Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has expressed deep regret and sadness at the passing of the late Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke.
Speaking to journalists at Jamaica House on August 28, Mrs. Simpson Miller, described the late Minister as “one of a kind”, noting that his passing has created a tremendous void in the Government and the People’s National Party (PNP).
“Roger was a one of a kind politician. A son of the soil, a humble man and I will always remember him for his generosity of spirit, but also for his contribution to Jamaica as councillor, mayor, Member of Parliament, and Minister of Government,” she stated.
Minister Clarke died this morning (August 28) at a hospital in Florida in the United States, where he was recuperating from back surgery.
It is reported that Minister Clarke was at the Miami International Airport awaiting a flight to return to Jamaica, when he complained of chest pains and discomfort.
Paramedics were called and they performed Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). He was then rushed by ambulance to the University of Miami Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
The Prime Minister said that in the coming weeks a decision will be made as to a portfolio assignment for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
“I’m looking at whom I will keep there and perhaps use one of the Ministers of State as assistant, so that we can get the job done,” she said.
The Prime Minister also noted that Cabinet will meet to decide on funeral arrangements for the late Minister. It is customary that Ministers of Government are accorded an Official Funeral.
As it pertains to his constituency, Mrs. Simpson Miller said the residents of Central Westmoreland “will indicate the best person to fill the big shoes of Roger Clarke”.
The Prime Minister further expressed condolences to his widow, members of his family, and his constituents of Central Westmoreland on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica.
“We are all saddened and shocked by his passing, because he called a number of us and said he would be coming home this week. He was very excited about returning to Jamaica,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
Minister Clarke has had a successful political career, having won eight elections comprising two Local Government and six General Elections. In 1986, he was elected Councillor for the Balaclava division in St. Elizabeth, and was nominated Mayor of Black River and Chairman of the St. Elizabeth Parish Council.
He was subsequently re-elected in the 1990 Local Government Election where he continued as Mayor. Mr. Clarke also served a four-year period as President of the Local Government Authorities from 1988 to 1991.
He went on to a bigger political stage in 1991 when he was elected Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth in a by-election. Three months into the job, he was promoted in early 1992 to State Minister for Agriculture, a position he held for three years and by 1995, he was appointed Minister of Local Government and Works.
By 1998, he was back in familiar territory as Minister of Agriculture, where he served for 10 years. During that period, he was one of the founding members of the Alliance of Ministers of Agriculture for CARICOM, and served as its chairman for many years.
On January 6, 2012, Mr. Clarke was re-appointed Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker