The Most Hon. Edward Phillip George Seaga, ON, PC
Former Prime Minister of Jamaica
Edward Philip George Seaga was a politician and statesman; he was the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica, from 1980 to 1989, and Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party from 1974 to 2005. He served as leader of the opposition from 1974 to 1980, and again from 1989 until January 2005.
Early life and education
Edward Philip George Seaga was born on 28 May 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Philip George Seaga and Erna (née Maxwell), Jamaican parents of Aramean-Lebanese and Scottish-Indian-African descent, respectively . His parents returned to Jamaica with Edward when the boy was three months old. He was baptised in Kingston's Anglican Parish Church on December 5, 1930. Erna was the daughter of Elizabeth Campbell (maiden name), daughter of John Zungaroo Campbell (East Indian descent) and Elizabeth Heron (Scottish), both with African descent as well.
The young Seaga was educated at Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Jamaica. After high school he attended the Harvard University where he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences. Seaga went on to become one of the most successful music producers and record company owner before diverting his attention to focus on his political career.
Seaga's political career began in 1959 when Sir Alexander Bustamante, founder of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), nominated him to serve in the Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament, the Legislative Council (later the Senate). At the age of 29, Seaga became the youngest member in the history of the Legislative Council to be nominated to serve in the Upper House of the Jamaica Legislature (later the Senate). Following his election to the House of Representatives in 1962 as Member of Parliament for Western Kingston, Edward Seaga held the positions of Minister of Welfare and Development (1962-67), and Finance Minister (1967-72). He also held the portfolio for Information and Culture. He became leader of the JLP in 1974, a position he held until his retirement from representational politics in 2005.
In the 1980 elections, the JLP under Seaga’s leadership won 51 out of 60 seats in the House of Representatives and Seaga was appointed Prime Minister of Jamaica. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Jamaica Festival which featured an annual showcase of Jamaica’s music and culture. Seaga was also responsible for numerous successful anti-poverty urban development and educational aid programmes that have helped some of the poorest in his constituency, his home district and Jamaica at large. He also served on the board of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and was one of the architects of the Caribbean Basin Initiative sponsored by then US President, Ronald Reagan.
Seaga served as Jamaica’s Prime Minister from 1980 – 1989 when his party lost the general elections to the PNP. Following his retirement from representational politics, Edward Seaga assumed the position of Senior Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies. He is also a lecturer at the University of Technology.
Personal life and civic activities
On 22 August 1965, Seaga married Marie (“Mitsy”) Constantine, the former Miss Jamaica 1964. The union produced three children, Anabelle, Andrew and Christopher. After thirty years of marriage the couple divorced in 1996. He went on to marry Carla Vendryes in 1997. They have a daughter, Gabrielle.
Seaga is deeply involved in cultural activities, particularly folk music and all aspects of things Jamaican. A keen gardener and amateur landscaper, he used his love for plants and flowers to develop the Enchanted Garden resort, a unique attraction in Jamaica.
As an athlete, Seaga has played on several college and school teams: field hockey, cricket, football, rifle, tennis and swimming (diving). He participated as a member of various hunting clubs and the Jamaica Skeet Club.
In West Kingston, he became the president of the Tivoli Gardens Football, Basketball and Netball clubs. He recently became Chairman of the Premier League Football Association and the Professional Football Association of Jamaica, with responsibility for the 12 Premier League teams and the staging of the Premier League.
On 20 January 2005, Mr. Seaga retired as Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, a position which he held for 30 years. He retired as a Member of Parliament after serving for 43 years in the House of Representatives, in addition to two years in the Senate. He has the longest period of continuous service of any elected representative in the Caribbean region.
With appointments to academia at the University of the West Indies, the Institute of Jamaica and the University of Technology, he became engaged in research and writing, as well as teaching and leadership.
He served as Chancellor of the University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica, where he was re-appointed to a three-year term with effect from 7 November 2017.
Booklets – Parent Teacher Relationship, Development of the Child, and, Revival Cults. Also compiler of an album of music – Folk Music of Jamaica – recorded by Ethnic Folkways Library.
Seaga passed away Tuesday, 28 May 2019 on his 89th birthday, in Miami, Florida, the United States where he had been receiving treatment for cancer.