The inspiring patriot, Oliver Clarke

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The inspiring patriot, Oliver Clarke

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, May 25, 2020

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Last year I received a call from Oliver Clarke's assistant conveying his request that I continue to mentor a bright, young graduate whom he had been guiding through her final year at The University of the West Indies (The UWI). I had no idea that this busy entrepreneur, leading the multi-billion-dollar JN Group and the RJRGleaner Communications Group, as well as serving several other prestigious boards, would be making the time to be a mentor.

His mentee Shanakay Dyer explained that he took this very seriously: “At his office, he had framed photographs of his mentees on his walls, and he had files on each of us,” she shared. She said Oliver Clarke would weave his characteristic sense of humour into his wise counsel. He invited his mentees to dinner at his home so they would get to know each other. “He made us feel like family,” recalls Dyer.

In a shining tribute to her father on Facebook, Alexandra Clarke told us she would accompany her dad to events as a small child and started working as a summer intern at The Gleaner Company when she was 13. Entitlement was not entertained, she wrote, as he even fired her one summer. She said her dad's famous wit enlivened conversations. “His wisdom was second only to his wit,” she related.

Millennial Alex said her dad never spoke about his philanthropic efforts; she heard about most of them via “buck-ups”. She found out that, as posted by Douglas Halsall, while Oliver was studying in England, “Jamaicans were migrating in droves. Oliver would spend his weekends at railway stations assisting migrants to find their way.”

So here is another buck-up, Alex. At a media launch of CCRP, an advocacy organisation for seniors, your dad sat across from me at the King's House breakfast. At the end of my announcement he passed me an envelope. “What is this for?” I asked him. “My membership fee,” he answered with a wide grin. Of course, he had no need for the benefits of the organisation but, being a cheerleader for anything positive and constructive, he gave us his treasured vote of confidence to become member number one. In a conversation with him earlier this year he was delighted to hear that in CCRP's 10th year we now had over 10,000 members.

When our company won the tender to develop Flair magazine for The Gleaner back in 1984, then editor Hector Wynter remarked on Oliver's commendation of our proposal, which drove us to the fine-tuning of every issue during our three-year contract so we would not disappoint him.

As we celebrate Jamaica's continued top rating for press freedom, we owe Oliver Clarke a debt for his vigorous support of the Press Association of Jamaica, and his presidency of the Inter American Press Association and the Commonwealth Press Association. He recognised that press freedom was an important safeguard for our precious democracy. His patriotism shone in his establishment of the Peace and Love in Schools programme (PALS), which was housed at his North Street offices, and in the many affirmation programmes sponsored by his companies.

Oliver Clarke could spot talent in a millisecond, and gave respect to brilliant executives like Earl Jarrett, Chris Barnes, and Dr Dana Morris Dixon. Those of us who knew that Oliver had our backs are feeling a bit hobbled right now. However, he would want us to straighten up, keep flying on a path of excellence, and laugh at the wind.

We pray God's comfort for his beloved wife Monica, daughter Alex, family, and close friends. Rest in peace, unforgettable Oliver Clarke.

Reflections on “a future economy"

Economist and retired The UWI lecturer Dr Michael Witter opened the 'COVID-19 Conversation on a future economy for Jamaica (and the Caribbean)' held last Friday.

“We must think first of building a resilient economy, and then focus on growth as an aspect of resilience,” he stated. “Our growth pattern before and since Independence has not had resilience as a central feature… this has always led to increased inequality.”

It is not difficult for us to understand his position as we watch stories of families in squalor toughing out this crisis. We have been encouraging people to eat Jamaican; that is very well and good for those of us who are not crowded into a 10-family tenement yard. When people are sleeping four to a room, where do they store all the lovely fruits and vegetables we are telling them to eat? Some people have to buy bread by the slice and toothpaste by the 'squeeze' as they are literally living hand to mouth. As to the reminders to wash our hands regularly, how do they do this without running water?

We must move people out of substandard living conditions into homes with basic amenities. If we do not make that a priority we will never be able to quell their desperation which has spawned the 389 gangs which National Security Minister Horace Chang announced last week.

Feminist economist Dr Mariama Williams, of the South Centre organisation, reflected that, “We are on a global pause, a pause for nature… a chance to reset and rethink.” She wants us to think of tourism in a different way, observing that the existing tools “cannot carry us very far”. She urges us to “put the most vulnerable in society as the pinnacle”.

At an Amcham webinar Jamaicans were told that there are increased opportunities to export our agricultural produce to the US as there is a supply chain disruption between the US and Mexico, so Michael Lee-Chin's 3,000-acre farm on the former Innswood Estate is timely. We hope the Ministry of Agriculture will network our smaller farmers so that they too can benefit from this development.

Cruise ship arrival

The Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas cruise ship has been docked at the Falmouth pier since last Tuesday and we congratulate the organisers who are processing the over 1,000 Jamaican crew members as we understand that they will be able to disembark ahead of schedule. We are happy for our fellow Jamaicans, as we all know the joy of returning to our country, even after a short trip.

So far, nine of the crew members have tested positive for COVID-19, and so we can understand the Government's challenge to ensure we have the health facilities to treat the expected cases among the other thousands who are awaiting permission to return.

The Jamaica Observer posted a video tour of a luxurious hotel room taken by one of the satisfied individuals in quarantine. Jamaica's response to this crisis has been better than that of some developed countries, and so we give thanks for the efforts of the various ministries and our dedicated public servants.

Labour at home

Today is a vastly different Labour Day. Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange is inviting us to “labour at home”, “clean up and fix up” our homes, and to check for safety issues in preparation for the hurricane season. Meanwhile, my colleagues at the Digicel Foundation will be supporting the sanitising of downtown markets and Ocean Boulevard, a Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation project led by Mayor Delroy Williams.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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