How PJ, Seaga changed Horne's life

How PJ, Seaga changed Horne's life


Sunday, September 08, 2019

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He had been doing well in New York where he had gone through university to gain bachelor's and master's degrees, worked with prominent banks, rubbed shoulders with the giants of Wall Street and eventually formed his own company.

But there was something else in store for Norman Horne, and two Jamaican politicians played their part in shaping the next phase of the business giant's life.

First, it was then Prime Minister PJ Patterson who went to New York in 1995 and gave a presentation about people in the Diaspora whom he suggested could contribute to their Jamaican economy. At that time, Horne said he saw Jamaica as a “one-way street, sending resources to my relatives and trying to get them out of Jamaica into the United States.

“But then, Mr Patterson gave a very passionate speech about us participating and building our domestic economy. And then realising that it doesn't matter how much of an American citizen you are, as a black man you will always be a second-class citizen in the US, and recognising the importance of being a first-class citizen, I decide that I must now turn my energies back to Jamaica.

“And so I came and did the research and the research was helpful in terms of guiding us into what direction we should go. I started a trading company because trading was my speciality, started supplying materials to the Jamaican markets and then we started to do distribution to the Jamaican market. That was 1996. In 1999, (Dr) Paul Robertson invited me to become a member of the People's National Party and that was born primarily out of the fact that my father, a patriot, a Comrade, had given a lifetime of service to the People's National Party. The story goes that my father was campaigning with Norman Manley in 1962 when I was born. And that Norman Manley asked my father to name me in his honour and that's how I got the name Norman Washington Horne,” the executive chairman of ARC Manufacturing told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

But after Horne fiddled with PNP affairs, his life adjusted a bit when one Edward Phillip George Seaga, who presided politically over Jamaica between 1980 and 1989, and who was leader of the Jamaica Labour Party from 1974 to 2005, entered his life.

“In 2001 I was in New York because I hadn't moved back to Jamaica fully. And there was a function at the Waldorf Astoria (hotel) where Mr Seaga was with his team. Apparently, whoever it was that should have settled the hotel tab, didn't, and I got a call from (former minister) Percival Broderick, who had seen me there and called me the day after and told me they had some challenges and if I could help.

“And so I helped in settling the hotel bill. Mr Seaga wanted to know who settled the bill, and then my name came up and he invited me to Jamaica to see him. I came down and met with him. I discovered that he liked red wine, so I bought him my favourite red wine, which was Opus One and we had it together. He had, to me, an exceptional mind. I enjoyed talking to him. In that period I must have seen him maybe about seven or eight times. He said to me, 'Norman, I'm going to win the next election. I am nine points up ahead of Mr Patterson. In the last dispensation I was minister of finance and I was also prime minister'. In his new Government he wasn't sure how he would treat things, but one thing he was sure of was that he would need my help in reorganising the JLP government in Jamaica and making Jamaica work for Jamaicans and asked me to join him.

“He gave me a choice of two constituencies, whether Eastern St Andrew or Central Manchester. He was very clear, he said if I were to go to Eastern St Andrew I would win; if I were to go to Manchester, I would not win because of how Jamaica's politics is organised. But if I go to Manchester, he would still win the election, still become prime minister, then appoint me a senator and then he explained how I would work with him,” Horne related his encounter with Seaga.

Seaga, he said, emphasised the “important role” that he wanted him to play, but being from a PNP family, he had to get clearance from his father, a PNP stalwart, whom he said was not happy about the switch, but promised to support him in whatever way he could, which did not mean voting for the JLP.

“I then decided to join Mr Seaga because I was convinced that having his last shot at leadership and wanting to make tough decisions, that was what Jamaica needed at the time. What were those tough decisions? Well, in order to put Jamaica on a strong fiscal path, that was calling for a separation of the ministry of finance to one that deals with planning and the public service, and one that deals strictly with finance and having the Bank of Jamaica becoming an independent back. Equally, critical thinking about how to manage crime and violence and to get the youth more active and involved in society was a factor.

“Albeit, Seaga wanted to expand the HEART programme. I had my differences. I believed that the young ones should be drafted in the army, and I still believe that today,” Horne maintained.

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