Jamaica agriculture minister dies suddenly at Florida airport (Updated)

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Jamaica’s Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke (Credit: JIS)

FLORIDA, United States, Thursday August 28, 214 –

Jamaica’s Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke died Thursday of an apparent heart attack at an airport in Florida.

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.

“Clarke decided to return home and collapsed at the Fort Lauderdale airport, his wife was with him and he has passed,” said People’s National Party (PNP) Deputy General Secretary, Raymond Pryce.

A government statement said that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had expressed condolences to the family and friends of Clarke on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica and that further information would be released soon.

“It is with deep regret and profound sadness that we advise of the death of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon Roger Clarke,” the statement said.

A longstanding member of the ruling PNP, Clarke had told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper earlier this month that he was committed to a much healthier lifystle, including ending his “rum-drinking days” following surgery at the Florida hospital to alleviate back pains caused by a pinched nerve.

“When you see me, you going think is Usain Bolt,” said Clarke, who cuts a big figure. “My wife says I must stop drink after today, so no more liquor in my life. No more rum-drinking days,” he told the newspaper.

The veteran parliamentarian said he was on the mend and in good shape and “the love and admiration of the ordinary Jamaicans” was his medicine.

Dozens of supporters quickly began expressing their condolences and paying respects to Roger Clarke via social media sites.

Clarke had been synonymous with agriculture, not only in Jamaica but the wider Caribbean. He was one of the largest sugar cane farmers in the country, entering politics at the Local Government level in 1986, serving the southern parish of St. Elizabeth as a councillor and also as Mayor of the town of Black River in the parish.

In 1991 he entered the House of Representatives as Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth and shortly after was promoted to junior Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture. He also served as served as Local Government Minister and in 1998 returned t o the Ministry of Agriculture – a post he held for 10 years.

During that period he became a founding member of the Alliance of Ministers of Agriculture for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), serving as chairman for a number of years.

In January 2012, following the victory of the PNP in the general election, Clarke, who is married and has two children, returned to the Ministry of Agriculture until his death.

When he left for medical treatment in th United States, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement stating that while on medical leave Clarke would stay in touch with the acting Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier “in order to ensure full continuity of focus on the priorities of the agriculture ministry”.

The veteran parliamentarian said earlier this month that he had not taken leave in 28 years and boasted that he could effectively run the agriculture ministry even from his bed.

He also said he had no intention of quitting politics.

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