The passing of the Most Honourable Edward Seaga has occupied our thoughts and has stimulated discussion and analysis of our views of his service. Certainly, most have been strongly partisan in content, however where there had been possible disagreements, these were treated in a respectful manner, even from his bitter political rivals.
He has been eulogized but never demonized. It is a sort of polite reversal of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I have never heard his name called in anything dishonest, but he has been attributed with a very confrontational political career inside and outside of his party.
Minister Samuda spoke of being fired five times, and yet he seems to have forgiven these occasions, even though he could not have enjoyed the experience at those historical moments.
M.H. Edward Seaga was a thinker, and his most memorable caution came in The House of Representatives in 1962 (the year of our Independence from Britain). I quote verbatim: “Mr. Speaker; Independence has come on this country with a rush…We are now going into Independence and there are still vast areas in the country that do not quite know what Independence means or what it should mean. To them it is a word, and that word has been connoted with freedom. But what else does it mean, for it must mean more than that. There are still sections of the country that fear the word Independence. They fear it because to them the word freedom does not mean the free power to create and to build, but freedom to destroy.”(Minutes of Legislative Council, January 19 1962 pp.51-52).
Men like M.H. Edward Seaga are persons who must be remembered for unselfish service; leadership qualities; honesty; and fierce loyalty to family and country. The very nature of these persons would probably resist the “deification” of National Hero.
During the recollections in my memories, I asked myself: what if? My analogy runs in a similar way to an athletics relay. A maximum of six runners through the rounds, a final four (but all six participants sharing in the medals); and a strong supporting team of coaches, motivational personnel, logistics planners, and managers. And so my “what if” identified six men in two distinct eras.
Marcus Garvey; N.W. Manley; and Alexander Bustamante; represented one philosopher, one thinker, and one implementer, at a time when all those skills were relevant. This was a really formidable grouping with a common focus: escape from colonialism. They were divided by class, colour, and a mindset of non-cooperation, and so the ensuing race had poor baton changes and even a dropped baton between the second and third runners (who were cousins).
They were easily defeated by the Americans and the British, and the unwillingness to share produced two parties, the rot started, and the dreams were never fulfilled.
The expulsion of the four “H’S”; the early exile and death of Marcus Garvey; and the yet unsolved death of Ken Jones, further complicated internal matters in both the PNP and JLP, and all hope of an alliance of the giants was lost.
The second set of three runners was interrupted internally at a critical time. The contest between Vivian Blake and Michael Manley for party leadership ended with a division inside the PNP. The untimely death of Donald Sangster that pitted Hugh Shearer, Robert Lightbourne, and Clement Tavares, as hopefuls, was settled by the then one Don, Alexander Bustamante. When Edward Seaga defeated Hugh Shearer, the services of Robert Lightbourne, the industrialist, were lost to the JLP.
Michael Manley surrounded himself with deceptive sycophants who proved somewhat dangerous and unpopular, and thereby lost much of his cachet of charisma.
Edward Seaga surrounded himself with a cadre of persons who followed his directives. It was the real one-man band.
The real loss was to Jamaica, and came with the fanning of the flames of confrontational politics by Dudley Thompson (an erudite Rhodes Scholar), which was quickly returned in kind by Edward Seaga. It must have been a real distraction to Edward Seaga in trying to win elections, modernize a country, and raise a family.
The deteriorating stakes of “win at all costs” for Jamaica was similar to what the Kerry Packer Series did in fragmenting West Indies Cricket. Limited talents were wasted and the only loser has been our country.
I contemplated whether or not we would find a way out of this self-imposed purgatory, and once again I have to admit that there is a way forward, but it is bold and difficult for political parties to accept in the face of an opinion that growing corruption is an acceptable additional source of income. It will therefore have to be accomplished in stages.
I recommend that certain topics be granted “Political Immunity”, that is to say that the subjects that are to be debated be done so in a civilized, well-researched manner until a full consensus is reached. These topics should include crime and violence; justice; education; and health.
Once we get the hang of consensus, then we should move on to corruption; and economic growth; and then we could review our progress. Am I a fool; a dreamer; or just another Jamaican whose life ambitions will be thwarted by the “system”?
For those adherents of Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, I suggest that you see the acts of great men, and try to surpass them, “for they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward through the night”.