Messrs Seaga and Thompson: from foes to friends

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga's tribute to the late Ambassador Dudley Thompson is as revealing as it is touching.

Older readers will recall that both men were political adversaries, facing each other twice -- in the 1962 and 1967 general elections -- for the tough Kingston Western constituency.

Mr Seaga, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) stalwart who won both contests, recalled in his tribute that the 1967 campaign was particularly violent.

However, one of the most important outcomes, he said, was that he and Ambassador Thompson, who represented the People's National Party (PNP), developed a very pleasant personal friendship which extended throughout the rest of Ambassador Thompson's life.

"While we did not meet frequently, when we met it was in friendship. He was accustomed, when he travelled, to bring back a little gift for my wife, a token which we appreciated," Mr Seaga said.

"At times, as minister of national security, he would call me to visit trouble spots in West Kingston together when there was an outbreak of violence. This was naturally satisfying to us both," the former prime minister and JLP leader added.

Mr Seaga admitted that this portrayal of Ambassador Thompson "as a man with a personal touch is possibly quite different from his general disposition".

However, he gave the depiction, he said, as "a prime example of those periods in our development which have proven that in politics bitterness can be replaced by betterment through friendship".

That, we submit, is a most profound statement that should remain foremost in the minds of all Jamaicans, especially at election time.

The ability of these two men -- who were poles apart politically and ideologically -- to form a friendship and work together to solve problems on the ground in West Kingston is a demonstration of the kind of civility and respect for opposing views that many Jamaicans have been eager to see become the norm here.

We suspect that on seeing the general behaviour of the electorate during the December 2011 general election, Messrs Seaga and Thompson would have felt some amount of hope that their efforts were finally bearing fruit.

The camaraderie displayed by supporters of both the JLP and the PNP from Nomination Day through to Election Day was, in the main, exemplary and worthy of commendation.

However, there still exist across the country many sycophants and political tribalists who, for whatever reason, are resisting the refreshing wind of change.

It is clear that a lot more work needs to be done to create a greater atmosphere of tolerance and respect for life.

To be fair, the leaders of our political parties have been making a valuable contribution to this effort, and that is what we saw coming out in the last election. However, they can be more forceful in their message to supporters to respect views that are opposed to theirs.

We believe that one of the more effective ways of getting that message across is to discuss issues on political platforms rather than engaging in belligerent rhetoric, as is too often the case with our politicians.

Healthy dialogue on issues, we hold, will stimulate people's minds and allow them to make informed decisions about the future of the country.




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