(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Member of Parliament for Kingston Western Desmond McKenzie have pleaded with Labourities to accept the wishes of the family of their beloved “Papa Eddie” and to cool their anger over the decision not to allow the viewing of his body when his casket lies in state in the constituency next week.
Several residents of the constituency, which former Prime Minister Edward Seaga represented for 43 years, have reportedly expressed anger that they will not be able to see his face when his casket is taken there next Monday and Tuesday.
They have been joined by other members of the public who have taken to the airwaves, and social media, urging a rethink as they want a last look at the man who strode Jamaica’s political stage like a colossus for more than four decades.
But addressing a massive crowd during a “nine night” for Seaga in Tivoli Gardens Tuesday night, Holness called for understanding as he said his late mentor had indicated that the casket should remain closed.
“I hear people calling, making complaints, making comparisons, and saying that they want to see Mr Seaga in death. In my conversations with him, and with his family — and by the way, I know the sentiments were circulating in west Kingston with his family here, and I don’t want to come between family matters, but as one of his adopted sons — I think I can make an intervention,” said Holness.
“So what I would say, my belief, from speaking with Mr Seaga, and from knowing him for these many years, is that he would want you to remember him in life, as he lived … and not in death. So I want to put that argument to rest,” Holness said.
“We are in an official state of recognising the work of one of our national leaders, someone who worked hard on your behalf to form the independent Jamaica that we know, and I know you all respect that. So during this period I don’t want you to get distracted by all the arguments and criticisms that are going to circulate all over the place, we are going to pay the respect, and the dignity, and the honour, to a great leader who deserves it,” added Holness.
He was supported by McKenzie who, in an appeal to his constituents, urged them not to join the chatter of those questioning the closed casket decision.
“I want west Kingston to remember him when he was walking and living among the poor here. I don’t want anybody to follow any fool-fool argument about our beloved leader. We have to respect his wishes and the wishes of his family,” said McKenzie.
“I urge you to celebrate his life and let us put him to rest (while) paying him the honour and the respect that he so richly deserves,” added McKenzie.
The farewell for the former prime minister will continue today with his body lying in state in Ocho Rios, St Ann, and Montego Bay, St James before a candle light vigil also in Ocho Rios.
On Monday the casket will be taken to Tivoli Gardens, the epicentre of Kingston Western which Seaga represented. On Tuesday the body will lie in state in Denham Town, also in Seaga’s former constituency.
The farewell will come to a crescendo with a set-up in Tivoli Gardens on June 22 before the final hurrah on June 23 when the funeral of the former prime minister will be held at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in central Kingston.