|Profile on Roger Clarke
Saturday, June 29, 2002
With talk of a general election in the air, the Jamaica Observer's Western Bureau will help you get to know the candidates in this part of the island. Who are the candidates and why should you vote for them? This week meet the People's National Party's candidate for North East St Elizabeth Roger Clarke.Born in Westmoreland a little over 60 years ago, Roger Clarke has surprisingly deep roots in St Elizabeth. From as far back as 1986, he was elected councillor for the Balaclava division and mayor of Black River.
Then in September of 1991, he moved up from the local government ranks after he was elected Member of Parliament for North East St Elizabeth.
In January of 1992, Clarke was chosen as the People's National Party's Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and then at the beginning of 1995 he was put in charge of his own portfolio, when he was named Minister of Local Government and Works.
In September of 1995, Clarke was voted in as vice president of the PNP.
In 1998, he was shifted to the agriculture ministry where he now serves as minister.
Clarke, a past student of Mannings High School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, has had a long history in the field of agriculture. Positions he has held include cane farmers' liaison officer for United Estates, farm overseer for the Sevens Estate, farm manager for Appleton Estate, general manager for Bogue Estate and he is also the former chairman of the Rural Agricultural Development Association's parish advisory committee in St Elizabeth.
Clarke is also a former president of the St Elizabeth branch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society where he served for eight years; and for six years he served as a member of the JAS national board. He has also served as a member of the Rural Electrification, National Water Commission and the National Library boards.
Clarke is married, with a son and a daughter and he enjoys playing dominoes and gardening.
He now answers the question: Why should I vote for you?
Based on my performance as Member of Parliament for the last 11 years and the work that I have done, I would say that my own performance can be matched with any good performer that has ever sat in Parliament and has represented a constituency.
My achievements have been in areas including infrastructural development, roads, electricity expansion, water, telephone and housing.
My greatest challenge has had to do with youth unemployment: how do I find a way to make investment happen so that jobs can be created. And one of my basic areas of concern at this point in time is expanded skills training for the young people.
Other plans include finishing some of the infrastructural work that we have started. We have a few roads left to be done, we have almost completed electricity expansion, a few areas are left for telephone expansion and there are some major drainage problems.
It came to the fore during the recent flood rains that in the Santa Cruz area and the New River area, as far as drainage goes, we have a major problem on our hands to deal with that.
Another area that I would like to push is agro-processing where we find a way where our farmers, whatever they produce, if it can't be sold on the fresh market it doesn't go to waste. They can find some sort of value-added avenue for their goods.
And the final thing I would want to see is political peace where the politics is not any line of demarcation which stops people from coexisting with each other and living with each other in harmony. That is a very critical area that I would like to see achieved.
I am trying my best to unite the constituency. I eschew political tribalism and anything that has to do with dividing the people and my office is open and everybody is free to be there, I don't ask about their political persuasion. It is a very, very big part of what I would like to see, where all our people can come together and work together in unity in the community. And to install in our people in the community the need for them to act responsibly at the community level, protecting our schools and institutions, our community centres. The need for them to take those places on board as places being owned by them because that is another problem we have, the vandalism, how we deal with litter on the street.... That whole sense of community and civic pride.