KINGSTON: Former agriculture minister, Roger Clarke, who died in the United States last Thursday, has been lauded by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who described him as “one of a kind”.
Clarke, 74, had been at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida since mid-July where he had undergone surgery for a back problem and was returning to Jamaica when he died at the airport.
Simpson-Miller said that his passing has created a tremendous void in the government as well as the ruling People’s National Party (PNP).
“Roger was a one of a kind politician,” she said. “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.”
Simpson-Miller said a decision would be made in the coming weeks regarding 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, expressing condolences to Clarke’s widow, Sonia, members of his family and his constituents of Central Westmoreland. “We are all saddened and shocked by his passing, because he called a number of us and said he would be coming home (last) week. He was very excited about returning to Jamaica.”
She said the residents of Central Westmoreland “will indicate the best person to fill the big shoes of Roger Clarke”.
The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) and JAMPRO have also extended their condolences to Clarke’s family.
“Over the years, the PSOJ has worked and interacted with Minister Clarke on a number of issues; he was a very jovial man and we had a good working relationship. He was also passionate about the advancement of the agriculture sector, being a farmer himself. We are truly saddened at the news of his passing,” said PSOJ president, Christopher Zacca.
JAMPRO said that Jamaica has lost one of its great sons, noting that agriculture was a way of life for Clarke, who grew up on his family’s farm in Westmoreland.
“Roger Clarke has planted seeds that this country will reap success from in the years to come. On behalf of the JAMPRO family and the Board of Directors I send my sincere condolences to his wife Sonia and their two children. Walk good Roger.”
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin also offered his condolences.
“It was fitting that Mr. Clarke was Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture as he was a son of the soil and never ventured far from his roots, remaining a farmer throughout his life,” said McLaughlin. “He will long be remembered for his work in agriculture.”
The United States Embassy said it was “deeply saddened” at the death of Clarke, noting that he had led Jamaica’s agricultural sector “with experience, deep knowledge and awareness of a field that he loved.
“He demonstrated leadership in many trade and development agreements between Jamaica and the United States, proving his passion for the sector and Jamaica as a whole. We are thankful for the opportunity to have worked closely with Minister Clarke,” the Embassy said.