Yesterday, I covered the funeral for former Prime Minister Edward Seaga for the Associated Press. Here is the story.
It was a blisteringly hot day, as I pointed out in the story, which was relevant, because several people fainted, including the Premier of the Turks and Caicos. A lot of people were standing outside the church, not allowed entry, in the hot sun, which contributed. But it was also extremely hot in the church, and everyone was dressed in their finest, which meant suits for men and dresses and hats for women. The procession of the casket to National Heroes’ Circle was also a 2-mile walk in the sun, which I did with the crowd. It was both a joyful and mournful event, with party faithful lauding their “Papa Eddy.” But the family was clearly in distress, especially 22-year-old daughter Gabrielle, who had her uncle read a heart-breaking letter during the tributes. “I will make you proud, Daddy,” she wrote.
The service itself started on time, right after the arrival of dignitaries, and Prime Minister Holness at precisely 11:55am. Jimmy Cliff was also among attendees, frail but with smile on his face and dressed in a beautiful gown and hat. There were several speakers, and the Prime Minister gave a heartfelt message about Seaga’s influence on him. “Don’t forget the poor, Andrew,” he apparently told him, clasping his hands.
The service ended with some hymns from the University singers, and the casket was carried outside. There was a heavy but not oppressive presence from the security forces, although I did hear one woman say, “The police dem don’t treat everyone the same.” I did notice snipers on the roof of an opposing building, and there was a large contingent of plain clothes security. I talked to a Rastafarian man outside the church who was dressed in an intricate yellow robe and a headdress. I asked him why he was there and he talked a lot about claiming some family jewels from the Seaga family. He also said he was there to give his blessings to the family.
The procession was lead by the military band, and the party faithful waiting outside and some funeral-goers walked with it. The vendors made sure to take advantage of the situation, with some selling jerk chicken, cold drinks and Edward Seaga paraphernalia. Prior to departure, there was a 21-gun salute.
We walked to the park and the casket was then interred. I believe 15 wreaths were laid, the first by Mr. Seaga’s wife Carla. Then, every time a Jamaica Labour Party representative laid one down, the crowd went wild with air horns and cheering. They were lining the chain link fence surrounding the area, and apparently they almost caused a stampede into the park.
After the internment, a group of JLP faithful danced, shouted and sang around the grave. They attracted some media attention. I talked to one woman and she said she worked for Mr. Seaga for seven years, and that he was a lovely man. The loss of Mr. Seaga is a loss for many people in this country. He died on May 28, 2019, on his 89th birthday.