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Seaga says 1980 victory was the prize

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2012    

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FORMER Prime Minister Edward Seaga says the most memorable event of his political life was winning the 1980 General Election.

"Because it changed Jamaica's history, and had it not been for that change I don't know where we may have been in terms of the future of this country," he said yesterday.

The former head of Government and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was speaking to the Jamaica Observer on the eve of one of the most important events in his life, when both Houses of the Jamaican Parliament honour him at Gordon House today, starting at 2:00 pm.

Speakers on both sides of the House have been given a maximum 15 minutes to pay tribute to Seaga for his role "in crafting the post-Independence parliamentary landscape". The ceremony will also be attended by former members of parliament (MPs), public officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

The 1980 election represented a major transition in local politics, as the defeat of the democratic socialist Government of Prime Minister Michael Manley ended the People's National Party's (PNP's) experiment with socialist economic policies.

The result of the election was the second widest margin in local general elections, the first being the PNP's 52 to 8 thrashing of the JLP in 1993.

However, 1980 will always be remembered for several other reasons, as it was regarded as the bloodiest election in Jamaica's history, and it probably marked the only the time the Jamaican electorate was ever faced with such a clear-cut ideological choice between socialism and capitalism.

Yesterday, Seaga said that he recognises today's event as an "extremely unusual" occasion, as no one has accomplished as much as he has as a parliamentarian.

"Nobody has served anywhere near my 45 years in Parliament, and may never; so it is a record which may stand forever," pointed out Seaga whose 45 years include two years as a member of the Legislative Council, the pre-Independence legislature.

Parliament says it is meeting to honour him as the only surviving member of the team that drafted the Jamaican Constitution, and one of three surviving members of the first Parliament of Independent Jamaica.

Seaga also holds the distinction of being Jamaica's longest-serving MP, having represented the constituency of West Kingston from 1962 until he retired in 2005.

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