Jamaica’s political framework and the country at large has been rocked by the news that agriculture minister and Member of Parliament, Roger Clarke has died from a suspected heart attack on Thursday.
The Westmoreland-born politician was reportedly at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida with his wife as they were waiting to catch a flight back to Jamaica. He then complained of being ill and collapsed before being rushed to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Clarke had been in the U.S. since July when he underwent back surgery and had been recovering there while on medical leave. The island’s labor minister Derrick Kellier had been filling in for Clarke as minister of agriculture while he was on leave.
Roger Clarke was regarded as one of the most respected politicians in Jamaica, having initially pursued management training at the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation and Harbridge House in the 1960s before delving into politics; winning eight elections and serving as the MP of his native Westmoreland for decades, all while representing the People’s National Party (PNP).
Many politicians, media members and businesses expressed shock at the news on social media. MP for North East St. Andrew, Julian Jay Robinson tweeted, “Shocked and deeply saddened at the news of Roger Clarke's passing - shocking - lost for words,” while radio host and attorney, Emily Crooks, Clarke’s cousin also expressed sadness at the news.
NCB Jamaica tweeted, “Roger Clarke - a firm believer in Jamaica’s ability to grow itself into prosperity. Condolences to his family. #RIP” while the U.S. embassy in Jamaica praised Clarke’s leadership and dedication.
Clarke was survived by his wife and two children. He was 74 years old.