Former deputy PM Seymour Mullings dies at 82

Seymour Mullings dies after long illness

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 10, 2013

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THE late former Deputy Prime Minister, Ambassador Seymour Mullings earned the reputation in his 26 years as a member of the House of Representatives, as a parliamentarian of impeccable honesty, and one who cared for his people and his country.


Mullings, popularly known as 'Foggy', died at the Andrews Memorial Hospital early yesterday. He was 82.


The death of the land surveyor by profession, former Cabinet minister and long-standing member of Parliament for St Ann South East, triggered almost instantaneous responses from prominent individuals and organisations, all showering praise on him for what they described as the exemplary life that he led.


Among those hailing the former Cabinet minister were Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, Jamaica Labour Party Deputy Leader Audley Shaw, the People's National Party, which he served for over 50 years, and the Jamaica Labour Party's affiliate organisation, Generation 2000. Those tributes are carried elsewhere in this publication.


St Ann-born Mullings, up to yesterday, was the only ex-parliamentarian who served more Cabinet portfolios than anyone alive.


Apart from being deputy prime minister between 1993 and 2001 when he left politics, Mullings, known by some as 'everybody's friend', was at times in his career responsible for agriculture and fisheries, health, local government, mining and natural resources, finance and planning, land and the environment, foreign affairs and foreign trade.


Many would attest to his honesty in presiding over affairs of the State and his constituents often regard him as an approachable individual whose fairness was of an exceptionally high quality, one who would not be blinded by partisan political favouritism when scarce benefits were to be distributed among the people.


An avid cricket fan, Mullings was seen regularly attending matches at world-famous Kingston ground, Sabina Park, and often had strong views about who should captain the West Indies, as well as the batting and bowling combinations that the regional team should use.


Known also as one who loved horse racing, Mullings was a popular figure at race meets and would watch from corporate boxes at the North Lounge section of the track. He was instrumental in the improvement of Caymanas Park, including the purchasing of the new Tote machine and system when he was directly responsible for it while he was minister of finance.


Failing health since his retirement from active politics, over a decade ago, saw him spending much of his time at his Claremont, St Ann home with wife Lilieth, with whom he had a daughter — Rose, who gave him his only grandchild.


He suffered from Alzheimer's disease, a condition which, among other things, affects memory. He also had other ailments.


His retirement from elective politics saw him taking up the position of Jamaica's ambassador to the United States from 2001 to 2004.


Mullings, uncle of reggae artiste 'Tony Rebel' (real name Patrick Barrett), was also an avid piano player who would hold sessions for those interested in learning the art. He even teamed up with music teacher Ena Helps, also deceased, to provide music lessons for youngsters during the 1980s. The soft-spoken politician also played the instrument at some jazz shows.


Mullings entered the Jamaican Parliament in 1969 when he won the St Ann South East seat in a by-election.


He came into politics when one-time Leader of the Opposition, Dr Ivan Lloyd, quit the PNP and gave up his seat in Parliament.


Mullings beat the JLP's Garland Lloyd, son of Dr Lloyd, in the by-election.


He held the seat until 1983 when the Michael Manley-led People's National Party boycotted the snap general election of that year called by Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who was riding a wave of popularity, following Jamaica's role in the coup d'état on the Grenadian government, which resulted in the execution of the left-wing Prime Minister of that Eastern Caribbean island, Maurice Bishop.


However, Mullings was back in the House of Representatives in 1989, following a comfortable victory by the PNP. He served as MP until 2001, leaving the seat vacant for almost a year, after which he was succeeded by present High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, who was up to that time a senator.


The seat is now held by Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, who won the Miss World title in 1993, the same year that Mullings became PJ Patterson's deputy.


Like many of Jamaica's political leaders, Mullings attended the famed St Andrew institution, Jamaica College, the school in which his idols Norman Manley and Michael Manley were also enrolled. At the worst time of the PNP's modern-era performance in a general election — that of 1980 when the Jamaica Labour Party defeated the PNP 51-nine in the 60-seat count — Mullings was one of three rural-based PNP stalwarts to hold his seat, the others being Horace Clarke and Terry Gillette, both representing St Mary constituencies.


The other PNP members of the House at the time were Manley, Simpson (Miller), Anthony Spaulding, Dr DK Duncan, Dudley Thompson and Ralph Brown.


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