Seaga's send-off

Michael Manley Comrade among massive crowd marking 'nine night' after death of former PM

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, June 07, 2019

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It took nine days after his death before some residents of Kingston Western finally accepted that Edward Seaga, who had represented them in Parliament for 43 unbroken years, was really dead, and they came out in their numbers Tuesday night to mark the former prime minister's death and celebrate his life.

The official “nine night” for Jamaica's fifth head of government was slated to begin at 7.30 pm in Tivoli Gardens, the low-income community he created from the slum that was Back-O-Wall, but the crowd started gathering long before that.

With people dancing up a storm to the Seaga-produced Higgs and Wilson 1960 hit song Oh Manny Oh, Member of Parliament for Kingston Western Desmond McKenzie declared the nine night officially underway, just above five minutes after the slated start time.

In less than an hour, there was little room to move around in the crowd, as more and more people streamed into the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre, and they were not all from west Kingston, nor were they all Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters, a fact that was not lost on Prime Minister and JLP Leader Andrew Holness.

“Brothers and sisters, Jamaicans from all walks of life, we have gathered here in the square of Tivoli Gardens. Uptown, downtown, mid-town, out of town, round-about town, everybody, I see a broad cross section of Jamaica represented here in west Kingston, and that speaks to the calibre of the man who we come to celebrate his life,” said Holness in a brief address to the massive crowd.

One of the most vocal supporters of the Arnett Gardens football team and a proud supporter of the People's National Party (PNP), Anthony Smith, better known as “Paul”, was among the first persons to reach the nine night.

“I had to be here because Seaga is one of Jamaica's ultimate prime ministers in my 61 years,” declared Paul.

“Seaga is the only prime minister of this country that support, love, and cherish football in Jamaica. Outside of that, there might be a few errors here, and a few errors there, but it is all about politics, and on behalf of myself, as a Michael Manley Comrade, I salute former Prime Minister Mr Edward Phillip George Seaga,” added Paul.

He said there would be no backlash from his fellow Comrades in Arnett Gardens as many would support him for representing the community at the nine night for the man who helped to use football to bridge the once violent divide between the two communities, which are strongholds of respective parties.

Sitting meters from Paul was someone from the opposite end of the spectrum, Gladstone Taylor, a Seaga disciple from 1960.

Taylor wrote and sung what became a staple at JLP rallies, Brother Eddie Is Our Leader, and the death of his political idol was particularly painful.

“I will always love Mr Seaga and cherish his memory because he was a man who loved the poor,” declared Taylor.

With scores of gospel artistes, the Tivoli Drum Corps, and others keeping the crowd entertained, it appeared that the nine night would stretch well into the morning when our news team finally made its exit shortly before midnight.


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