A grateful nation said its final farewell to former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, during a Service of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, in Kingston, on Sunday (June 23).
Mr. Seaga was accorded a State Funeral, in recognition of the high national office he held as the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Mourners, headed by Mr. Seaga’s family, Government officials, and other local and foreign dignitaries, filled the pews of the majestic cathedral, a venue befitting Mr. Seaga’s final send off.
In his tribute, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, described Mr. Seaga as a “great leader, a Statesman, a visionary and a thinker,” and a man of dignity, order and excellence; an indefatigable spirit; and a man with the courage of his conviction.
“He was a modern man, an architect, a teacher, a father, a mentor and friend – a man for all seasons, a man for all peoples,” he said.
Mr. Holness recalled personal moments he shared with Mr. Seaga for whom he became a political aid in 1995, a role which sometimes required him to prepare speeches and conduct research.
“I learnt so much from him through these encounters of research and intellectual discourse,” he said.
The Prime Minister also recalled a particularly “touching but profound moment” when Mr. Seaga held his hands, just as the first Prime Minister of Jamaica and National Hero the Right Excellent Sir William Alexander Bustamante had done for Mr. Seaga, reminding him “don’t forget the poor.”
“Mr. Seaga never lost sight of the reason why he entered politics – to help the have nots join the ranks of the haves. All his work, from culture to sports, education, justice, the economy, music, everything – all his work has been beneficial to the poor,” Mr. Holness said.
Also sharing personal experiences he had with Mr. Seaga, Prime Minister of Grenada, the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, said he felt a profound sense of loss, noting that Mr. Seaga was a Caribbean icon.
“His entire life’s work may have labelled him a Jamaican, but for many of us elsewhere in the region, Eddie was a Caribbean man, a champion of regional integration (and) movement and one who advocated for change to improve the process that unites us all,” he said.
Mr. Mitchell, who was among several Heads of State and Government officials from the Caribbean who were in attendance, noted that Mr. Seaga was a true friend of his country.
He said that as a Grenadian, he was grateful for the “bold and decisive actions” of Mr. Seaga in 1983 when his country was “reeling from the effects of a political crisis,” when “Eddie demonstrated what it was to be your brother’s keeper.”
For Mr. Seaga’s cousin, Metry Seaga, ‘Uncle Eddie’, as he affectionately called him, was a complexed individual who was “comfortable dining with kings and queens but just as comfortable eating a roast yam and saltfish with a boiled corn.”
He noted that Mr. Seaga sacrificed his own wellbeing and that of his family to serve his country and that citizens “owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people that loaned him to us…his family.”
He also read a note written by Mr. Seaga’s youngest daughter, Gabrielle, who said: “You have been my hero and a wonderful father.”
“I am thankful for the experiences and memories that we shared and for all that you taught me,” she said.
In his tribute, former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson, described Mr. Seaga as a “titanic warrior,” who was propelled by an indomitable will to succeed in whatever he did.
Mr. Patterson also praised Mr. Seaga for his innumerable accomplishments, and applauded “the monumental contribution and its high qualitative value which Edward Seaga has made…to the people he served diligently and led with such singular devotion.”
“The death of the last surviving member of that joint legislative team which crafted our independence and Constitution is a defining moment in our history. It allows us to commemorate the glory of our ancestors as we honour one from this generation whose memory will never perish,” he said.
Delivering the eulogy, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said Mr. Seaga was a great son of Jamaica and father to many institutions and one of the greatest leaders of modern Jamaica.
He also shared the tremendous impact Mr. Seaga had on his life, treating him like a son “and profoundly guided my development.”
“The achievements I have had are because of the nurturing and teaching I constantly received as an adopted son of Edward Phillip George Seaga,” he said.
Mr. McKenzie said he and others have benefited from Mr. Seaga’s guidance and are living his legacy.
“I am forever grateful to him, West Kingston is grateful to him for the interest he has shown in us and an unwavering commitment to us. He saw us as people, worthy individuals and he worked hard for us,” he said.
During the service, there were also scripture readings by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen; and Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips.
When the service ended, Mr. Seaga’s casket, draped in the Jamaican flag, was placed on a gun carriage.
As the walking funeral procession pulled away from the church, the first round of a 19-gun salute by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) punctuated the air, with other rounds following at one minute intervals up until arrival at National Heroes Park, where Mr. Seaga was laid to rest.
Mr. Seaga served as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989. He represented the constituency of West Kingston for 43 years, from 1962 until his retirement from active politics in 2005. He died on May 28 on his 89th birthday.