A few days ago when the House met specifically to honour former Prime Minister Eddie Seaga there was no shortage of sweet words flowing from the lips of those who only did it for the show and national spectacle that it was.
The stony-faced Seaga sat through it and must have known that the grand hypocrisy was not really meant for him. It was really a contest designed to determine whose mendacity was the best, and also which politician could stand himself long enough to complete it.
In response to the grand poppy show, Seaga pretty much blamed every ill on everyone else but himself. That must have been the most unkind cut of all — listening to the man being honoured heaping blame on those honouring him.
Serve them all right.
Wasn’t Seaga there in the first decade of our Independence as a woefully backward JLP Government was banning books that all the politicians had read but were thought too ‘radical’ for our puny brains? Wasn’t he there when the Government denied entry to Walter Rodney, a Guyanese son of the Caribbean, because it was thought that Rodney was instilling too much of us in ourselves?
Wasn’t Seaga a part of the JLP Government that had generally agreed with the PNP leadership position that Rastas were less than human and that it would be OK for the police to hold them and cut off their locks with dull ratchet knives?
Wasn’t he the politician who bulldozed ‘Back O Wall’ and in its place constructed Tivoli Gardens?
What, I ask, in all of that, was there to honour?
And if all of that was not so tragic, Seaga, in pushing forth his long-debunked idea of pegging our money to the US dollar, reintroduced his particular bit of demagoguery and expected the foolish students to stand in awe of his economic idiocy.
Where is the minimum level of goods and services produced by Jamaica and in demand by others outside our shores to make that ‘pegging’ make any sense?
What I found particular nauseating was not so much that those politicians from the PNP who had spent their entire lives excoriating Seaga were praising him, but many in his own party who had, with sound reason, pushed him from leadership were laying rose petals at his feet as if he was the messiah that he had previously made himself out to be. That was sickening!
Seaga once said to me that Jamaica has never wanted him but has always needed him. He was certainly right on half of that.
Sure, we know that politicians are well studied in the art of diplomacy — in our circles known as hypocrisy — but did they have to lay it on so thick, and all at once? We know that Seaga is getting on in age and, in our society, it is considered quite unkind to disrespect the aged. The thing is, Seaga was a politician who came to the people of the country and begged them to vote for him.
At no stage did the people of this country beg him to drop what he was doing, stare them in their doe-like eyes and plead with him, ‘Mass Eddie, save our souls.’ It was the other way around.
So, when a man puts himself up for public office and is elected, even if the vote is guaranteed for the JLP, like it is in West Kingston, he must be prepared for the harsh criticisms, even as he surrounds himself with political lackeys and the low information voters who will literally kill for him.
To his credit, he was part of the JLP Government that was leading the growth spurt in the early 1960s. With investments in bauxite mining and the commercial synergy that that brought about, it is my belief that had the PNP held power at the time, the growth patterns would have been similar.
After the PNP’s Michael Manley had made a mess of the economic landscape — in large part due to his wild political experimentation — in October of 1980 Seaga won the largest political victory ever seen in the history of this country.
From what could be seen on the surface, Seaga had called the snap election in 1983 and the PNP did not contest it, giving the JLP all 60 seats. Based on Seaga’s dictatorial leadership style it was a surprise to many that he did not use the awesome power handed to him on a platter to usurp the democracy in play at the time.
Quite probably Seaga knew that he had earned the dislike of the nation’s people; so even if he wanted to test the waters of dictatorship that would have been a useless and dangerous experiment.
As many remembered his role in the American invasion of puny Grenada, we also recall the impressive growth rates that Jamaica recorded from 1985 to 1989.
The growth rates of that period must be placed alongside the fact that he had an able ally in Washington in Ronald Reagan, whose aid to Jamaica made it the secondhighest per capita. Only Israel was receiving more hard US dollar aid per capita than Jamaica.
If Seaga was still leader of the JLP and it held power now, all of that would be absent with no Cold War tensions on.
It is a fallacy of Seaga to be telling the present PNP Government what prescriptions it should be seeking from the IMF. Seaga is living in the past.
The fact is, Jamaica has been living on other countries’ monies for too long and, to the PNP’s discredit, it was the Administration which bloated the size of the civil service after Seaga had culled it in the 1980 to 1989 period. Presently Jamaica has no wiggle room and Seaga’s advice to the PNP on how to deal with the IMF must be taken for what it is — the ramblings of an old soldier who still believes it is possible to head to the front.
Lastly, because it was always Seaga’s belief that he had a last hurrah in him, that is, an electoral win to mirror that of 1980, he remained too long as the leader of the JLP.
Too many people have credited PJ Patterson as some wizard of politics, based on his multiple wins. The fact is, as long as Seaga was leading the JLP, the PNP was guaranteed the win, because the country simply did not like Seaga as much as the small group of fanatics surrounding him imagined it did.
I blame Seaga partly for the economic ruination of this country.
This as the PNP has always whittled down the economic fortunes of this country because it concentrates more on redistribution than growing the economy. In the 1970s it was the Impact Programme (‘Crash Programme’).
The 2012 version of it, with less funds available, is called JEEP.
With Seaga steadfastly hanging on to the leadership, while destroying all who dared to challenge him, it simply gave the PNP more time than normal to ‘eat its way through’ the country’s economy.
The politicians who stood up to hail Seaga last week must hang their heads in shame, especially those in the JLP. Many of them making grand speeches must have had totally different ideas in their heads.
That, in any language, is called hypocrisy.