(Associated Press) – Thousands of Jamaicans turned out Sunday for the funeral of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who was the last survivor of the generation of politicians who led the country to independence from Britain in 1962.
The service was officiated by 13 religious leaders before a burial ceremony at National Heroes Park.
Current Prime Minister Andrew Holness remembered Seaga as a humble man and a champion for the poor.
“He never lost sight of the reason why he entered politics, and that was to help the have-nots join the ranks of the haves,”
Holness said. “We pay tribute today to a conscious leader, a statesman, a thinker, a man of dignity and a man of indefatigable spirit and courage of conviction.”
Caribbean dignitaries joined the crowd of everyday people who attended the ceremonies despite scorching temperatures.
Upton Eric Blake, a Rastafarian, said he travelled to the funeral to honour the legacy of Seaga, who was Jamaica’s fifth prime minister, holding the top post from 1980 until 1989.
“I’m bringing my family’s blessings to Mr. Seaga’s family as well,” Blake said.
Prior to entering politics, Seaga was a major record producer who operated the West Indies Record Ltd. distribution company and played a role in introducing ska to the world.
At 29, he was appointed to Jamaica’s upper legislative house by Jamaica’s first prime minister, Alexander Bustamante, who had founded the country’s Labor Party.
Local government minister Desmond McKenzie said Sunday that Seaga was instrumental in creating social programs.
“You are a father to thousands in West Kingston and across Jamaica,” McKenzie said.
Seaga died in Florida on May 28, his 89th birthday. He is survived by children Andrew, Annabella, Christopher and Gabriella and his wife, Carla Vendryes.