Wednesday 12 August, 2020

Phillips hails Seaga as 'gigantic and powerful presence'

Dr Peter Phillips

Dr Peter Phillips

Opposition Leader and President of the People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips has described Edward Seaga as “a giant in the cultural, social, economic life of independent Jamaica.”

Phillips made the comments in a statement on Tuesday, following news that Seaga, Jamaica’s fifth prime minister died in the United States where he had been admitted to hospital nearly three weeks ago.

Seaga died on his 89th birthday.

Edward Seaga (PHOTO: AP)

“His passing represents the end of an era in our political and social development,” said Phillips.

According to him, "for close to 60 years, Seaga was a gigantic and powerful presence, who, having started out as an anthropologist, made his commitment to representational politics and became the first Member of Parliament to serve more than one term in Western Kingston."

Seaga held that seat for a record 43 years, from 1962 until his retirement from politics in 2005.

Phillips also noted that Seaga was the last surviving member of the original select committee which drafted the Jamaican Constitution in 1962, and said it was a responsibility that gave an indication of the scope and scale of the subsequent impact of his contribution to Jamaican life.

“Over the years, Mr Seaga never lost his love for, and close attachment to Jamaican music and the religious culture. He was, without doubt, a forerunner in the development of Jamaican music,” Phillips noted.

The Opposition leader also pointed to Seaga’s role in nation building which he said spanned several sectors.

“He was a force behind the building out of a number of key institutions of modern Jamaica, including the Urban Development Corporation, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, the Heart Trust and Metropolitan Parks and Markets.

"Among his greatest monuments are the Tivoli Gardens housing development, Tivoli Gardens Comprehensive High School, the marching band and dance troupe and his beloved Tivoli Gardens Premier League Football Club. He famously said on his political retirement that these institutions were too important for him to leave,” Phillips said.

He said that in Tivoli Gardens, the former prime minister can be credited for establishing an alternative vision of urban lifestyle for Jamaica’s poor.

And he noted that long after his retirement from political life, the former JLP leader devoted his time to research and engaged the public through regular newspaper commentary and a book which will serve generations to come.

“Never afraid of the limelight nor shying away from controversy in the national discourse, he was undaunted in defending his ideas even in the face of strong opposition,” said Phillips.

“He sustained many friendships across political lines and was instrumental in stirring very significant discussion in economics, politics and many other subjects.

“We exchanged many views over the years and he was always ready to share his experience as Minister of Finance,” Phillips shared.

He has offered condolences on behalf of the PNP and himself, to Seaga’s widow Carla, his children, other family members, his colleagues in politics, sports, music, research and education and his many friends across the length and breadth of Jamaica.

“We did not always agree on issues, but his contribution to Jamaica and his love for the people and the culture of Jamaica cannot be questioned,” Dr Phillips stated.

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