Edward Seaga, the Jamaican Visionary

Jamaica’s political history has seen many transitions. Over the years, two major political parties have dominated the political scene, bringing different ideologies, from conservatism to radical socialism and capitalism. Today, few stalwarts have claim to the development of Jamaican politics, among them is Edward Seaga.

Early Life

Edward Seaga (1)_page2_image2The Most Hon. Edward Phillip George Seaga, ON, P.C., M.P., B.A., Y.B.A., LL.D. (Hon.) was born 1930 in Boston, Massachusetts to Jamaican parents Phillip George and Erna Seaga. His parental background mean that Edward would be of Lebanese and Scottish ancestry (many Lebanese came to the Caribbean as indentured servants). Edward was educated at Wolmer’s Boys in Jamaica and later moved on to Harvard University in America. –Image Credit: http://jamaica-gleaner.com

Seaga and Music

Did you know that Mr. Seaga was a music producer long before he took a keen interest in politics? Seaga was a music producer in the 1960s before Byron Lee bought his label in 1968.

Seaga in Politics

During his anthropological studies, Seaga had raw exposure and insight into the life of the poor and underprivileged — it moved him such that he vowed to change the circumstances of the less fortunate. He then settled on the notion of representational politics and offered himself the best opportunity to represent the people and effect meaningful change in their lives. And so, Edward Seaga, the politician, was born.

Edward Seaga (1)_page2_image1                          Image Credit: http://www.yardflex.com

Seaga quickly became noticed for the honest and powerful speeches he gave for his vision for Jamaica’s development. At the age of 29, he became the youngest appointee to the Jamaican Legislative Council (now the Senate). He was inducted on the recommendation of Sir Alexander Bustamante (founder of the Jamaica Labour Party and Jamaica’s first prime minister– JLP), in 1959. Being a part of the council marked the beginning of Seaga’s significant contribution to Jamaica’s independence in 1962.

Seaga was confounded and appalled his peers by offering to represent the community of Backbush – a community infamous for its depravity and squalor. Backbush however emerged a model community where the arts flourished under his guidance. He sought to provide a reason and purpose for the residents of the community which later became Tivoli Gardens.

The year of independence saw Seaga being elected as the Member of Parliament for Western Kingston, retaining that constituency for 40 consecutive years — becoming the longest serving MP in Jamaica.

Seaga and Economics

Seaga’s passion for politics was probably fuelled from his love for economic/financial matters. This saw him being instrumental in the forming a number of institutions including the Urban Development Corporation – UDC (1968), the Jamaica Stock Exchange (1969), Jamaica National Investment Promotion Ltd. – now JAMPRO (Jamaica Invest), National Development Bank (1981), and the Jamaican Students’ Loan Bureau.

Edward Seaga (1)_page2_image3                         Image Credit: http://www.caribdirect.com

Additionally, did you know that the Honourable Edward Seaga founded HEART – Human Employment and Resource Training Programme? Seaga instituted the program in 1983 as an education/vocational training centre that has proved very critical to the empowering of the Jamaican workforce over the years.

Seaga and the JLP
Seaga became the leader of the JLP in 1974. Six years later (1980), he became Prime Minister of Jamaica, staying for two terms, until 1989. Since then, Seaga remained in opposition until his retirement from political office in 2005 at the age of 75.

Seaga, the Family Man

Seaga’s deep political will did not prevent him from marring and fathering children. He married Elizabeth "Mitzie" Constantine, Miss Jamaica 1965. He then moved on to father three lovely children, two boys, Christopher and Andrew and a daughter Anabella. He however divorced from his wife in 1995, but he quickly regrouped and married Carla Vendryes. At age 70 and still in political office, he produced a beautiful daughter with her.

The Honourable Edward Seaga served Jamaica as a distinguished public servant for most of his adult life. As a young nation sought to establish its own political identity and style of governance, Seaga saw an opportunity to effect positive change from the grassroots. His legacy, one of institution-building and facilitation, has served present day Jamaica in good stead.

By Norvan Martin

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