Deputy to the Governor-General, Ruby-Ann Cooper Darling…
His Grace the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez and other members of the Clergy…
Hon. Chief Justice and other members of the Judiciary…
Leader of the Opposition…
Former Prime Ministers…
Other Reverend, Learned, Honoured and Distinguished Guests..
Ladies and Gentlemen…
As we gather together to bid our final sad farewell to our friend and colleague, the heaviness of our hearts is greatly lifted, as we remember with enormous respect, love and affection, our dear friend Dr. Michael Perry Gomez.
Perry Gomez was a man for all seasons. As a physician, medical scientist, public administrator, legislator and Cabinet Minister, his life epitomized the very spirit of selflessness, commitment, and dedication to improving the health and well-being of the Bahamian people and by extension humanity.
We are both of the same generation.
We both came of age under the powerful glow of an independent Bahamas, complete with all of the promises that statehood represented.
It was an age of many exciting ‘firsts’, the chance to engage with nation-building from its very foundations.
Perry Gomez was a nation-builder beyond compare.
He did not take the easy choice, and pursue the path of lucrative private practice.
Instead, he made public health his priority, and passionately implemented his deeply-held principle, that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.
And so over three decades, Dr. Gomez spearheaded efforts that not only transformed the landscape of public health in The Bahamas but also reverberated throughout the Caribbean and around the world.
From his groundbreaking work in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, to pioneering partnerships that made crucial medications more accessible to our people, he left an indelible mark.
It’s hard to imagine where we would be in our fight against infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, without Dr. Gomez’s visionary leadership.
Dr. Nikkiah Forbes was a young physician who benefitted from his mentorship, which was no doubt a factor in her ability to help shepherd our country so ably through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gomez’s reputation and renown was worldwide. Just last year, on a visit to The Bahamas, former American President Bill Clinton asked after Perry, and wondered if he might speak with him.
I explained that Perry’s illness was such that he was no longer able to take a phone call.
President Clinton then asked if he might speak with Perry’s wife, Carmen.
We placed the call, and Clinton and Mrs. Gomez were on the phone for a good twenty minutes.
I saw how this was not just a polite conversation with the wife of a former colleague, but an engagement of real friendship.
Both men had worked intensely on trying to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in The Bahamas and around the region.
Clinton reflected on the times they had travelled to India to source affordable medications.
And he also spoke warmly of the treatment protocols developed by Dr. Gomez, the success of those protocols and, as a result, the many lives that were both touched, and saved.
Later, when I spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative in September of this year, President Clinton again asked after Dr. Gomez. At the world leaders cocktail party that evening, he extolled Dr. Gomez’s virtues, praising his compassion, his ingenuity, and his dedication to their common cause of eradicating HIV/AIDs. To see my countryman and colleague held in such high esteem was a source of great pride for me, as a Bahamian and as a friend.
But Dr. Gomez was not just held in the fondest regard by Presidents and Prime Ministers, he was held in the highest esteem by everyone.
For he could truly “talk with crowds and keep [his] virtue, and walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch”
I remember with great fondness, the many times that Dr. Gomez and I sat down to discuss the intricacies of our public health policies.
His infectious enthusiasm, combined with a profound depth of knowledge, was truly inspiring.
Every interaction was a masterclass, and I often left our meetings with renewed faith in our nation’s capabilities and potential.
As a cabinet colleague and fellow parliamentarian, Dr. Gomez was deliberate and purposeful as he went about his ministerial and constituency duties.
He was a passionate advocate for the people of North Andros and the Berry Islands.
As such, during my tenure as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works, Perry and I worked closely together in planning and executing one of the largest capital works projects in the Family Islands.
BAMSI – The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute – remains a lasting achievement.
In addition to the construction of BAMSI, every major thoroughfare in North Andros was either paved or earmarked for paving.
His efforts transformed North Andros, championing the upgrade of public infrastructure totalling approximately $100 million: from Morgans Bluff in the North, to Conch Sound in the Northeast, Lowe Sound in the Northwest, Mastic Point in the East and Stafford Creek in the South.
As he was in his practice of medicine, so too he was in his public service: curious, devoted and relentless in his pursuit of the best solution.
And beneath all of the success, beyond his numerous accolades, Dr. Perry Gomez was a deeply compassionate human being.
Every patient, every colleague, every constituent and every student was treated with the same level of respect and care.
Whether you were a fellow doctor, a young intern, or someone seeking his help or expertise, Perry made you feel seen and heard.
A remarkable career.
And a truly remarkable man.
I am proud to have known him as a fellow Bahamian.
And I feel privileged to have known him as a colleague.
But I am most honoured to have known him as a friend.
I shall miss him.
On behalf of my wife, Ann-Marie, the Government and People of The Bahamas, I extend my most heartfelt condolences to the family of Dr. Michael Perry Gomez, and especially to Carmen, his wife of fifty-four years, along with their children Michael and Camille.
May he rest forever, in eternal peace.