape.

Ambassador Gibson’s academic output through CSSPAR policy papers in recent years was prolific. It seemed like he was only getting better with time. In 2023, he delivered a keynote presentation entitled “Belize in CARICOM – Historical Perspectives” to commemorate CARICOM’s 50th anniversary; and a comprehensive paper on how to enhance the Future Leadership and Management of the Public Service.

In 2022, he wrote a paper on “Recognizing the role of labour as an equal partner in Belize’s development”; keeping true to his left-leaning and social justice inclination, which was well known. Finally, in 2021, which was a high-water mark year for Ambassador Gibson, he wrote extensively on: the future of the Public Service Commission, Agronomic Strategy for Proposed Hemp-Marijuana Industry, defining civil society’s role in implementing the UNCAC, recommendations for the Belize Constitution (Tenth Amendment) Bill 2021, and an evaluation of labour’s share of national income in the second decade of Horizon 2030.

As history will record, Ambassador Gibson was one of the brightest minds that Belize has produced; and we were privileged, as a country and people, to have received over 30 years of erudite advice from this luminary.

Accolades

On June 15, 2000, Ambassador Gibson was conferred with the prestigious Grand Medal of Diplomacy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in recognition of outstanding and unselfish contribution in the work of foreign affairs. This medal is bestowed by a team of Jurors including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to individuals who have contributed outstandingly to the consolidation of relations between their country and ROC; who have used personal or organizational influence to promote relations or cooperation with ROC; who have lead reform programmes in foreign affairs which have contributed significantly; or who have protected ROC nationals by assisting in times of need.

During his time at the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Gibson contributed greatly to the strengthening of relations between the Republic of China and Belize; making several official visits in the furtherance of mutually beneficial goals.

The John Briceño administration, recognizing the significant contributions made by Ambassador Gibson to the field of diplomacy and foreign affairs, during his time inside and outside of government, bestowed him with the title of Ambassador Emeritus, which is an honour that no other Belizean diplomat has received.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have lost a patriot, statesman, diplomat, academic, public servant, mentor and much more, in the person of the late Ambassador David Allan Kirkwood Gibson. A true Belizean icon that we will sorely miss. Just as important, as a man he was also a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to Belizeans countrywide; especially residents of Belmopan, who will remember him for his strength of character, integrity, generosity and immense love for his family. There is no doubt that Ambassador Gibson has helped to make Belize, and the world, a better place than he found it; and that future generations of Belizeans will reap the fruits of his life’s work and labour, through strengthened relations with diverse countries around the world; and the preservation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity when the ICJ delivers its judgement; which he undertook with devotion and excellence.

With that said, may his soul rest in perfect peace.

Thank You.

(AMANDALA Ed. Note: The Government of Belize’s official remembrance above was delivered at the graveside ceremony in Belmopan by Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Education, Culture, Science and Technology.)

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