KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday June 24, 2019 – A grateful nation said its final farewell to former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, during a service of thanksgiving yesterday at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston, where tributes flowed, as did the tears.
Seaga was accorded a state funeral, in recognition of the high national office he held as Jamaica’s fifth Prime Minister. Mourners, headed by his family, Government officials, and other local and foreign dignitaries, filled the pews of the majestic cathedral, a venue befitting Seaga’s final send off.
In his tribute, Prime Minister Andrew Holness described Seaga as a “great leader, a Statesman, a visionary and a thinker,” and a man of dignity, order and excellence; an indefatigable spirit; and a man with the courage of his conviction.
“He was a modern man, an architect, a teacher, a father, a mentor and friend – a man for all seasons, a man for all peoples,” he said.
Holness recalled personal moments he shared with Seaga for whom he became a political aid in 1995, a role which sometimes required him to prepare speeches and conduct research.
“I learnt so much from him through these encounters of research and intellectual discourse,” he said.
The Prime also recalled a particularly “touching but profound moment” when Seaga held his hands, just as the first Prime Minister of Jamaica and National Hero Sir William Alexander Bustamante had done for Seaga, reminding him “don’t forget the poor.”
“Mr Seaga never lost sight of the reason why he entered politics – to help the ‘have nots’ join the ranks of the ‘haves’. All his work, from culture to sports, education, justice, the economy, music, everything – all his work has been beneficial to the poor,” Holness said.
Also sharing personal experiences he had with Seaga, Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, said he felt a profound sense of loss, noting that Seaga was a Caribbean icon.
“His entire life’s work may have labelled him a Jamaican, but for many of us elsewhere in the region, Eddie was a Caribbean man, a champion of regional integration (and) movement and one who advocated for change to improve the process that unites us all,” he said.
Mitchell, who was among several Heads of State and Government officials from the Caribbean who were in attendance, noted that Seaga was a true friend of his country.
He said that as a Grenadian, he was grateful for Seaga’s “bold and decisive actions” in 1983 when his country was “reeling from the effects of a political crisis”, when “Eddie demonstrated what it was to be your brother’s keeper”.
Referring to Seaga’s support for the United States invasion of Grenada following a military coup in the island, Prime Minister Mitchell said: “There may not have been unanimous support for the course of action taken then, but you were acting in Grenada’s best interest and for that we thank you.”
He said Seaga’s support for Grenada was epitomized by his attendance of the official ceremony for the elected government in 1984 after the invasion and he remained a friend of the country until his death.
For Seaga’s cousin, Metry Seaga, ‘Uncle Eddie’, as he affectionately called him, was a complex individual who was “comfortable dining with kings and queens but just as comfortable eating a roast yam and saltfish with a boiled corn”.
He noted that Seaga sacrificed his own wellbeing and that of his family to serve his country and citizens “owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people that loaned him to us…his family.”
He also read a note written by Seaga’s youngest daughter, 16-year-old Gabrielle, who said: “You have been my hero and a wonderful father.”
“I am thankful for the experiences and memories that we shared and for all that you taught me,” she added.
In his tribute, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson described Seaga as a “titanic warrior” who was propelled by an indomitable will to succeed in whatever he did.
He also applauded “the monumental contribution and its high qualitative value which Edward Seaga has made…to the people he served diligently and led with such singular devotion.”
“The death of the last surviving member of that joint legislative team which crafted our independence and Constitution is a defining moment in our history. It allows us to commemorate the glory of our ancestors as we honour one from this generation whose memory will never perish,” he said.
Delivering the eulogy, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, said Seaga was a great son of Jamaica and father to many institutions and one of the greatest leaders of modern Jamaica.
He also shared the tremendous impact Seaga had on his life, treating him like a son and profoundly guiding his development.
“The achievements I have had are because of the nurturing and teaching I constantly received as an adopted son of Edward Phillip George Seaga,” he said, adding that he and others have benefited from Seaga’s guidance and are living his legacy.
“I am forever grateful to him, West Kingston is grateful to him for the interest he has shown in us and an unwavering commitment to us. He saw us as people, worthy individuals, and he worked hard for us.”
When the service ended, Seaga’s casket, draped in the Jamaican flag, was placed on a gun carriage.
As the walking funeral procession pulled away from the church, the first round of a 19-gun salute by the Jamaica Defence Force punctuated the air, with other rounds following at one minute intervals up until arrival at National Heroes Park, where Seaga was laid to rest.
Seaga served as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989. He represented the constituency of West Kingston for 43 years, from 1962 until his retirement from active politics in 2005. He died on May 28 in a hospital in the United States on his 89th birthday.