Jubilant crowds bid Seaga farewell

Senior staff reporter

Monday, June 24, 2019

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While the occasion was expected to be solemn, a wave of jubilation swept through the crowd of supporters gathered in the vicinity of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston when the hearse transporting the body of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga arrived.

It was the penultimate lap for the former statesman, held in the highest regard by many Jamaicans whose lives his decisions and policies affected.

They blew horns, some rang bells, others heaped praises, and few displayed placards declaring Seaga the liberator of poor people and father of a generation.

As if it were a ritual, scores of followers showed up in Jamaica Labour Party colours, saturating North Street and minor roads leading off.

Drones hovered above the cathedral where some of the region's high-ranking officials assembled for the State funeral.

Metres away, snipers paced the roof of Kingston College, all the while combing the streets for unlikely threats.

As time drew closer to the midday start of the ecumenical service, young boys put on their thinking caps — selling chairs to whomever was willing to spend the $500.

“If you nuh have that you can give me $400; mi nah hard pon yuh,” a boy, who appeared to be no more than 13 years old, said.

Another young man who was seen carrying a wooden chair told the Jamaica Observer that he could “better” the first price by giving a $100 discount.

At that same location, vendors — some still smiling from the sales received the night before at Seaga's 'set-up' — busied themselves with customers who spilt over from the church and tent erected on the cathedral grounds, where guests and supporters watched the proceedings from either of two huge screens.

“Business a gwaan enuh, It nuh done yet, we a go a Heroes' Circle go pick up the rest a change. We love the Creator more than the paper, but we still love the paper and we love the people who gi wi the paper. The early part a the day coulda gwaan better but mi feel good same way 'cause by the help a the Creator I will receive it,” said a soup vendor who identified himself as A Leslie.

Another vendor, who identified himself as Goodison, was one of several who benefited from the event the night before.

“Everything normal so far; a one and one yuh know. The first half of the day was what I expected it fi be because you done know, I enjoyed myself last night and now mi just come fi give support, so a it that,” he said.

Members of the security forces, in the meantime, were kept busy by some supporters who complained about not being able to file onto the church ground, although they had no tickets.

The lawmen maintained sterile areas outside the church and later confirmed that the day was incident-free.

Supporters with whom the Observer spoke throughout the day said that they showed up because they wanted to be a part of history.

Seventy-four-year-old Kay Williams said her presence at the funeral meant that she had great respect for Seaga, whom she credited with giving her the funds to start her first business.

Like Williams, 71-year-old Ida Walters attended the service to “honour” the late PM, who she said was a good man.

“He was a nice gentleman. I'm from Manchester and I didn't have a relationship with him but I know that he was a decent man. I like him,” said Walters.

Seaga gave Pearl Morrison her first house and for that, the woman said he will always be remembered.

“I love Mr Seaga. Him give me my first house to live in. He make mi getting a likkle money. I love him. I'm from West Kingston and mi did live inna one likkle house. Him change that, so mi love him,” the 84-year-old woman said.

For Liston Morrison, who first met Seaga in the 1980s, the funeral was on his priority list.

“Say what you want about him, but he says what he means and means what he says. He was a stickler for rules. He is truly a people person and he has served this country well, without fear. He stands up for what is right and it's not over until it's over. I come to the funeral because history would be unkind to me if I was not here, and you have to be a part of a history that when it is being written I can say, 'Yes, I was there',” Morrison said.

At minutes to 3:00 pm the funeral procession left the cathedral for National Heroes' Park, where the interment took place.

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