I’m completely devastated by the death today of my dear friend, Dr. Faith Azelia Harding. I served as Special Assistant to Faith during her tenure as Minister for the Public Service in the Desmond Hoyte Administration in Guyana. Faith was not only a colleague; she was family – someone with whom I shared a deep and unshakable maternal bond.
She was a genuine confidant and counselor who guided me at every step of my career. Whether, she was serving as a government minister or a United Nations representative in Asia or Africa, Faith always took time out of her busy schedule to maintain constant contact with me. Whenever she visited New York, catching up with me was a must.
Faith was a woman of supreme intellect, incomparable skills and commitment as a public servant, elected official and politician. After earning a PhD in Education from Columbia University, she returned to Guyana in 1983 to serve her people and embark on an illustrious career in government.
Her contribution to the development of Guyana is extraordinary and indelible. She served Guyana as an Assistant Chief Education Officer; where she established and implemented Guyana’s current nursery education program, Minister of Planning and Development and Minister of the Public Service.
As Public Service Minister, she spearheaded the Public Service Reform Program in 1991 to rationalize government and eliminate overlap. Faith performed admirably. She transformed and streamlined the entire public service and government bureaucracy. Consequently the number of government ministries was reduced from seventeen to eleven, and other governmental agencies and corporations were harmonized for optimum efficiency.
In every aspect of her tenure in government in Guyana, her work was transformational. Faith’s incredible enthusiasm for, and dedication to, public service fueled her candidacy for her party nomination for President of Guyana in 2011. She wanted to serve in a greater capacity to directly affect decision making. Although she was unsuccessful, she never really left the campaign trail; working tirelessly to empower the women of Guyana, for whom she was a trailblazer.
Dr. Faith Harding has left an ineffaceable footprint in the political landscape of Guyana, the United Nations development system and all of the developing and undeveloped countries where she worked with the UN to help bring about development and a better quality of life for their peoples, especially women.
I will miss her immensely. I will miss her great mentorship, stimulating conversations, generous compliments, wise counsel, beaming smile and big laugh. She was a woman of distinction – an impressive academic, talented psychologist, competent administrator and astute politician.
Guyana has lost a bright light, great leader and indefatigable stalwart, who has transcended to a better place. Dr. Faith Harding has surely earned a commemorable seat in our nation’s pantheon of trailblazers and heroes.
I extend sincere condolence to her husband Patrick, son Patrick, Jr., as well as to her siblings and other relatives.
May she rest in peace!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rickford Burke is president of the New York Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)