A relatively short distance away from a political protest against their cause, a number of people yesterday converged to officially name the north-south leg of highway 2000 the Edward Seaga Highway.
Mr Seaga, a former prime minister, is also past leader of the governing Jamaica Labour Party and mentor of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Senior members of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) boycotted the naming ceremony.
They, like their placard-bearing supporters who protested along the highway, wanted the thoroughfare named in honour of their former party leader Portia Simpson-Miller, who also served as prime minister.
The current prime minister, Mr Holness, in an apparent broadside against the protesters, decried what he considered to be political mean-spiritedness.
“As we seek to build a nation, there must be space carved out in the competitive political landscape for magnanimity, respect for leaders, value for national sacrifice and a certain decency and honour in public affairs,” he told the cheering audience.
The prime minister continued: “Our politics must rise above mean spiritedness and a selfish sense of entitlement to the nation’s assets. With this, in a good mind, I wish to assure the nation that we will continue the tradition of our great leaders in building infrastructure and building institutions.”
“We also assure that we will recognize the work, contribution and sacrifice of those who have dedicated their life to the development of this country regardless of political and tribal considerations,” added Prime Minister Holness.
He explained that the highway was named in honour of Mr Seaga because it connects the towns of Ocho Rios and Kingston, which Mr Seaga significantly helped to develop.
“The highway, which spans several administrations, links the two economic centres [of] Kingston and Ocho Rios. It is, therefore, symbolically appropriate to accord Mr Seaga this honour… Even outside of the symbolic appropriateness, Mr Seaga’s indisputable body of work and service deserves recognition,” Prime Minister Holness further said.
Mr Seaga, seemingly unperturbed by the protests, basked in what he described as an ‘extraordinary moment’. He even sang parts of Prince Buster’s ‘Hard Man Fe Dead’ hit.
The retired prime minister reiterated that he was the one who requested that the highway be named in his honour, considering that it connects two of his ‘greatest’ projects – Ocho Rios and Kingston.
“When it came to the fact that they were so easily joined [by the highway], I said, well that highway should be named after me. And I wasn’t embarrassed in telling the prime minister so. In his wisdom, he realized it and accepted it,” Mr Seaga told the audience.
He added that he will always be dedicated to Jamaica.
“I am 88. I must be a hard man fi dead. But no matter whether it is 88 or 98, I am still going to be doing my best for the country,” he declared. “I won’t tell you that I will be active all that time. I owe a long vacation to my family and I have to take that. But my mind will always be on Jamaica and Jamaican things.”
In the meantime, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Jamaica, Tian Qi, pointed out that the highway is not only for traffic, but also “a highway to the happiness, success, and prosperity for Jamaica”.
“The Edward Seaga Highway is a paradigm of successful practical cooperation between China and Jamaica. It is also the crystallisation of China’s capital, technology, and Jamaica’s incentive for foreign direct investment,” the ambassador further said. The project was completed by China Harbour Engineering Company.
Another section of the highway is named in honour of Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, who also is a past president of the opposition PNP.
By Horace Mills