Members of the Upper House paid tribute to the late Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, on September 12, remembering him as “an exceptional Jamaican”.
Minister Clarke died on August 28, while returning to the island from the United States, where he had gone for back surgery.
Government Senator and President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, said the late Agriculture Minister will be remembered as a man completely dedicated to public service, agricultural expansion and integrated rural development.
“He was a defender of the powerless, a hard working and committed Parliamentarian, stalwart, and of course, an agricultural hero and a champion farmer,” Mr. Grant said.
The JAS President said Jamaica has lost a true veteran leader, who worked for the greater good of those he served – the farmers and the people of Jamaica.
He further said Minister Clarke’s policies and programmes provided the foundation for national growth and advancement, evidenced by his leading the recovery of the agricultural sector, following the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“Under his leadership, the agricultural sector grew in the third and fourth quarters of 2013 to record 0.8 per cent growth for the calendar year 2013, and the momentous growth continued in the first and second quarters of 2014, of just over 20 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively,” he informed.
Mr. Grant argued that this level of growth assisted Jamaica in passing five successive reviews, under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
He further pointed out that under Mr. Clarke’s watch, the agricultural sector also continued to employ approximately 200,000 persons representing approximately 20 per cent of the labour force and contributed about seven per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), based on primary production.
He noted that Minister Clarke was presented with the JAS Gold Medal for his support to the ‘Grow What We Eat Campaign’, as well as the Denbigh Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued support of the Denbigh Show for over 18 years.
For his part, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, said the late Agricultural Minister was passionate about food security and about reducing the food import bill.
Mr. Nicholson said Minister Clarke aimed to improve Jamaica’s competitiveness and to retain the country’s position of being the leading agricultural producer/exporter in the Caribbean.
Opposition Senator, Robert Montague, described Mr. Clarke as “a beloved brother”.
“Roger Clarke was larger than life. He was affable and funny, yet he was also an intellectual,” he said.
Hundreds of Jamaicans have turned up at locations across the island to view Mr. Clarke’s body and pay their final respects to the stalwart parliamentarian.
Public viewings have been held at the People’s National Party (PNP) Headquarters, 89 Old Hope Road; the Sharon Baptist Church in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth; and the Mannings High School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
A wake will also be held this evening (September 12) at Independence Park in Savanna-la-Mar.
The official funeral service for the late Minister will be held on Saturday, September 13 at the St. George’s Anglican Church, Savanna-la-Mar. Interment will follow at a family plot in Glen Islay in Williamsfield.