JIS News

Jamaicans witnessed another true gem of a moment in the country’s political history on Tuesday (January 18) when Edward Phillip George Seaga bade farewell to more than four decades of a stellar career as Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and Member of Parliament for Western Kingston.
Gordon House was redolent with the memories of his endeavours, which have left an indelible stamp in the political arena and Jamaica’s landscape.
At 32 years of age as a member of the Legislative Council in 1959 Mr. Seaga became the youngest member of the Joint Select Committee, and was active in the preparation of Jamaica’s Independence Constitution. Mr. Seaga also served as Minister in the first post-Independence government.
His political life was undeniably one of unrivalled firsts. He served West Kingston as Member of Parliament for 43 years after having won in the 1962 elections. This record remains unbroken.
Since then, Mr. Seaga has served as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989 and as elected leader of the JLP from 1974 to 2005. During his Prime Ministerial tenure, he also spearheaded the country’s liberalization programme preparing Jamaica for participation in a global market economy.
During the Parliamentary tribute in the House of Parliament, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson noted Mr. Seaga’s unrivalled contribution to the social and economic fabric of the nation, stating that 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, Prime Minister Patterson declared, “quantitatively and qualitatively his innings will not be replicated.” Homage was paid to Mr. Seaga’s extraordinary shrewdness in financial matters. As Minister of Finance and Planning between 1967 and 1972, Mr. Seaga, in collaboration with the late the Most Hon. Hugh Shearer produced outstanding economic growth rates.
In the 1980s, as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Planning Mr. Seaga led Jamaica to economic recovery forging the way for new ties, which led to the establishment of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which gave Caribbean countries special, and unprecedented trade access to the United States.
The Jamaican economy was rebuilt during this period and enjoyed average annual growth of five per cent, which peaked at eight percent in 1987. Mr. Seaga spearheaded the establishment of a large number of cultural, educational and financial institutions, which were catalysts for the development of Jamaicans.
Among these are, the H.E.A.R.T, the Jamaica Festival Commission, Things Jamaica, The100 villages programme, Digi-Port Montego Bay, JAMPRO, Jamaica Unit Trust, Student’s Loan Fund, the Export-Import/EX-IM Bank, the Jamaica Stock Exchange, the Jamaica Development Bank, and the Agricultural Credit Bank.
Other institutions and initiatives include the National Development Bank, the decimalization of the currency, Metropolitan Parks and Markets, the national school feeding programme, the Self Start Fund, Solidarity, the Food Stamp Programme, Programme for the Advancement of Early Childhood Education (PACE), the Golden Age Movement, the Media Divestment Programme and the return of the remains of national hero Marcus Garvey to Jamaica for interment.
Mr. Seaga was also responsible for the development of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in the early 1960s, in answer to the problem of unplanned urbanization, which threatened to undermine all future developments in a context where rural urban migration had contributed to a majority of Jamaicans living in urban centers. He also conceptualized and spearheaded the development of the Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril waterfronts.
Of Mr. Seaga’s accomplishments the late Professor Carl Stone said in 1992 “I don’t think there is any other in the Caribbean who has built so many institutions and so many new beginnings and so many ideas in the sphere of public management .I have a deep respect for Seaga.”
Mr. Seaga has been credited with creating a system of effective community governance and implementing programmes of development, which have transformed, some of the most deprived areas of the nation’s capital into a modern community with unprecedented access to social services.
Under his leadership the people of West Kingston have asserted pride of place among urban communities as a showcase of Jamaica’s popular culture and have also acquired enviable reputation for prowess in sports.
Reviewing Mr. Seaga’s accomplishments National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips said 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 stated. The Security 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.
Meanwhile Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw in his homage labeled 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 contributions. He pointed out 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.
In chronicling Mr. Seaga’s achievements Member of Parliament for North Central St. Andrew, Karl Samuda said the closing of one chapter of the nation’s history books paved the way for the penning of another, on a platform created by the life and experiences of the political giant.
A visionary to the end Mr. Seaga gave sound advice for Education, the Economy, Agriculture and the criminal justice system in his farewell address to the House.
He called for more attention to be paid to the plight of the poor, noting that it was the ‘have-nots’ who had excelled and who had made Jamaica a household name in many instances.
Pointing to the deterioration of the criminal 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. While noting that there was a lack of financial and human resources to deal with criminal justice and crime, he said a will must exist to provide for the necessary resources and a clean up of the security forces.
Where Education is concerned Mr. Seaga said there is a need for more emphasis 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.
While noting the positives of the recommendations of the Education Taskforce on Education for primary and secondary education he put in an impassioned plea for a review of the early childhood education system. Investing in Education at this level he said must be seen as an investment, which will impact positively on the economy and the social infrastructure.
As for Agriculture, he said the lot of farmers must be improved if success is to be achieved in this area. With the ending of his political career Mr. Seaga will continue his contribution at the University of the West Indies as a Honorary Fellow at the graduate level.

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