A standing room only crowd of bipartisan Jamaicans packed into the Tivoli Gardens Community Center nine nights after the May 28 passing of the island’s fifth Prime Minister Edward Phillip George Seaga who died on his 89th birthday.
Held in tradition with a ritual based on African ceremonial procedures following a death the Nine Night ceremony was held inside a venue and community once maligned with a name Back-O-Wall until Mr. Seaga transformed the west Kingston slum into an area boasting its own Drum & Bugle Corps, a dance company, One Love recording studios, sports complex, high school, respectable housing and reliably, loyal voter turnout for the Jamaica Labour Party.
Reportedly, thousands packed into Tivoli Gardens Square before the official start of the celebratory farewell tribute.
According to reports, supporters of the People’s National Party, showed solidarity with their rival political opponents to pay tribute of a legacy to a leader dedicated to nation building.
Politics seemed to have paused with the absence of partisan recall of a loan the fifth prime minister obtained and later said he did not recall; his alliance with US President Ronald Reagan who was allegedly credited with speeding the flow of ammunitions to the country.
Nor was the nickname CIAga inferred.
On a night when the current Prime Minister, Andrew Holness as well as Desmond Mckenzie. former mayor of Kingston and now a member of parliament joined residents of the area as well as many from Denham Town and other areas, PM Seaga’s role in returning the remains of Marcus Mosiah Garvey to his birth island, the West Indian Record Label (WIRL) he steered to prominence and the revolutionary spirit he engendered to the most under-served were among the topical overtures for conversation.
Hailed with reverence throughout the island from the arrival of his remains from Florida on Caribbean Airlines in a flag-draped casket, public viewings in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston seemed to have dominated the news landscape.
Gospel and reggae music provided entertainment amid an atmosphere of rum drinking, food and dancing in celebration of the longest serving parliamentarian and one who dedicated most of his life to the west Kingston constituency.
Social media trended photos of the event with immigrants acknowledging how grateful they were to live through PM Seaga’s tenure.
“I’m an orange man,” an avowed PNP comrade explained. “I eat out of an orange bowl, I wear orange clothes I am an orange man, he declared. “But I have to pay tribute to the green man,” he said about PM Seaga’s party color-association.
“Nuh feel no way, he did nuff fi Jamaica.”
It is a sentiment shared by expats living in England, Canada, and throughout the USA and Jamaica where party loyalty takes precedence — sometimes over family and religion.
Candle light vigils in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Kingston, lying in state tributes, arts and cultural events — featuring National Dance Theater Company’s Jamaica Folk Singers, Tivoli Dance Troupe, speakers from the University of the West Indies and University of Technology and a special sitting of both houses of Parliament will be held on June 19.
Tivoli Gardens Invitational football match against Premier League All Stars is slated for June 16.
And an all-night “Set Up” in Tivoli Square is slated for June 22.
An ecumenical service at Kingston’s Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity will precede interment at National Heroes Park on June 23.
According to Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, sports and entertainment, the last of the shapers of the island’s constitution will be regaled daily until July 1, which is annually commemorated as International Reggae Day.
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