TRIBUTES ARE being paid from across Jamaica’s political divide following the passing of former Prime Minister Edward Philip George Seaga.
He was 89.
Seaga was the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica, serving from 1980 to 1989, and was the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party from 1974 to 2005.
He served as Leader of the Opposition from 1974 to 1980, and again from 1989 until January 2005.
In an address to the House of Representatives yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said arrangements are in place for Mr Seaga’s body to be flown back to Jamaica at the earliest possible time.
He said Mr. Seaga’s body is expected to be accompanied by his wife and other family members and will be received by the government.
His body will lie in State, after which he will receive a State funeral.
The government will advise of a period of mourning.
There will also be a special sitting of the House in which members “can have tributes prepared and recorded in honour of Mr. Seaga,” the Prime Minister said.
Addressing the House on Tuesday, Mr. Holness said it was difficult dealing with the death of Mr. Seaga.
“It is a personally trying time for me, and I know it is also a very trying time for his family. And though they were prepared, and though I was prepared, at the point of the event, you still can’t help but feel the emotional void that has been created by his passing,” he declared.
He said Mr. Seaga had given him a final message for Jamaicans when he visited him in hospital recently.
“All Jamaica should know that when I was about to leave the hospital room, I held his hands and he squeezed my hands and he said, ‘Thank you Andrew, and tell the Jamaican people thanks for everything’,” Mr. Holness shared.
Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips also paid tribute to Mr. Seaga, noting that he was a “tremendous presence and a powerful presence in the social, economic and political life of the country.”
“I believe he was, up until today, the last surviving member of the Parliament that took us into Independence in 1962. He was also the only surviving member of the joint select committee which drafted the Jamaica Independence Constitution.
TRAILBLAZER: A young Edward Seaga on his way to parliament in 1967
“In fact, that committee was chaired by the Right Excellenct Norman Washingston Manley. Mr. Seaga, I believe was its youngest member at that time. He made a tremendous contibution to nation building,” he said.
One of Mr. Seaga’s fiercest political rivals, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, was also among those who paid tribute to the former Prime Minister.
Mr. Patterson noted that there were many issues on which they disagreed but they were able to find common ground on matters such as sports and culture.
“There were some things on which, thankfully, there was no flexibility once he took a position. Perhaps, he may have said the same thing about me, who knows? But at the very, very end of our respective periods in office and perhaps even more so in retirement, I would say Eddie and PJ developed a relationship which I personally still treasure,” said Mr. Patterson.
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said: “With the passing of the Most Honourable Edward Seaga, Jamaica has lost one of its most accomplished nation builders. His contribution to national development spanned more than fifty years.
“His trailblazing achievements as Minister of Development and Welfare, Minister of Finance and Planning and Prime Minister have left an indelible mark on Jamaica’s institutional development and constitute a huge legacy from which the Jamaican people continue to benefit.