Sunday 23 February, 2020

What is a state funeral and who gets one?

The casket bearing the remains of former Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke, draped in the Jamaican flag, being taken into the Holy Trinity Cathedral by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) bearer party in 2014.

The casket bearing the remains of former Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke, draped in the Jamaican flag, being taken into the Holy Trinity Cathedral by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) bearer party in 2014.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, will be accorded a state funeral.

But what exactly is a state funeral and who gets one?

In the Jamaican context, state funerals, by decisions of the Cabinet, are accorded to governors general and prime ministers “and such other persons who the Cabinet may from time to time determine”.

It is much more stately and prestigious than an official funeral. 

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) takes charge of the ceremonial components for state funerals, at which the body of the deceased person normally lies in state to be viewed by members of the public.

The extensive presence of the military brings a certain amount of pomp and ceremony at a state funeral, which often sees representatives of foreign governments and media in attendance.

Former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga. 

Prime Minister Michael Manley was accorded a state funeral on March 16, 1997, while former Prime Minister, Hugh Shearer, was accorded a state funeral on July 18, 2004.

The most recent state funeral in Jamaica was that of Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke, on August 8, 2014.

Reggae legend, Bob Marley, was famously accorded a state funeral on May 21, 1981 at the National Arena in Kingston, where Seaga, who had been sworn in as Prime Minister six months earlier, gave the eulogy.

Seaga died on his 89th birthday on Tuesday in a Miami, Florida hospital, where he had been admitted weeks earlier. His body is to be flown home to Jamaica in short order.

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