Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Seaga celebrates 85th birthday

Published:Monday | June 8, 2015 | 6:12 AMGary Spaulding
Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga is fed a slice of birthday cake by wife Carla, while their daughter, Gabrielle, looks on during his 85th birthday celebration at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Saturday.

 

Lingering fragrance of soothing music, nostalgic anecdotes and humorous reminiscences that enwrapped glorious tributes, wafted throughout the ballroom of The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The customarily serious look of concentration and typically stoic imagery were gone, replaced by mellow smiles, as former Prime Minister Edward Phillip George Seaga greeted all and sundry.

And there were many in attendance, even some who were once gladiators in the fierce political arena of Jamaica. They came out to share in the 85th birthday celebrations for Jamaica's fifth prime minister.

But even in the moment of celebration, the dry wit of the man of the moment was on full display.

"I am 85 and still alive," was Seaga's coinage as he gave thanks for life.

But then he would quip: "Don't let your brain die: Retiring is too tiring."

Described as an incurable workaholic, Seaga signalled that his sharp mind was in no mood for relaxation when he rhymed: "I am soon 89 and am still feeling fine."

With the strident partisan divide diminishing with the passage of time, Seaga's erstwhile political arch rival, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson paid tribute.

"We were adversaries on the political front but not personal enemies," asserted Patterson. "But in all of this we were partners in the building of our country."

Patterson was not sparing in his recollection of the immense role Seaga played as the architect of the range of institutions that are still serving Jamaica well, more than 50 years after Independence.

The man who wrestled with Seaga on the political stage for nearly a decade and a half, declared that he stamped his image in a wide range of developments.

"A masterful innings with strokes all around" and "he scores goals galore" were just a few of the plaudits lavished by Patterson.

Two other former prime ministers - Seaga's mentor, Andrew Holness and Portia Simpson Miller, a close political pal of Seaga - were expected to be in attendance but were unavoidably absent.

With the likes of former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall, former Education Minister Mavis Gilmour, legal luminary Frank Phipps and a host of influential personalities from both sides of the political arena, academia, sports and the business community in attendance, the rich aura of the night was intact.

It was a night when Jamaica's fifth prime minister was honoured for surviving it all - victories and defeats; the hills and valleys of a rugged and challenging political landscape.

In what was unquestionably one of the more touching moments of the evening, veteran politician Karl Samuda, a major participant in the so-called Gang of Five saga in the early 1990s, said "sorry" to Seaga.

Describing his former leader as one of Jamaica's greatest sons, Samuda said: "My only regret is that when I could have, I didn't exercise more patience, humility and understanding in order to avoid unnecessary challenges."

Samuda described the more than 47 years of relationship as stormy at times.

"Nonetheless, there is no single person who has had a more profound impact on my life," he said.

Pearnel Charles, another prominent cast member in the 'Gang of Five' saga, joined other JLP stalwarts including Derrick Smith and Shirley Williams in putting Seaga's long political tenure into perspective.

Accompanied by their daughter, Gabrielle, wife Carla Seaga, who rarely speaks in public these days, made the occasion an exception.

She asserted that her husband was not abashed by self sacrifice in doing what he does best - looking out for others at all times.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com