Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Orville Brown | Seaga is father of the nation

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Leader of the parliamentary Opposition, Edward Seaga, being escorted by a policewoman to lay a wreath at the shrine of Sir Alexander Bustamante in National Heroes Park in Kingston on February 24, 1995. The national hero was a political mentor to Seaga.

To argue a case persuasively, I always tell my students to define their topic, and in the present case, definition is of particular importance. What is a father and what is a nation? Is fatherhood accomplished by generating the sperm that fertilises the egg that produces a child in nine months, or does fatherhood lie in rearing the child, giving it love, guidance and discipline, so it develops self-confidence and a strong identity? Clearly, it is the latter case.

And what is a nation? A nation is a body of people who share the same language, territory, culture, history, aspirations and who establish their own identity in the world. By these definitions, some of whom Ewart Walters, writing in your paper ('Father of which nation?', Sunday Gleaner, March 4, 2018), declares are fathers of Jamaica are really birthers, and the man whom he chooses to disregard, Edward Seaga, is the true father of this nation.

Walters advances Norman Manley's claim to the title on the basis of Manley's legal brilliance, his creation of Jamaica Welfare, and his supposed gift of the Independence constitution. But he proceeds from there to undermine his own argument by mentioning programmes that show the PNP cloned itself from Marcus Garvey's movement, adopted his entire programme, and took over his Edelweiss Park headquarters after they had treated Garvey with contempt and Manley had declared in 1936 that Jamaica was not ready to have political parties. Nor was the adult suffrage constitution the gift of Norman Manley to Jamaica; it was the gift of J.A.G. Smith, modified by contributions from the PNP and the Federation of Citizens' Association, and for a time it was referred to as the Smith Constitution.

Even if the PNP president had some valid claim to the birthing, he surrendered it when he chose to pursue his dream of a federation of the West Indies.

When he resisted the country's impulse towards nationhood, it played a decisive part in his loss of the 1962 elections. So how is he the father?

 

Bustamante's role

 

Walters belittles the industrial relations gains won by Bustamante to make the case that what Manley did through Jamaica Welfare was more important. Welfare was a social-service organisation funded by the United Fruit Company at Norman Manley's suggestion from a small cess on its banana exports. It taught homemaking skills and encouraged social life in the rural areas especially.

But, like the approach of the previous PNP government, it was focused on poverty alleviation and not prosperity, and while it is good to alleviate poverty, the greater goal must be to make people into independent income earners, which is exactly what Bustamante achieved through collective bargaining and then by economic development in the adult suffrage administration and then the Independence administration.

In addition, Bustamante gave to the Jamaican working class something that is as important as life itself: a sense of dignity, and that is why they pledged him lifelong loyalty in the working-class anthem, We will follow Bustamante till we die. Manley and his party, by contrast, took a patronising attitude to the working class like the Havendale householder, who gives the thirsty traveller the hose over the fence for a drink of water; Bustamante was the householder who invites the traveller in to have his water in a glass.

If my definition of fatherhood is accurate, Marcus Garvey and, in a more limited sense, Norman Manley were birthers, but Bustamante and Seaga were our nation's fathers - Bustamante being the inspirational leader who spoke nationhood when Manley said federation, and Seaga being the transformational leader who did the nation-building.

Seaga built the financial infrastructure for economic success through 10 different financial institutions, among them the Jamaica Development Bank, the stock exchange, the Agricultural Credit Bank and others. He transformed the physical infrastructure through the Urban Development Corporation, which rebuilt the foreshore in Kingston, MoBay and Ocho Rios and created a new tourism experience at Negril. Under his administration came a new town over the waters in Portmore.

Bauxite companies, factories to create jobs, 100,000 acres of land transferred to farmers, enormous expansion in education, the first system of social security, and many other programmes came from Seaga's vision. Among Seaga's gifts were the so-called people programmes credited to Michael Manley, which were first announced in the Throne Speech to the 1969 Budget and were in an advanced stage of preparation or preliminary implementation when the JLP lost the 1972 elections.

More than anyone else, Seaga understood the importance of culture in nation-building; that culture defines a people, inspires them to excellence and gives them their special place in the world. Seaga encouraged, through Jamaica Festival, the folk ways of the ordinary people instead of the imitation of things European that the Manleys took for culture. On this lies one of Seaga's best claims.

 

Journalist or propagandist?

 

Walters' article ceased its pretence at journalism and entered the realm of partisan propaganda when he quoted PNP adversaries about Seaga promising to dip his finger in PNP blood, about Tivoli having only JLP people, about Seaga creating the first garrisons, coddling criminals, and conniving with the CIA against Jamaica's best interests.

One expects better from a professed journalist, and although one's first inclination is to dismiss the assertions with contempt, this writer will answer because there are people who might have bought the nonsense that Walters was peddling. If the overwhelming JLP presence in Tivoli Gardens is objectionable, why isn't the overwhelming PNP presence in Arnett Gardens and Payne Avenue also objectionable?

But the truth is that West Kingston has been a place of refuge for JLP supporters driven out of other areas controlled by the PNP. Which leads to the paternity of the garrison constituencies which were not created by Seaga but by PNP Vice-President Wills O. Isaacs in 1949 when he used criminal gangs to wrest control of the Corporate Area from the JLP, a situation that remained largely unchanged until 1980. The gangs included #69 (mustered out of that same address on Matthews Lane), Resistance, Pioneer and Underprivileged.

Where more recent criminal activity in the inner city is concerned, the gangs find havens in the communities regardless of who represents them, and there were, and are, gangs in west Kingston as there were, and are, gangs like Spoilers, Tel-Aviv and Garrison in central Kingston, the latter being referred to by Michael Manley as his "paseros". Seaga was never an abettor of criminals and he is the only MP who ever gave the police a list of names of criminals who were troubling his constituency.

 

No covert CIA operations

 

The CIA became the whipping boy for Michael Manley's mismanagement of the economy and attempts were made to put Seaga in connivance with that intelligence agency, but CIA files declassified in the year 2000 show that there had been no covert operations in Jamaica and Seaga was certainly not in cahoots with that organisation. He did call international attention to the rape of the democracy in the 1976 state of emergency and the elections of that year and to Manley's refusal to remove the conduct of elections from political control: he was fighting as a father to protect this nation from elements in PNP who wanted to make Jamaica a one-party socialist state.

That purpose was made clear by Allan Isaacs when he resigned from the PNP government in 1976 and was confirmed by D.K. Duncan at an anti-imperialist rally at the stadium on October 12, 1980. Duncan was enraged because at a time when the air was thick with coups and rumours of coups, Brigadier Neish, head of the JDF, made his position clear in an address to the Kiwanis at the end of September in which he declared, "... The army will defend the constitution." Duncan answered Neish and, in the course of his address, said:

"We need to return to the dream of one party leading the way to progress and the PNP shall rule this country for 100 years. When that is written into the new Constitution, I will personally take a copy to Screech [Neish] and I will say to Screech, this is the new Constitution, defend that!"'

That is what Seaga was fighting against and calling attention to. He was defending the nation he had done so much to build. Edward Seaga is the father of this nation.

- Orville Brown is a teacher and writer now resident in the USA. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and thewriter.brown@gmail.com.