Prime Minister Andrew Holness Tuesday said that the necessary arrangements were already in place for the body of former prime minister Edward Seaga to be flown back to Jamaica “at the earliest possible time” following his death in the United States.
“I consider Mr Seaga my political father. He has been a great mentor, friend and guide in imparting the skills on strategic leadership and in building a nation. I owe him & indeed Jamaica owes him a debt of gratitude. He will forever remain in our hearts and minds,’ Prime Minister Holness said.
“Mr Seaga will live on through his stellar contribution to national development that defined our nation and provided service and value; indeed a legacy for generations now and generations to come.
“The nation has lost a leader with true human values. I offer my sincere and deepest condolences to his widow Carla and the rest of his family,” Holness said.
Seaga, who served as the island’s fifth prime minister and also the longest serving Member of Parliament, died in a Miami Hospital where he had been receiving treatment for cancer and related complications.
He died on the same day he celebrated his 89th birthday.
“It is with great sadness that I inform the nation of the passing of the Most Honourable Edward Phillip George Seaga, the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica,” Holness said in a statement, adding that he “transitioned today at approximately 1:00 pm Jamaica time.
“Mr Seaga was receiving treatment in the United States and had his family with him. The family of Mr Seaga has asked me to express gratitude on their behalf for the many prayers and messages of comfort and support offered by the people of Jamaica,” Holness said.
Seaga, who at the age of 29, became the youngest person to be nominated to the Legislative Council (later the Senate), was the last surviving framer of the Jamaican Constitution.
Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, described Seaga, as a giant in the cultural, social, economic life of independent Jamaica.
Phillips, the leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) said Seaga’s death represents the end of an era in our political and social development.
“For close to sixty years, Mr Seaga was a gigantic and powerful presence, having started out as an anthropologist, he made his commitment to representational politics and became the first Member of Parliament to serve more than one term in Western Kingston, a seat he represented for a record 43 years, from 1962 until his retirement in 2005.”
Governor- General Sir Patrick Allen expressed his deep sorrow at the passing of Seaga, saying his long list of achievements in national and political leadership, enlightened policy development, and efficient implementation marked him as a strategic thinker and man of action.
The Head of State said that the former prime minister evoked a brand of loyalty which was a combination of deep respect and unquestioned love.
“Mr. Seaga leaves us a legacy of visionary leadership, sustainable institutional development, and a wealth of ideas and information. His formidable record of service will ensure the perpetuation of his contribution to the ongoing political maturing of our nation.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to his beloved wife, Carla, to his children, grandchildren, other close relatives and friends, and to all who grieve his passing here in Jamaica and across the world,” said the Governor General.
Jamaica’s fifth prime minister, from 1980 to 1989, also served as the leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from 1974 to 2005 when he retired from active politics.
Since his retirement from politics he has been an honorary distinguished fellow at the professorial level at The University of the West Indies (UWI), and also serves as chancellor of the University of Technology, Jamaica.
A lifelong sports enthusiast, Seaga was chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association, one of Jamaica’s governing football bodies, from its inception until 2010. He also served as president of the football club of his former West Kingston enclave, Tivoli Gardens.
Seaga is credited with building the financial and planning infrastructure of the country after independence, as well as developing its arts and crafts, and awareness of national heritage. As a record producer and record company owner, Seaga also played a major role in the development of the Jamaican music industry.