Tribute to the Most Hon Edward P.G. Seaga, Mr. Daryl Vaz

Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 17:00


Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege and honour to stand before the honourable members of this honourable House along with others gathered here to pay special tribute to a former Prime Minister and a living legend in our political landscape, The Most Honourable Edward Seaga, ON, PC.   I will do so in the context of my personal experience of the 1970s and early 1980s which had a significant impact on Jamaica and far reaching effects on my generation.

Based on all the tributes paid and are to be paid, I decided to reflect on Mr. Seaga’s role in the 1970s and 1980s where he lead the charge and salvaged our country and my generation from the devastating effects of that period.  I salute him on behalf of my generation, many of whom were slipped out of Jamaica in the dead of the night and were able to return to continue their life in Jamaica as a result of this courageous patriot.

My introduction to Jamaican politics in the 1970s  came at a time of much social and political turbulence. Two years after Mr. Seaga had taken over leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party, he found himself deeply immersed in one of the most troubling periods of our democracy.

Throughout that period the voice and activism of Mr. Seaga stood out like a beacon from the shore leading this nation through the troubled waters.

I speak specifically of the June 1976 State of Emergency where Mr. Seaga was fearlessly vocal on matters he considered to be breaches of moral and political principles. This was even as those around him were being arrested and detained.

As a young man I had a unique viewpoint of these times as I traveled with my father through those uncharted political times. One had to admire Mr. Seaga’s tenacity and his willingness to lead from way out front, totally unafraid of adopting a controversial position when he deeply believed in the rightness of the cause.

Mr. Speaker, at a time when every political statement could attract the cloak of controversy and detention under the then State of Emergency, Mr. Seaga was never afraid to wade in deep if he felt he was representing the right and just position. I am certain that years from now the historians will add much more than we can ever do today.

We will recall that the Jamaica Labour Party had dedicated to cherish and fearlessly represent the ideals of Western style democracy. Mr. Seaga believed that the then ruling Socialist party was intent on taking us into what was then seen as uncharted territory under the guise of Democratic Socialism.

As a youngster who deeply believed in the right of democracy I watched and admired the tenacity and fearlessness of this leader as his reassuring voice lead us through that time and rewarded Jamaica with the biggest political victory at the polls in 1980, giving hope to those who did not or could not flee while allowing for countless thousands who left to return to their homeland.

As a teenager (13 years old) in 1976 I watched as my father, Douglas become one of only 13 JLP candidates to win a seat in the December elections and recall that it was Mr. Seaga and 12 other Opposition Members of Parliament who staved off the 47 Government members between 1976 and 1980 and fought valiantly to keep our democracy alive.

Mr. Speaker, in 1980 there was severe economic dislocation and a general sense that it would take this financial  wizard just to bring us back to economic levels of 1972. Much were the expectations of the nation. We watched as Mr. Seaga and his Cabinet turn around  an economy which was so devastated, with not even basic food items on the shelves for sale or on the high seas.  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Seaga as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance along with his Cabinet turned around the economy in short order and put the country on the path to economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, many of us forget those dark days in Jamaica when the weight of the country and its people rested squarely on Edward Phillip George Seaga’s shoulders.

Mr. Speaker, it is not friendship in politics that is important but more so the gaining of respect for leaders.  It was Mr. Seaga’s leadership which encouraged many of the younger generation to offer themselves for public service.  In my case, my entry into public service in 1986, as one of the youngest (22 years old) Councillors ever elected, having won the Waterloo division in the North Central St. Andrew constituency of the KSAC, and my political success thereafter, is a direct result of trying to emulate the qualities of a great leader – to be fearless but compassionate; hardworking, dedicated, forthright, and genuinely committed while serving our country and its people.

Mr. Speaker if there was any single action which could be said to have brought out the best in the sterling leadership of Mr. Seaga, it was in the aftermath of the huge disaster heaped on us in 1988 as hurricane Gilbert wreaked a path of destruction right across our beloved island in September of that year. Truly it must be said by the historians that the management of this crisis and speedy return to normalcy in the country was as a direct result of the team headed by Edward Phillip George Seaga.

On the historical side, Mr. Speaker there will be others here today who will laud Mr. Seaga for the contributions he made leading up to Jamaica gaining Independence in 1962. His contribution to our pre and post Independence era included helping to frame our Constitution and his active involvement, serving as Senator, Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister and now elder statesman for over 50 years.

Mr. Seaga, I say to you today again, thank you on behalf of my generation who were little ones and teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s for giving us the opportunity to continue to live and for some to return to our beloved country, Jamaica and raise their families and make a life. 

I must acknowledge that it is well known that we have not seen eye to eye or for that matter always walked on the same side of the road but there is no more fitting place or occasion to publicly state that my respect for you and gratitude for the part which you have played and continue to play in nation building has never waned or waivered in any way.  In fact I have tried and continue to try to emulate many of your qualities as one of the most outstanding Members of Parliament that this country has ever seen.  On a lighter note, so hard have I tried that I can say with certainty that we share one thing in common – that we have been the two most maligned politicians in Jamaica’s history but we can both take comfort in the Jamaican saying that Jamaican people “don’t stone fluxy mango”.

Today we honour Mr. Seaga because he is fully deserving of such honour. Today we laud him because we who were there saw him at his best. We do this today because those of us, like myself,  who crossed the proverbial swords with him have long put that behind us.

May God continue to bless you and your family  with good health and happiness which you all most certainly deserve for the personal sacrifice you have all made for this great country, Jamaica, land we love.

Daryl Vaz
October 9, 2012