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Andrew Holness The Protege: Former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga Reflects on Holness's Journey to Jamaica House

Published:Friday | March 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga
Prime Minister Andrew Holness with Audley Shaw and former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga met Andrew Holness while he was executive director of the Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH), a social service organisation that operates in inner-city communities.

Given Seaga's own work in the area of social services, he immediately identified Holness as someone with whom he wanted to partner.

Surprisingly, that initial relationship of the former prime minister and the newly inaugurated prime minister had little to do with politics.

"I didn't incorporate him into my political operation. I incorporated him into my business operations, where we could still carry out the same benefits and investigations of the people who were in need," Seaga told The Gleaner.

During the period in 1995, when he worked as special assistant to Seaga at the Premium Group of Companies, Holness' political interest and ambition became apparent.

"As we went along, we spoke about politics, and I was glad to hear that his feelings were very much along the lines of the Jamaica Labour Party, and so I started to talk to him about aspects of politics such as organisation and representation, and, by the late 1990s, he was ready to take a step forward in an area that is not a very easy one - West Central St Andrew - but he was able to hold on to it, make a success of it, and has won it in every election ever since," the former prime minister explained.

Seaga, who has given unbroken political service for over four decades, recalls Holness as a keen protÈgÈ who was always ready to learn.

"What he learned from me was what any young representative should learn about the work that they are going to have to do and how to do it. I may have developed certain techniques and skills in certain areas of investigation and activities in politics that others had not, and so it would have given him an advantage. But you have to be on your own account very bright, very willing, have a lot of feeling for the people in poor circumstances, and if you don't have those things, no amount of teaching is going to help you," he said.

Even as Holness was politically tested during what was a bitter leadership challenge in the JLP in 2013, Seaga was confident that he would emerge victor.

"I knew he would pull through, simply because he did the things we had spoken of and what he learned in how to get people to want you as a political representative," he added.

Seaga conceded that he saw some reflection of himself in Holness but was quick to point out that the prime minister was his own man.

"I suppose there is some reflection. Andrew is not the only person who has passed through my hands in terms of learning the ropes in political life, and each one would have some take-off from me, but mostly, it is their own personality and willingness to do what has to be done, so I don't count that for too much, but it is a benefit to him," Seaga said.