Omar Davies lauded by constituents, former PMs
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Long-standing Member of Parliament for South St Andrew Dr Omar Davies is not given to fanfares in his honour.
But on Saturday night, despite his "misgivings," Davies, the tough, no-nonsense negotiator, had no choice in the matter, with his wife, Rose, by his side.
Davies had apparently cajoled, bullied or coerced his entire family to assist in his plans to enhance the lives of the people whom he has represented for 21 years.
So, his family conspired with the South St Andrew constituency executive, the people of the area, as well as the directorate of the People's National Party (PNP) to honour him at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
If the numerous accolades that flowed from the broad cross section of society - politics, Church and civic/social groups, as well as constituents of South St Andrew, are anything to go by, Davies is not about to call it a day.
Having served as finance minister for 14 years and transport and works minister for three, Davies was the toast of a lavish dinner his constituency executive had engineered.
The summary of Davies' last 21 years was: "His outstanding record of achievement has showed that he has laboured long and hard to give the people of the constituency a fighting chance in life."
The tributes highlighted how Davies' heavy focus on education, sanitation, housing and infrastructure yielded positive outcomes that changed the character, attitudes and personalities of numerous people in the constituency.
The blend of past and present parliamentarians, prominent business leaders, and an array of personalities from civic, social and sports organisations chorused Davies' praise in melodious harmony, complemented by musical experts who showcased their talent.
Davies' political leadership of the once explosive constituency was described as transformative, even as he marshalled the nation's finances, a job which former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson described as most difficult.
After a four-year respite, when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) overturned the PNP's four-term electoral fortunes, Davies, on his return, focused on tackling woes bedevilling transport and works in Jamaica.
While anecdotes were colourfully descriptive, it was George Phang, the prominent constituency personality who elicited a deafening hush followed by a thunderous applause, when he declared that Davies was pivotal in reshaping his life.
"Dr Davies is my hero," declared Phang, who was accompanied by renowned entertainers, Charlie Chaplin and Beres Hammond.
Patterson joined in the recollections with constituency members, regaling the audience on how Davies immediately waged war on violence during his first trek through the community 21 years ago. And by all indications, his efforts have paid off.
Davies, they recalled, was about to venture through a once-feared area on Seventh Street in the community that bordered JLP and PNP warring factions when he was stopped by supporters who warned him of the dangers of crossing "the border".
"No borders!" declared Davies in response to the caution.
"It might have been courage, but it was downright dangerous," quipped Patterson, showing off his knowledge of the geography of South St Andrew where his alma mater, Calabar High School, was located when he attended that institution as a boy.
It was Patterson who, as prime minister, summoned Davies in 1993 to the seat vacated by the loyal Hartley Jones, when former Finance Minister Hugh Small abandoned ship.
"Not only to South St Andrew, but Omar has made a singular contribution to politics in Jamaica," he asserted. "There is much to be done, but he has done enough to leave a lasting legacy," he added.
Tributes flowed from three of the four past living prime ministers, including Portia Simpson Miller, and Edward Seaga from the rival JLP. All three, at one time or another, played pivotal roles during Davies' tenure in representative politics.
Seaga was effusive in his praise of Davies as an excellent MP, a sentiment echoed by Simpson Miller.
Davies and Seaga share some similarities. Not only were they former finance ministers, but share birthdays on May 28 and represent the neighbouring garrison constituencies of South St Andrew and Western Kingston.
The function was repeatedly told that it was because of their collaboration that sustained peace had been forged between the once-rivalling constituencies.