Kathryn's calling

Veteran attorney enjoying the switch to diplomacy

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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Having established herself as one of Jamaica's leading attorneys, Kathryn Phipps spread her wings to range of social development areas, including membership of the boards of the South-East Regional Health Authority and the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport.

With more than 30 years in the field of law, Phipps also chaired the Medical Appeals Tribunals, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica and the Nurses Appeal Tribunal. She was also a member of the committee to review Jamaica's justice system.

In June 2018, Phipps took on a new role, Jamaica's ambassador to the Republic of Cuba and last week she told the Jamaica Observer that she is not missing the courtroom one bit as she relishes her new role.

“It has been a very rewarding, very educational, eye- opening experience. Being in a place where there is some amount of misinformation, the opportunity to see and experience first-hand is something that is invaluable,” said Phipps.

“Apart from the Cuban people, you also meet a lot of nationals from all over the world because I think Cuba has the third highest representatives of countries. You meet people from the Far East, the Middle East, Latin America, and of course, the Caribbean. So it has been a real good opportunity to meet people, some of them you know will be friends for life,” added Phipps.

She argued that making the transition from the courtroom to diplomacy has not been difficult.

“I always say law is a profession that people don't really appreciate because law touches every single aspect of your life, whether you realise it or not, and so does diplomacy. Law is a very people person, hands-on discipline and so is diplomacy,” added Phipps.

According to Phipps, the international appeal of “Brand Jamaica” has helped to make the transition easier as every stranger she meets knows of the late international reggae mega star Bob Marley and track legend Usain Bolt.

“You don't realise the extent of the influence Jamaica and Jamaicans have until you meet people from all over the world. I know people who befriended me and wanted to talk to me and all they wanted to talk about is Usain Bolt.

“An ambassador from a country in west Africa he just wants to meet Jimmy Cliff. If you say to him Jamaica, the next thing that comes out of his mouth is Jimmy Cliff, and you wonder where did he have that opportunity to know of Jimmy Cliff,” said Phipps as she pointed to the wife of a diplomat at the Malaysian Embassy who celebrated when her husband was posted to Cuba because that moved her closer to her dream of visiting Jamaica.

Phipps, who succeeded Ambassador A'Dale Robinson, has been mandated to lead the Andrew Holness Administration's goal of wider trade linkages and stronger technical cooperation with Cuba and she has already identified several opportunities for Jamaican businesses in the Spanish-speaking country.

According to Phipps, with more than three million visitors last year, the Cuban market is ripe for Jamaican firms who provide goods and service for the tourism trade while other opportunities are also available.

“We cooperate with Cuba in a lot of areas, it is not just the major areas of health and education. We have cooperated, and are cooperating, in areas including fishing, agriculture, and construction. I think it is just building on what is a solid foundation now and moving forward.

“The relationship with Cuba is good, it is healthy based on mutual respect, and I think going forward we can only strengthen it not only because of our proximity, but also because of our historical connections,” said Phipps.

The ambassador said that before the end of her tour of duty she wants to increase trade between the two countries, increase the transfer of technology and clear up some of the misconceptions in the public in both countries about each other.

— Arthur Hall


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