Members of the house say farewell to Seaga


Members of the House of Representatives on January 18, paid tribute to Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Edward Seaga who has officially resigned as Leader of the party and Member of Parliament for West Kingston, after close to 50 years in the political arena.
The atmosphere was a mixture of expectancy, sadness and admiration for the man reputed to be the only sitting Parliamentarian with a career spanning both the colonial and independence periods.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson in his tribute, described the moment as a privilege of history. He said the occasion was one in which the usual discordance in opinions was silent and harmony apparent. The Prime Minister said Mr. Seaga could not be denied his true place in the archives of Jamaica’s legislative history.
Of Mr. Seaga’s historic involvement in the drafting of the independence Constitution, his service as Prime Minister for nine consecutive years, his leadership of the JLP for 30 years, his over four decades of representation of West Kingston, and his unrivalled contribution to the construction of the social and economic fabric of the nation, Mr. Patterson said that “quantitatively and qualitatively, his innings will not be replicated”.
While noting that there has been political turbulence, the Prime Minister pointed out that not once has there been capitulation to coups, military rule or genocide. He praised Mr. Seaga for his “tremendous and selfless contribution to the building of Jamaica”, while hailing him as a fierce and astute political competitor who could “never be accused of lacking in vim, vigour and vitality”.
Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Derrick Smith, who is also Leader of Opposition Business in the House, credited Mr. Seaga with having set the finest example of representation, whilst never condoning mediocrity or inefficiency.
“The country can never associate him with any act of corruption or immorality in the many years of political service,” he said.
Mr. Smith, in paying tribute to the selfless nature of Mr. Seaga, pointed to his choice to relinquish his position in the middle class to fraternize with members of the inner city.
He hailed Mr. Seaga as the strongest human being he has ever met, adding that in his 24 years of serving in the JLP, he had witnessed many efforts to break his spirit, none of which succeeded. Mr. Seaga always remained focused and has learnt to accept ingratitude even from those he has cherished the most, he added. National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, who is also Leader of Government Business in the House, said that viewed from the “purely quantitative perspective (Mr. Seaga’s) contribution has been phenomenal”.
“Whether you were for him or against, there is no doubt that he has been a towering figure on the political stage,” Dr. Phillips said. The Minister said Mr. Seaga’s 45 years of unbroken parliamentary service to the Jamaican populace, his dedication to his constituents and the entire process of national development had secured him a place of respect and honour in the memory of the legislature.
In his tribute, Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw described Mr. Seaga as a “towering political visionary and icon”, while noting that his interest and initiatives in the development of culture, both in his constituency and the nation, was by far his most important contribution.
He said that as Opposition Leader since 1989, Mr. Seaga’s storehouse of practical ideas and solutions was never ending and remained as a blueprint for those remaining in the Chamber to continue the task of nation building.
Chronicling the achievements of Mr. Seaga, Opposition Member of Parliament, Karl Samuda said the “closing of one chapter of our history books paves the way for the penning of another, on a platform created by the life and experiences of the political giant”.
He further expressed the hope that a special library to be named in honour of Mr. Seaga, be opened at the University of the West Indies to preserve the legacy of his contributions.
Finance Minister, Dr. Omar Davies said Mr. Seaga’s total dedication to his constituents was beyond question and was reflected in the range of initiatives for Sports, Education and Culture in which he involved himself.
“That someone holding multiple posts and carrying multiple responsibilities could still dedicate so much time to these endeavours, indicates the priority he assigned to the position of Member of Parliament. There are very few, either past, present or future who would have the energy and the interest to perform at the same level,” he said.
Dr. Davies said the country was in anticipation of Mr. Seaga’s written reflections on his years of service and more importantly, his views on the way forward.
In her tribute, Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, Minister Portia Simpson Miller said Mr. Seaga was a figure not to be forgotten. She had high praise for his continued dedication to the social development and welfare of the people he served.
According to Mrs. Simpson Miller, a significant part of his socio political legacy was his conviction style politics, his promotion of culture as a developmental tool and his capacity to maintain friendships across the political divide.
Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke said “anyone who can survive 45 years in representational politics in Jamaica and leave in good health with his sanity intact and preparing to make a contribution to academia is an extraordinary human being”.
He hailed Mr. Seaga as having made a tremendous contribution to the growth and development of the Parliament and the country. Mr. Clarke said his work as an institution builder, social engineer and cultural icon would remain the high marks of his political career.
“This Parliament will miss you, the debates will not be the same without you.I know this is not the last we will hear of you, you believe in nation building and wherever you go, this will be at the back of your mind, ” Mr. Clarke said.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Central St. Catherine, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange hailed Mr. Seaga’s work in the transformation of West Kingston, noting his humility in interacting with his constituents and his untiring endeavour to identify their needs and administer to them.
She said the fruit of his indulgence and belief in the people of the inner city could be seen in the many bright and talented individuals emerging from West Kingston. Miss Grange also paid tribute to Mr. Seaga’s contribution to the development of the island’s culture and institution building.
When Mr. Seaga rose to give his final comments, Members of the House stood on their feet. He overcame the emotions of the moment and in the manner peculiar to him, gave sound advice for Education, the Economy, Agriculture and the criminal justice system.
He noted that despite the over four decades since Independence, the gap between the haves and the have-nots was still apparent and the “two Jamaicas” even more distinct. He urged that more attention be paid to the plight of the poor, noting that it was the “have-nots” who have excelled and who have made Jamaica a household name in many instances.
Commenting on the justice system, he said the legislative body had been remiss in not having passed the Charter of Rights. This, he said would have been a guarantee to the prevention of the abuse of rights. Mr. Seaga said some way must be found to have the Charter brought before the House and into legislation.
Where Education is concerned, Mr. Seaga said there was a need for more emphasis to be placed on early childhood development as a solid base for a successful finish. He warned that ignoring this factor made the system prone to failure, which in the long run would affect the economy.
Spending on Education at this level must be seen as an investment, which would impact positively on the economy and the social infrastructure, he added.

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