KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday May 29, 2019 – Jamaicans are mourning the death of Edward Seaga, the country’s fifth Prime Minister and longest serving parliamentarian, who passed away yesterday as he marked his 89th birthday.
The father of four died at a hospital in Miami, Florida where he was being treated since earlier this month.
Seaga – who was prime minister from 1980 to 1989; led the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from 1974 to 2005; represented the West Kingston constituency for 43 years; and had been the last surviving member of the committee that drafted the country’s constitution in 1962 – was described by Prime Minister Andrew Holness as a great Jamaican.
“He served this country for most of his life. He was in this Parliament for over 40 years. He is truly a great Jamaican. He participated in the framing of the Constitution and the development of so many institutions which now define Jamaica,” Holness said yesterday in the House of Representatives where a minute’s silence was observed.
He said Seaga’s passing was also a difficult time for him.
“It is, personally, a trying time for me, and I know it is also a very trying time for his family. And though they were prepared and 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 said.
Holness recently visited Seaga in hospital and he said yesterday that on that visit, the former prime minister had expressed thanks to the Jamaican people for their prayers.
“All Jamaica should know that when I was about to leave the hospital room, I held his hands and he squeezed my hands and said, ‘Thank you, Andrew, and tell the Jamaican people thanks for everything’,” he recalled.
Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Reverend Ronald Thwaites expressed condolences on behalf of the Opposition.
He said Seaga dedicated his life to the Jamaican people.
Former prime minister Bruce Golding said that with Seaga’s death, Jamaica had lost one of its most accomplished nation builders whose contribution to national development spanned more than 50 years from the early 1950s when he conducted research into the social structure and folk culture of both rural communities and Kingston’s city slums.
“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…
“He was a strong leader, firm in his convictions and fearless in his approach. He was never daunted by criticism or controversy once he was convinced that the path he was pursuing was the right one. In so many respects, history has vindicated him. Edward Seaga has earned his prominence in the annals of Jamaica’s journey as a nation and his contributions will be one of the pillars on which the greatness that we achieve will rest,” Golding said.
Meantime, Prime Minister Holness said arrangements are in place for Seaga’s body to be flown back to Jamaica, and it will be received by the Government with the appropriate honour guard in place.
“Thereafter, there will be a State funeral and before that, his body will lie in State and we will advise of a period of mourning,” he said.
Holness added that a special sitting of the House would be held where Parliamentarians can pay their respect to Seaga.
In addition to helping to frame the constitution, Seaga played a significant role in the review of that constitution that led to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in 2011.
In 2005, when he retired from active politics, he was appointed a Distinguished Fellow of the University of the West Indies (Mona), whose Research Institute had earlier been named in his honour.
In 2008, he was appointed Pro-Chancellor of the University of Technology, Jamaica, and two years later he became the institution’s second chancellor.