Seaga, Edward (1930–)

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Seaga, Edward (1930–)

Edward Seaga, a Jamaican politician, served as prime minister from 1980 to 1989. Born on May 28, 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Jamaican parents of Christian Lebanese and Scottish origin, he received his primary and secondary education at Wolmer's Boy's School in Kingston. In 1952 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Harvard University. Upon returning to Jamaica he took up a research post at the University of the West Indies, devoting his attention to folk music and revivalist religions. He founded his own record label that produced albums of Jamaican folk and popular music. In 1959 he was nominated to the still colonial legislative council. When Jamaica became independent in 1962, he began militating in the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) led by Alexander Bustamante. That same year he was elected member of parliament (MP) for West Kingston and became the JLP government's minister of labour and development. It was from that position that he converted the slums of West Kingston into a planned working-class community, Tivoli Gardens. This became his, and the JLP's, most loyal stronghold and guaranteed Seaga's reelection as the MP for that "garrison community" for the length of this political career.

As MP and minister of finance (1967–1972), Seaga promoted and expanded the private sector and put state organizations—the Jamaican Stock Exchange, the National Development Bank, the Agricultural Credit Bank and the Jamaican National Investment Promotion (JAMPRO) Corporation—behind this effort to encourage direct foreign and domestic investments. In the 1972 general elections, Seaga lost to Michael Manley and the People's National Party (PNP). As leader of the opposition, Seaga vehemently opposed Manley's sharp turn to the left and his increasingly close relationship with the Cuban revolutionary government. In 1980 Seaga led the JLP to a resounding defeat of the PNP and as prime minister tightened his political and economic ties to Washington. Drawing on his lifelong interest in folk music and culture, he created the Jamaica Festival, which introduced the musical styles ska and later reggae to the world. In 1989 Michael Manley, having become much more moderate, defeated Seaga and the JLP, and the PNP has held power ever since. After failing in three consecutive electoral contests, Seaga retired from active politics in 2005. That year he was appointed to a distinguished professorship at the University of the West Indies.

See alsoJamaica .


Munroe, Trevor. Renewing Democracy into the Millennium: The Jamaican Experience in Perspective. Barbados: University of the West Indies Press, 1999.

Seaga, Edward. "Revival Cults in Jamaica: Notes Towards a Sociology of Religion." Jamaica Journal 3, no. 2 (1969): 3-13.

Stone, Carl, and Aggrey Brown, eds. Essays on Power and Change in Jamaica. Kingston: Jamaica Publishing House, 1977.

                                 Anthony P. Maingot