Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Patterson praises Clarke as patriot

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2020 | 12:00 AM

Former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has remembered media giant Oliver Clarke as a patriot who wore no political stripes.

Clarke, who was ailing with cancer, died last Saturday. He was 75.

“Jamaica has lost a son of indefatigable energy who was blessed with creative intellect that will forever shine as a beacon even in the moments of greatest turbulence and regardless of the deepest crises,” he wrote.

Patterson lauded Clarke, who stood at the helm of The Gleaner Company for more than four decades for his managerial talents.

In 1961, the two met at the London School of Economics, where Clarke studied economics and Patterson, law.

Though their “ancestral roots” differed, and they belonged to separate faculties, an easy rapport was soon established.

The duo often spoke about life in Jamaica, global issues of the period, and the fight against apartheid, said Patterson.

“Oliver’s biting wit, his free-wheeling humour, his deep humanity and natural humility, his grace when challenged and directness with which he often spoke are among his many outstanding attributes that none who knew him will easily forget,” Patterson said.

For Patterson, it came as no surprise when Clarke commenced his career at the Westmoreland Building Society, founded by his grandfather and extended by his father’s outreach.

“It was Oliver’s superb skills in accountancy, rather than family lineage, that ensured his well-deserved and rapid rise on the professional ladder,” he remarked.

FIGHT FOR PRESS FREEDOM

During Patterson’s tenure as prime minister from 1992-2006, Clarke, affectionately called ‘O.F.C.’, served as chairman of the Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee.

In his tribute, Patterson also spoke of Clarke’s determination to secure press freedom.

“OFC’s passionate advocacy for a free press and his preparedness to leverage the Gleaner newspaper’s longevity and prestige allowed him to forge regional alliances that sought to preserve and expand such freedoms,” Patterson said.

Clarke contributed generously to many charities on condition of concealing his name and gave unwavering support to human-resource development.

“To the very end, he never surrendered or abandoned his zest for life,” Patterson said.