Tuesday 2 June, 2020

Seaga should be made a national hero, says McKenzie

Late former Prime Minister Edward Seaga (PHOTO: AP)

Late former Prime Minister Edward Seaga (PHOTO: AP)

Amidst nearly five hours of glowing tributes on Wednesday, in which the late former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga was described as a nation builder, elder statesman and political maestro, there was a call for him to be named a national hero.

That call came from Seaga’s protege Desmond McKenzie, the man who would replace Seaga as the Member of Parliament for West Kingston, which the late politician had transformed from a dung heap into the modern communities of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town and which was his political fortress for more than four decades.

McKenzie’s call came during a joint sitting of the parliament to honor Seaga who passed away on his 89th birthday on May 28.

Desmond McKenzie giving his tribute to Seaga on Wednesday. (PHOTO: Facebook/Andrew Holness)

In his 16-minute long tribute, McKenzie, who remained a close friend of Seaga up to his passing, said it was all good to name some buildings and roads in his honour but insisted that Seaga deserves more.

“The Most Honourable Edward Seaga deserves much more than a two or three-hour tribute in this honourable House. He deserves much more than a couple buildings and streets being named in his honour.

“The people of West Kingston believe that Edward Seaga fits the bill, based on his performance in this country, to be considered Jamaica’s eighth national hero,” McKenzie said to sustained applause and desk-thumping.

McKenzie said now is the time for the nation to come together and not merely pay lip service but to “step up to the plate and to take decisions to recognize the work of this man, this great, outstanding Jamaican.”

The Local Government Minister reminisced on the days, when he was still a child living on Bond Street in the heart of West Kingston, when he met Seaga who would go on to transform the area which he represented for ten terms in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, two former Prime Ministers – PJ Patterson and Bruce Golding - were among those who paid tribute to Seaga on Wednesday.

In his tribute, Patterson cited Seaga’s first major speech as a member of the Legislative Council to which he was appointed as a 29-year-old by Sir Alexander Bustamante in 1959.

According to Patterson, “Seaga’s first major presentation sent shockwaves within the corridors of entrenched power and signalled the arrival of one who was destined to bring intellectual vigour, vim and kinetic vitality to the political arena.”

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Patterson suggested that Seaga held the record for “introducing numerically, and passing more statutory legislation than any other single minister in our history.”

“He will remain legendary, not simply because of the huge quantity (of legislation that he introduced) but even more so, for the virtue of the synergistic quality which his superb legislative engagement unleashed,” Patterson said.

For his part, Golding, stated that Seaga’s page in history is secured.

“And so there is no need today (Wednesday) to enlarge him in death beyond what he was in life, because in so many respects he was larger than life,” Golding stated.

Golding, who also served as Member of Parliament for West Kingston after he took over leadership of the JLP in 2005 following Seaga’s retirement from politics, noted that Jamaica has indeed been blessed over  many years to have had leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the nation.

“I venture to say however that none of these contributions have spanned as broad a spectrum as our economic and social lives as that made by Edward Seaga,” he declared.

Golding pointed out that Seaga’s contribution to nation building spanned economic development, social transformation, arts and culture, sports, human rights, “virtually every facet of our existence.”

He urged parliamentarians that, in honour of Seaga’s legacy, they owe it to Jamaicans present and those to come, to “strive as he strove, work as hard as he worked and to be as selfless as he was to achieve the greatness for Jamaica that was his lifelong dream and inspirational force.”

And in his tribute, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was introduced to politics by Seaga in the 1990s, cited that Seaga in many ways introduced Jamaicans to their culture.

“He brought Jamaican culture out of the dark and obscure into the light of the mainstream to stand side by side with colonial culture, thereby giving definition to who we are as a people,”

This, Holness said got Jamaicans to accept what they created as being valuable. He said Seaga did this through the creation of Jamaica Festival and West Indies Records Limited, a record label which he owned. Holness said Seaga discovered many of Jamaica’s artists, performers and craftsmen, and he described him as a kind man.

In his tribute, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips said Seaga has had “an indelible impact on independent Jamaica.” He said this was so regardless of whether you supported him.

Phillips said Seaga’s effectiveness as an institution builder left an enduring imprint on the nation’s institutional landscape and its political and social life.He revealed that while he was the Minister of Finance in the last People’s National Party administration, Seaga would often call, unsolicited with suggestions as to what ought to be done, how to pursue the discussions with international partners.

“I came to value those exchanges, those insights, even when we did not agree,” Phillips said.

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