Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Seaga's 85th Birthday

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMChester Francis-Jackson
Professor Errol Morrison and his wife, Dr Fay Whitbourne, out to celebrate with Mr Seaga.
The man of the moment, former prime minister Edward Seaga, cuts his birthday cake with his wife, Carla, and daughter, Gabrielle.
Dr Rebecca Tortello-Greenland (niece of Edward Seaga), with her husband Dr Johnathan Greenland and their children Maria and Rhys.
Arnold Foote and his wife Patricia.
Socialite Michelle Bovell (left) and veteran politician Olivia Grange were out to celebrate with Edward Seaga at his 85th birthday party at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel last Saturday.

In looking back at our recent political history, it can be argued very persuasively, that the People's National Party (PNP) 'did a very good job' on Edward Seaga!

As a political child of the '70s, it was only in my adult years, that I took the time to try and distinguish or separate Eddie Seaga from the myth and political construct of his detractors, which included the demonic caricature that the PNP had successfully supplanted in my political consciousness, and quite frankly, made me and countless other Jamaicans view Seaga as nothing but a vile and wretched man, from Edward Seaga, the politician, patriot and firm believer in Jamaica; things Jamaican; and the supremacy of the Jamaican spirit and will.

Looking back, my mind is flooded with a number of 'quotes' supposedly attributed to Seaga, that not only scared the daylights out of me, but made me even more determined to fight him politically, in order to thwart his political ambition and grand design. The man was one to fear and eschew, and most certainly, not one to be embraced and/or worse, entrust with the reins of state power.


changing times

Times, however, are a-changing and have changed, and the once-feared Seaga has been revealed, and surprisingly, he, too, has proven to be human. A driven human whose political perspective and agenda were no different from those of his political opponents.

Well, Seaga is no longer the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and, as such, is no longer regarded as a political threat. So, curiously, the once-feared nemesis of all things upstanding is no longer the bogeyman. Seaga has been redeemed, at least by some of his one-time sworn arch-enemies and, mercifully, during his lifetime! Since his departure from active party politicking, however, and his sojourn into the hallowed halls of academia, the once-vicious spin doctors (both within the PNP and JLP) have sheathed their vicious swords and have allowed this great Jamaican patriot to claim his patrimony and embrace the legacy he has bequeathed a nation too politically drunk to fully appreciate his contribution to our evolution as a nation.

I do not regard Seaga as a political angel, but whatever his detractors say, the records will show he fought the good fight for what he believed to be in the best interests of his home and first love - Jamaica.

And so it was that, on May 28, Seaga celebrated his 85th birthday. Now an elder statesman, sadly, Seaga will never again be called upon to serve our country in the capacity of prime minister. And while there are those who lament this, there are those who celebrate it, as, for them it's a case of 'mission accomplished'.

Interestingly, however, some of Seaga's greatest accomplishments on behalf of the Jamaican people did not come about during his tenure as prime minister, but during his early years, in the post-independent JLP administration. It was his vision, which nourishes us now, in the areas of the arts, culture, sports and institution-building - points on which even his once-bitter critics will now grudgingly agree.

It has been said some people get better with age. That is most certainly true of Seaga. His conservative politics have masked the true humanitarian that he is.

And so it was, that, on June 6, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga, in celebration of his 85th birthday, hosted what was truly a 'state dinner' at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. His guests - a critically hand-picked shortlist of family, friends, one-time allies and opponents. What a charmer it proved!

To dub it a love fest would be to indulge in sophistry. It was, however, epic in tone, discourse and political texture, as this was not a gathering of the usual suspects from the ranks of the JLP, but people Seaga 'wanted' to share and break bread with! Joined by wife, Carla, and their daughter, Gabrielle, it was clear that this was a man at ease and peace with not only himself, but those who wronged him, and those he might have wronged.


A grand gathering

It was an august gathering of political and social heavyweights as well as family and friends, a number of whom journeyed from overseas for the occasion. Among those out were: Former Governor General Sir Kenneth and Lady Hall; Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson; Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips and wife, Sandra Minott Phillips; Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites and wife, the tres elegant Marcia; wife of the Opposition leader, Juliet Holness (he was overseas); MP Dr Kenneth Baugh and Velma Baugh; MP Karl Samuda and wife, Pauline; MP Derrick Smith and wife, Karlene ; MP Mike Henry and wife, Dawn Chambers Henry.

Also there was member of Parliament Pearnell Charles, who squired his daughter, Dr Michelle Charles; as well as MP Babsy Grange; MP Desmond McKenzie; Senator Tom Tavares-Finson and wife, Rose; Senator Bobby Montaque; Former Education Minister Dr Mavis Gilmour-Petersen; Distinguished Attorney Chris Bovell and wife, socialite extraordinaire and high fashion diva le grand dame Michelle; Former Senator Prudence Kidd-Deans; Gassan Azan Snr and Professor Errol Morrison and wife, Dr Fay Whitbourne Morrison.


many dignitaries

Also in attendance were the pre-eminent Frank Phipps; Abe Dabdoub and wife, Gisele; the esteemed Robert MacMillan; Barbara McNamee; Albert and Mel Seaga; Russell and Carol Hadeed; Madge Seaga; the lovely Shirley Williams; Eddie Shoucair; the elegant Dorothy Carter-Bradford; Richard and Janet Taylor; Arnold and Patricia Foote; Nicola Crosswell-Mair; Rev Bishop Dr Herro Blair and wife, Dr Alma Blair; Dr Jonathan Greenland and wife, Dr Rebecca Tortello-Greenland and their two children; the celebrated Ian Boyne; former Justice Minister and Senator Dorothy Lightbourne; Paul Hoo; the charming Barbara Gore and daughter, the lovely Rachael; Jeffery Cobham; Patrick Marzouca; Angela Patterson; Billy Heaven and wife, Rosemarie, celebrating 28 years of marriage; Enid Harrow; the charming Dawn Heron; the lovely Charmaine Anderson; and Hortense Grey; plus a number of others.

My dears, this party was, however, not about fluff. It was an Edward Seaga introspective, coming on the heels of the documentary film, commissioned by the CPTC, and premiered in fine and regal style in the ballroom of King's House, on May 31, to glowing reviews. But it proved a most enjoyable outing and then some! Chaired by Patrick Anderson, the oh-so-fabulously gifted Ana Strachan and Touch of Elegance, were simply flawless. Strachan's voice, simply a joy to the ears; with dinner being truly fab and the subsequent toasts making for a most endearing portrait of the man of the moment.

Well, the premiere of the documentary From Rebel To Leader, as well as last Saturday's gala dinner, offered a rare insight into the other, less-known side of Seaga - the man who cares deeply for Jamaica, his family, constituents and for the poor and marginalised people of this land.

Racconteur par excellence and unofficial social historian Robert MacMillan has a famous quote, to wit: "Kingston is a hard city, it does not give second chances". Well, he would be the first to revisit that pronouncement, having witnessed the fact that, indeed, Seaga has been given a 'second chance', not in governance, as is clear, but to step out of the shadow of the vile, angry marauder, as he was portrayed, and to embrace his humanity.

Seaga was most definitely not the most successful of our politicians when it came to winning elections. He is, however, one of the most accomplished - as his record will attest, and evidenced by the many tributes paid to him at his 85th birthday dinner.

And in the mother of all ironies, P.J. Patterson, the architect of many of Mr Seaga's political defeats, in paying tribute to his contribution and legacy, said it best, in quoting another PNP stalwart, the late Dudley Thompson - "Edward Seaga has been good for Jamaica".

Dears, truer words have never been spoken!