The contributions of former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Phillip George Seaga, were highlighted during a joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday, June 19.
Mr. Seaga was Jamaica’s fifth Prime Minister, serving from 1980 to 1989. He represented the constituency of West Kingston from 1962 until his retirement from active politics in 2005. He died on May 28 on his 89th birthday.
In his tribute, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles Sr., noted that Mr. Seaga was a remarkable man, who was consumed with one mission – the development of Jamaica for the well-being of the people.
“He believed firmly that strong institutions were the foundation for national development. Undoubtedly, he would be remembered as a social engineer, responsible for creating many institutions, associations and organisations, and I dare say many of us,” Mr. Charles said.
“I am very proud to acknowledge that many of my political achievements have been due to him. He has also contributed to my personal development. I know what I am today is because I met him. I do not know what I would be if I never met him,” he added.
President of the Senate, Tom Tavares-Finson, highlighted the role that Mr. Seaga played in the electoral reform process.
He pointed out that Mr. Seaga helped move the system from one open to governmental and political manipulation to the Electoral Advisory Committee in 1979, and, eventually, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), which manages the electoral system, which is recognised regionally and internationally as one of the finest in the world.
Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said he had the privilege of working with Mr. Seaga as part of an action team in 1976.
“I learned first-hand of his sincere commitment and respect for not only the Jamaican character but for every Jamaican, especially the poor. His life’s commitment was not only to show respect but to take them out of poverty into prosperity, which would destroy the lines between the haves and the have nots,” Dr. Chang said.
“That is the charge he has left for this great Party and the mission for those of us who have the privilege to succeed this great man. Indeed, he was a giant of his time. It was a privilege to have served at his feet,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, noted that Mr. Seaga’s humanity is endorsed throughout the entire landscape of Jamaica, and is manifested by the pivotal role he played in the development of the Constitution.
“There is no question that Mr. Seaga was the architect of modern-day Ocho Rios, a visionary extraordinaire. He envisaged the potential of Ocho Rios and more than 50 years later, this sleeping fishing village was transformed into a hub of commercial activity on the north coast and indeed has become one of the premier tourist destinations of the Caribbean,” Mrs. Robinson said.
She noted that after more than a half of a century, Ocho Rios continues to boast one of the three only high-rise hotel buildings, all built by Edward Seaga.
“His humility, I think, was the real power he had. Through his creative and predictable thinking, he used it in transforming the social, economic and political activity of Jamaica. The social upward mobility of the people was his innermost yearning, and today it remains the hallmark for change and development,” she added.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, called for Mr. Seaga to be named the nation’s eighth National Hero.
“The people of west Kingston believe that Edward Seaga fits the bill, based on his performance in this country, to be considered Jamaica’s eighth National Hero. This is the time as a people, that we need to not just pay lip service but we need to step up to the plate and take decisions to recognise the work of this man, this great outstanding Jamaican,” he said.
The State funeral for Mr. Seaga will be held on Sunday, June 23 at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, after which he will be buried in National Heroes Park.