Mark Wignall | All things Seaga are controversial
At 88 years old, many of us would have thought that Eddie Seaga would easily merit his stripe as 'elder statesman' and shown the respect for being such a rarity. No such luck though. Controversy is what follows whether he stands up or take a seat.
The JLP, once the entity over which Seaga wielded awesome power, is into revelling in its latest hold on governmental power and, as is given to a political party, it can tweak history into what is favourable for the moment, and it gets an opportunity to place its stamp of approval on ongoing infrastructure and name one leg of the North-South Highway 2000 network after Seaga.
In protest, the PNP has threatened that at its return to power, a name-change will be instituted and instead, that part of the highway will be named in favour of Portia Simpson Miller. And, one would assume that after that PNP administration loses, the JLP government to follow will rescind the name change. Who knows, such a seesaw may just be the best definition of government in Jamaica.
That said, it would be quite unfair to Seaga if all we thought of him was his insistence in protecting his constituents in West Kingston, to us an enclave whose best-known calling card was its ability to break the law in furtherance of garrison and gun politics.
The fact is, Seaga being named minister of development and welfare in his first stint at Cabinet work was no fluke. Sure, we have heard the tales that Busta feared him and wanted to full his Cabinet plate with just enough to soothe what would certainly be his grab for power.
If in Seaga reaching 88 we are not prepared to give up even a little of the knee-jerk animosity and the cultural and political tribal urges, then so be it. With that stored, we should therefore admit that any anger felt at Seaga's name attached to any section of our Highway 2000 is more self-generated than an exercise of rational thinking.
Don't get me wrong. I believe that many other roads throughout the island especially one or two in the Corporate Area would be more fitting with Seaga's name attached to it. But, I am a practical man who knows that political victors for better of for worse will always get to write the script in their first draft of history.
Like no other political leader in this country, Seaga the youngster in his 'blood and fire' days has not been able to shake controversy, so that even now, in his high 80's, it is drawn to him like burrs to a woolen pants.
I have never been privy to Seaga at Cabinet meetings from those days when the plans were on to shift the Kingston waterfront from downtown to Newport West. In the late 1960s. I have, however, seem him quite animated, depressingly sad and brought to tears at what he must have seen as political crisis whenever Tivoli Gardens had another violent face-off with the security forces.
Were I its MP, what would be expected of me? Abandon my constituents or stay close to them? In Jamaica, garrison politics require that one accepts the good people with the bad, even if outsiders choose to believe that you, the MP, are in lockstep with the bad.
Seaga's determination at protecting Tivoli has made much of Jamaica see him in only that light, and not as a man who was patriotic, a planner and a doer par excellence.