Former housing minister Easton Douglas laid to rest

Senior staff reporter

Friday, September 21, 2018

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FORMER Member of Parliament (MP), Cabinet minister and civil servant Easton Douglas was buried yesterday at rustic St Dorothy's Anglican Church cemetery in Old Harbour, St Catherine, after an official service inside a packed St Andrew Parish Church.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness was joined by two former prime ministers — P J Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller — as well as Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and a number of current and former parliamentarians and civil servants at the mid-morning service in St Andrew.

Douglas died on Sunday, August 26, at his home in St Andrew after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Born in Old Harbour, he was schooled in Trelawny and Kingston and eventually at The University of the West Indies and other tertiary institutions overseas, emerging as a chartered valuator, surveyor, land economist, town planner, and realtor.

After serving in the civil service, including as a permanent secretary and government town planner, he entered competitive politics in 1989, representing St Andrew South Eastern. He won the seat, which had been held by the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Allan Isaacs since 1980, for three consecutive terms up to 2002. During that period he served as minister of health, minister of the public service and the environment and minister of land, environment and housing.

One of Douglas's daughters, Councillor Kari Douglas, who represents the Trafalgar division of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, read the second remembrance, which was written by her uncle, Dr Conrad Douglas. One of his nieces, Melissa, read the third lesson from St John 14:1-6.

Prime Minister Holness read the first lesson (Lamentations 3:21-26), followed by Opposition Leader Dr Phillips' reading of the second lesson (Romans 8:31-39).

Former People's National Party (PNP) MP Paul Buchanan, who read the first remembrance, which he noted was a request Douglas made on his death bed, recorded the late minister's strong-willed approach to his job as both housing minister, as well as government town planner under the late housing minister Anthony Spaulding.

Buchanan referred to some “heated arguments” between Douglas and Spaulding, which he said could have led to physical exchanges, including over Spaulding's insistence on his authority to go ahead with his housing plans as a corporation sole, despite Douglas's insistence that his powers should not contravene the provisions of the National Resources Conservation Act.

“And yes, there were times w hen the arguments almost descended into physical confrontation, as Easton would not yield one inch,” Buchanan, who eventually became national coordinator for Operation Pride — an initiative launched in 1994 by then Prime Minister Patterson to address several issues, including informal settlements — said about the confrontations.

Simpson Miller recalled Douglas as “my mentor, my guide, my rock of Gibraltar”.

She added that she would always remember him as “a man of integrity” and argued that most of the houses that have been built for poor Jamaicans by the Government were done by him.

Simpson Miller also pointed out that he was the campaign manager for her successful candidacy to become the first woman to lead the PNP and, eventually, Jamaica's first female prime minister.

Patterson, in his tribute, noted that, for Douglas, even as a student, “failure was always out of the question”.

“He was passionate about town planning,” the former prime minister stated.

He said that Douglas also had a fine record of “successful and impressive” representation of his constituency, which assured him re-election for three consecutive terms.

“The work he has done will indeed forever speak for him,” Patterson said.

In the remembrance read by Councillor Douglas, the late minister was recalled as “a very ambitious person, who never thought of himself as being less than anyone”.

In his homily, the Rt Rev Robert Thompson, Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, suggested that Douglas's enduring legacy might not be his political success but his contribution to the development of the University of Technology, and his involvement with the lives of the students who studied there.

The service started with renditions from singers Wayne Marshall, Pam Hall, Dimario McDowell, and Professor Winston Davidson, as well as a performance by Ashe.

Pall-bearers included Dr Fenton Ferguson, Dr Conrad Douglas, Dr Wykeham McNeill, Robert Pickersgill, Dr Vincent Lawrence, Councillor Andrew Swaby, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Pearnel Charles Snr.

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