Edward Seaga

Michael Manley Jamaica Labour Party Prime Minister of Jamaica

Edward Seaga

Edward Seaga.jpg
5th Prime Minister of Jamaica
In office
1 November 1980 – 10 February 1989
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Florizel Glasspole
Preceded byMichael Manley
Succeeded byMichael Manley
Leader of the Opposition
In office
10 February 1989 – 21 January 2005
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterMichael Manley
P. J. Patterson
Preceded byMichael Manley
Succeeded byBruce Golding
In office
1974 – 1 November 1980
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterMichael Manley
Preceded byHugh Shearer
Succeeded byMichael Manley
Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party
In office
November 1974 – 21 January 2005
Preceded byHugh Shearer
Succeeded byBruce Golding
Personal details
Edward Philip George Seaga

(1930-05-28)28 May 1930
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died28 May 2019(2019-05-28) (aged 89)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Political partyJamaica Labour Party
Marie 'Mitsy' Constantine
(m. 1965; dis 1995)

Carla Vendryes
(m. 1996)
EducationHarvard University

Edward Philip George Seaga ON PC (/siˈɑːɡə/ or /-ˈæ-/; 28 May 1930 – 28 May 2019)[1] was a Jamaican politician.[2] He was the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica, from 1980 to 1989, and the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party from 1974 to 2005.[3] He served as leader of the opposition from 1974 to 1980, and again from 1989 until January 2005.

His retirement from political life marked the end of Jamaica's founding generation in active politics. He was the last serving politician to have entered public life before independence in 1962, as he was appointed to the Legislative Council (now the Senate) in 1959. Seaga is credited with having built the financial and planning infrastructure of the country after independence, as well as having developed its arts and crafts, and awareness of national heritage.

As a record producer and record company owner of West Indies Records Limited, Seaga also played a major role in the development of the Jamaican music industry. Seaga died on May 28, 2019, on his eighty-ninth birthday.

Early life

Edward Philip George Seaga was born on 28 May 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States to Philip George Seaga, who was of Lebanese Jamaican descent, and Erna (née Maxwell), who was Jamaican of African, Scottish and Indian descent.[3][4] He and his parents returned to Jamaica when he was three months old. He was baptised in Kingston's Anglican Parish Church on 5 December 1930. Erna was the daughter of Elizabeth Campbell (maiden name), daughter of John Zungaroo Campbell.

The young Seaga was educated at Wolmer’s Boys' School in Jamaica. He went to the United States for higher education, graduating from Harvard University in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts (Harvard AB) degree in the Social Sciences.[5] Before embarking on his political career, Seaga was a music producer and promoter. He subsequently took a research post at the University of the West Indies.[3]

Music industry career

Seaga's research led to an interest in popular Jamaican music. In 1955, he supervised the recording of an album of ethnic Jamaican music.[6] He continued to produce recordings by other artists and in the late 1950s set up West Indies Records Limited, releasing early recordings by artists such as Higgs and Wilson and Byron Lee & the Dragonaires.[6] Beginning in 1961, Seaga lived in West Kingston. He became deeply involved in its music scene and recorded some of its artists.

West Indies Records Limited became the most successful record company in the West Indies.[6] After being elected in 1962 as a Member of Parliament, representing the Jamaica Labour Party, he sold the company to Byron Lee. It was renamed Dynamic Sounds.[6]

Over 16 years, Seaga worked on compiling a collection of Jamaican music covering the period from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. This anthology, Reggae Golden Jubilee Origins of Jamaican Music, was released on 6 November 2012 in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaican independence.[7]

Political career

Seaga's political career began in 1959 when Sir Alexander Bustamante, founder of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), nominated him to serve in the Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament, the Legislative Council (later the Senate).[6] His appointment at the age of 29 made him the youngest member ever appointed to the Legislative Council.[6] In 1961, he participated in drafting the Jamaican Constitution.[citation needed]

In April 1962, Seaga was elected Member of Parliament for West Kingston, the waterfront area in the capital city. Historically, it has been the oldest settlement in Kingston for poor, working-class residents, many of whom are unemployed.[6] Employment is largely petty trading with some semi-skilled craftsmen. He held that seat for 43 consecutive years, until he retired, making him the longest-serving Member of Parliament in the history of Jamaica and the Caribbean region.[3] He is the only person to have been elected as Member of Parliament for West Kingston for more than one term, and won 10 consecutive terms.

Immediately after winning his seat in 1962, Seaga was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of Development and Welfare, with responsibility for all areas of planning, social development and culture. He initiated the redevelopment of Back-of-Wall, a notorious large slum in West Kingston, and its replacement by housing, schools and community amenities, which was named Tivoli Gardens. He also used his position to continue to promote Jamaican music.[6] Following the 1967 General Elections, Seaga was appointed Minister of Finance and Planning.[6] In 1974 he became Leader of the JLP, in which he served for 30 years; he was also Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition in various periods.[6]

Edward P.G. Seaga became Prime Minister of Jamaica following the General Election of 30 October 1980, when the Jamaica Labour Party won a landslide victory over the incumbent People’s National Party (PNP), with the largest mandate ever. The mandate of Seaga and the Jamaica Labour Party was renewed in the uncontested 1983 General Elections.[6] He continued as Prime Minister until February 1989.

As one of the founding fathers in the framing of the Jamaican Constitution in 1961, Seaga spearheaded far-reaching constitutional reforms. He initiated a re-write of the human rights section of the Constitution, to provide for a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms; creation of the post of Public Defender; and curtailment of some of the powers of the Prime Minister to provide a better balance of power between the executive and the parliament in the Jamaican system of governance.[8]

Controversy: Consider two statements: ‘Edward Seaga saved Jamaica’, and ‘Edward Seaga ‘mash up’ Jamaica.” Columnist and attorney-at-law Daniel Thwaites said that while these diametrically opposed sentiments run to the extremes, both are surprisingly prevalent. “It is a barometer of the lasting contentiousness and potential divisiveness of any appraisal of Papa Eddie.” Thwaites argued that the only other figure in Jamaican political history who could possibly be as controversial as Seaga would be his nemesis, the late former Prime Minister Michael Manley. “And because of their titanic decades-long confrontation, they will be forever – and, perhaps ironically – inextricably linked.” [9] Other commentators have been much more direct in their criticism of Seaga's legacy.[10]

Contributions to independent Jamaica

Economic and financial development

Seaga established many of the financial institutions required in newly independent Jamaica to build a financial market for successful economic investment and growth, including the following:

1972 Jamaica Mortgage Bank

1981 National Development Bank (NDB)

1981 Agricultural Credit Bank (ACB)

1982 Agro 21

Planning and development

Rural and urban planning and the environment have been prime areas of development in Seaga's career. He has focused on waterfront development in the main coastal towns and cities, rural and urban township development programmes, and the development of parks and markets. They included the following:

1969 Comprehensive development plan for infrastructure of many rural towns (later CRDTDP)

1971 20-Year Physical Development Plan

1983 National Conference Centre - headquarters of the International Seabed Authority

1983 National Committee for Drug Abuse

1985 MPM - Beautification and Public Cleansing

1988 Reclamation of Montego Bay Waterfront

1988 Negril development (Bloody Bay)

1988 Social Well-being Plan

Various Times Land Bank - purchase of 50,000 acres of prime properties for future development (Negril, Orange Bay, Auchindown, Mt. Edgecombe, Seville, Laughing Water, Belmont (Dunns River), Winifred Rest Home property, Caymanas).

Various Times Development of several hotels - Kingston Waterfront, Ocho Rios, Negril.

Social programmes

Seaga was the architect of a wide range of social programmes which expanded training in human resources, aided small enterprises and protected the poor and vulnerable.

1963 Construction of the National Arena

1963 Things Jamaican - craft development

1963 Launching of the Drug Abuse Committee (later Council)

1964 100 Village Community Development Programme

1965 Community sports development on a structured islandwide basis

1965 The Golden Age Movement

1965 The National Volunteers

1970 Student Revolving Loan Fund for Higher Education

1971 National School Feeding Programme

1972 Establishment of Jamaica Racing Commission and Jockey School

1974 Institute of Mass Communication; later renamed Caribbean Institute of Media & Communication (CARIMAC)

1982 H.E.A.R.T. (Human Employment & Resource Training)

1984 Food Stamp Programme for elderly poor and lactating mothers

1984 ARP - Administrative Reform Programme for fundamental Civil Service reforms

1985 Golden Age Home for the elderly poor

1986 L.E.A.P. (Learning for Earning Activity Programme) for street children

1988 P.A.C.E. (Programme for Advancement of Early Childhood Education)

1988 Residential Halls for UWI, UTECH and Cultural Training Centre

Cultural programmes

Seaga established in independent Jamaica most of the institutions to build cultural awareness and national identity, as well as develop arts, crafts and national heritage.

1963 Jamaica Festival

1964 Promotion to launch Jamaican music (ska) abroad

1964 Return and interment of Marcus Garvey's body at Jamaica

1964 Order of National Heroes - Garvey first named hero

1964 National Heroes Park

1965–69 - development of several museums: Arawak, Port Royal

1967 Jamaica Journal publication (Institute of Jamaica)

1967 Research and recording of folk culture

1967 Devon House

1968 National Heritage Week

1971 Design of the Cultural Training Centre (Arts, Drama, Music, Painting & Sculpture)

1972 Jamaica Racing Commission and Jockey School

1986 Establishment of the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC)

1988 Planned development of heritage sites (Port Royal, Spanish Town, Seville)

1988 Media Divestment Programme, to establish several small private radio stations and church television

Institutional, parliamentary, political and constitutional reforms

Seaga is recognized as the initiator of some of the most important political, parliamentary and constitutional reforms which affect governance of the country.

1961 Member of the Parliamentary Commission which drafted the Constitution for independent Jamaica

1979 Electoral reforms: structure of EAC

1986 Establishment of Contractor General proposed in 1979

1986 Media Commission

1992 Constitutional Reform: Advocate General (renamed Public Defender)

1993 Constitutional Reform: Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

1994 Several Parliamentary reforms:

1994 Money Bills tabled in Parliament to regulate money supply by law

International programmes

Jamaica is recognized for initiating several far-reaching international programmes within the Caribbean region and worldwide, due to Seaga's proposals to create new international agreements.

1974 UNESCO International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (Culture Bank)

1982 Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI)

1986 UNDP - United Nations International Short Term Advisory Resources - UNISTAR (Manpower Bank)

1986 Caribbean Democrat Union (CDU)

1986 CARIBCAN (Canada)



Personal life

On 22 August 1965, Seaga married Marie Elizabeth "Mitsy" Constantine, Miss Jamaica 1965. They had two sons, Christopher and Andrew, and a daughter Anabella. This marriage was dissolved in 1995.

On 14 June 1996, he married Carla Frances Vendryes. Their daughter Gabrielle was born 16 September 2002. With a Masters in Public Administration, Vendryes Seaga has a special interest in sociological research and the development of Jamaican handicraft. She founded the Solidarity project to assist the poor in small entrepreneurial enterprises. She founded an organization to assist victims of violence.

Seaga was deeply involved in cultural activities, particularly folk music and all aspects of things Jamaican. A keen gardener and amateur landscaper, he used his love for plants and flowers to develop the Enchanted Garden resort, a unique attraction in Jamaica.

As an athlete, Seaga played on several college and school teams: field hockey, cricket, football, rifle, tennis and swimming (diving). He participated as a member of various hunting clubs and the Jamaica Skeet Club.

Civic activities

In West Kingston, he became the president of the Tivoli Gardens Football, Basketball and Netball clubs. He then became Chairman of the Premier League Football Association and the Professional Football Association of Jamaica, with responsibility for the 12 Premier League teams and the staging of the Premier League.

Later years and death

On 20 January 2005, Edward Seaga retired as Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, a position which he held for 30 years. He retired as a Member of Parliament after serving for 43 years in the House of Representatives, in addition to two years in the Senate. He has the longest period of continuous service of any elected representative in the Caribbean region.

With appointments to academia at the University of the West Indies, the Institute of Jamaica and the University of Technology, he became engaged in research and writing, as well as teaching and leadership.

On 28 May 2019, his 89th birthday, Seaga died in Miami, Florida, where he had been receiving treatment for cancer.[11]

Honours and awards

In 2005, the University of the West Indies awarded him the honorary title of Distinguished Fellow for Life. He was also installed as a Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica, devoted to the arts and sciences.

Seaga was also honoured by several other countries:

He received several prestigious international awards:

Seaga was appointed as a Distinguished Fellow by the University of the West Indies, Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica, and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Technology

Honorary Degrees:


  1. ^ Mason, Peter (28 May 2019). "Edward Seaga obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Birthdays today". The Telegraph. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014. Mr Edward Seaga, Prime Minister of Jamaica, 1980–90, 83
  3. ^ a b c d "Profile: Edward Seaga", BBC; retrieved 8 April 2012.
  4. ^ Helps, HG. "Seaga turns 85 today". The Jamaica Observer.
  5. ^ Headley, Bernard (16 January 2005). "Edward Seaga: A political life". Jamaica Obverse. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Eder, Bruce "Edward Seaga Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 8 April 2012.
  7. ^ "VP Records to launch Seaga's 'Origins of Jamaican Music'", Jamaica Observer, 25 September 2012; retrieved 29 September 2012
  8. ^ "Jamaica Observer Limited". www.jamaicaobserver.com. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  9. ^ "[http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20190529/seaga-one-don-controversy Gleaner Company; retrieved 29 May 2019.
  10. ^ "[https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/06/14/edward-seaga-and-the-institutionalization-of-thuggery-violence-and-dehumanization-in-jamaica/CounterPunch; retrieved 23 June 2019.
  11. ^ Edward Seaga has died at 89