GOVERNMENT MINISTERS yesterday joined hundreds of mourners at a funeral service for Wesley Black, father of well known PNP activist, Kenneth "Skeng Don" Black, at the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Government officials included Water and Housing Minister Dr. Karl Blythe, currently at the centre of a scandal involving millions of dollars in alleged cost overruns and overpayments in National Housing Development Corporation's Operation PRIDE projects, for which the younger Black's Black Brothers Inc. Limited is a major contractor.
Also attending the funeral of the 80-year-old late deacon was Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke, Dean Peart, State Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works and his brother Michael, State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
Noticeably absent was Health Minister Dr. John Junor, MP for Central Manchester, where the Black family resides.
Interest in the funeral was generated by both the controversy swirling around Mr. Black's business links with the PNP Government, as well as the likelihood that his father's funeral would have attracted a number of senior PNP officials, including Cabinet Ministers.
The issue of Government officials attending the funerals of party activists or "community dons" surfaced last May, after a number of senior Ministers, including Dr. Peter Phillips, the current Minister of National Security, Dr. Blythe, and Finance Minister Dr. Omar Davies attended the funeral service of slain Arnett Gardens' "don" William "Willie Haggart" Moore.
In November last year, Delroy Chuck, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesman on justice, was severely criticised for the tribute read on his behalf at the funeral of Andrew "Andrew Phang" Stephens, a resident in his North East St. Andrew constituency whom the police had shot dead under controversial circumstances.
The PNP hierarchy has consistently defended its association with Kenneth Black, noting that he was neither wanted in connection with nor is associated with any known criminal activity. But, Opposition Leader, Edward Seaage, has equally consistently accused the Government of distributing political patronage through Mr. Black.
The large Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church was filled to capacity yesterday, as family and friends of the late Deacon Black spoke glowingly of him.
A tribute was read by radio talk-show host Winston "Babatunde" Witter, who reminisced about the good days the elder Black shared with his 11 children.
Inside and outside the churchyard was a sea of V6 and SUV vehicles, including late model Pajeros, Honda CRVs, Mercedes Benz, Mark IIs and BMWs.
If it wasn't for the quiet gloom that hugged the air, one could easily have mistaken the event for a fashion show, as female mourners wore the latest hairdos and exotic black, tight-fitting outfits.
Mourners spilled over in the churchyard, some leaning against a white Cadillac hearse awaiting Mr. Black's body, which was taken to its final resting place at the nearby Oaklawn Memorial Gardens.
The deceased was laid to rest inside a cream coffin with bronze handles. A beautifully-decorated wreath, etched "Daddy B", was conspicuously placed over the casket.
Two Cabinet, two State Ministers among mourners