Tribute to the Most Hon Edward P.G. Seaga, Mr. Andrew Holness

Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 14:30

Edward Seaga is a social engineer. His dear mother wanted him to be a doctor. He actually started that course of study after returningfrom Harvard in 1952, however his heart was not in that field and he answered the call of his true destiny. He took up a research grant which was in line with his sociology background to conduct anthropological research into Jamaican culture and folk heritage, specifically revivalism. This lead him not only to view the subject of research from an academic perspective but more importantly he went to live among the people and immersed himself in their daily life, taking up residence in Salt Lane behind coronation market in West Kingston and Buxton Town in St. Catherine. The poor conditions of the people he encountered and the inquisitive mind of a researcher led him to question the existing status quo in Jamaica at the time, more importantly, it led him as a young man, to get involved in the process of creating a solution for the problems he saw. The stark inequalities, inequities and injustices of Jamaican Society then, ignited a passion in him, a burning desire to:

•          improve the lot of the Jamaican people,
•          to preserve the Jamaican spirit as expressed in our culture,
•          to preserve our fierce independent nature, through sovereign statehood,
•          to unleash the industry, enterprise and creativity of the Jamaican hands and mind through a free and progressive society and economy.

Numerous letters to the daily newspapers and his appointment to Legislative Council, where avenues for him to fulfil his passion and express his desires. His research background brought academic rigour to the understanding and analysis of the problems of the people, and this gave him a credibility edge over his peers at the time. This would be manifested his famous “Haves and Have-not” maiden speech to the Legislative Council.  It announced him as man who understood the issues of the human condition in Jamaica, not just from the superficial political perspective, but more so having a profound appreciation of the problem and empathetic enough to engineer a solution.

The establishment of Tivoli Gardens was the first attempt to directly address the conditions of growing poor urban communities and the steady urban drift that had started in that time. It was not just about building house it was about building communities and empowering the people in them. I heard him tell the story of the park bench in Tivoli Gardens. The benches there were built with in a semi-circular fashion, and without back rails. This was part of ergonomic engineering to address public order issues of persons using the park benches as beds if they were flat and straight, or sitting on the back rack with their shoes on the seat of the bench.  The social engineering went further, the residents were provided with training facilities, a crèche, a community centre, and an array of social, sporting and cultural engagements to enrich and empower the people of that community. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to someone who was a resident of Tivoli Gardens in its early days and she recalled that you took the children to the theatre, brought ice cream for them on a Sunday, formed youth groups and marching bands, and exposed them to a whole other world of possibilities for their lives. She said, “Mas Eddie, is who build me, who tek us out of poverty, and who stand up for us.” I was moved by those words, and I believe they accurately described how the people of the West Kingston feel about him.

Mr.Seaga took the same profound, purposeful, yet systematic, direct and practical approach to nation building as he did with community building. I would best describe Mr.Seaga as an institutionalist. Having analysed the problems with profundity and emphaty, he then went on to engineer the solution, but he goes one step further he embeds the solution in institutions. Institutions are the building blocks of society. I am sure that Mr.Seaga in independent Jamaica has created or lead the creation more institution that any other Jamaican.

The need to create urban space and manage pyshicaldevelopment  - UDC
The need to preserve and promote culture – Jamaica Festival
The need to develop a trained cohort of youth – HEART
The need to provide credit to facilitate trade – EX-IM bank
The need to provide technical and commercial support to the Art and Craft Industry – Things Jamaican.
The need to develop broadcasting - CPTC

And so many more institutions which continue to be relevant today, and I am sure will be mentioned in other presentations.

For this Edward Seaga is truly a founding father of modern Jamaica. His named is etched on almost every facet of Jamaican life. Today we honour Mr.Seaga in our 50th year of Independence as a nation builder, leader, great patriot, and constitutional framer. However, his honour today also comes as one who fought for an independent Jamaica. The independence we have now, was not always the independence that was desired by the all. For a time the conventional wisdom was independence from colonial Britain and federated status under a political union. We cannot speculate what would have been the outcome if the conventional wisdom had prevailed. The fact is that today we now celebrate political independence, Edward Seaga was one of those persons who led the fight for the Independence we now have. We must remind ourselves, when other who wanted a different version of sovereignty now seeks to claim Independence as their doing, that were it not for the agitation of Edward Seaga today we would not be celebrating the nationhood we so cherish.

Eddie Seaga had a vision of strong, prosperous, independent, equitable, progressive, just and opportunity-filled Jamaica. His vision was not always understood through the decades. Professor Meeks said of him, "There is, perhaps, no other politician surrounded by as many myths, half-truths and falsehoodsin Jamaican politics as Edward Seaga”.In deed it is difficult to categorize Edward Seaga in conventional political nomenclature. He is not a capitalist, otherwise how do you reconcile socialist programmes like free education, social housing, and solidarity. He is not a socialist either redistribution was never accepted by him as means of tackling poverty. Seaga in mind could only be described as a practical man. “If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.” My experience of him is that he is first and foremost for the people and improving their conditions, he is not trapped in any doctrine and will fight against any doctrine that will enslave us and distract us from the ultimate goal of improving the people of his beloved Jamaica. I recall a discussion I had with him upon taking up the leadership of the Party. He said, Andrew, when I was considering going for the leadership of the Party, I went to see the old man (Bustamante) and Busta said to me, well son, whatever you do, don’t forget the poor. The Jamaica Labour Party is about the lifting up the poor and working class. Don’t forget the poor.” That was the advice he gave to me, using the same words that was passed to him by Bustamante. In a tragic sense Jamaica has been caught in a political struggle of ideological perspective on how to end poverty. I can only describe the Seaga ideology in his own words. “We set out not to destroy wealth, but to create it, not to pull down the strong who succeed, but to pull up the weak who are trying; not to accept ignorance as a way of life, but to abolish it, not to tolerate injustice to man, for every man must have equal rights and justice.” After decades of conflict, minor ideological differences exist but the debate as to which system of ideas, and policies are best for the nation is largely resolved.

This is what Karl Stone said in the Daily Gleaner of October 22, 1990, “Seaga, single-handedly won the ideological battle with Michael Manley and the PNP…Any objective analysis of the politics in the country over the last two decades has to acknowledge that Seaga, not Manley, has been the personality that has had the most decisive influence on our country’s policy and ideological direction.”

What amazes me about Mr.Seaga is that in later years he has not slowed down one bit. He continues to pursue so many initiatives and projects.I wonder where he finds the time and energy to carry out his work at UTECH, UWI, the PLCA, compiling his music and writings and taking care of his family. He is a virtual encyclopedia of Jamaica and a fountain of advice.

On behalf of the Members of this House, the Jamaica Labour Party family, and the people of Jamaica, I would like to say thanks for the dedicated and faithful service you have given to Jamaica. The ancients used to say that politics is the greatest calling of man. You have so called and you have answered and Jamaica is better for it. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Mr. Andrew Holness
Leader of the Opposition
October 9, 2012