AFRICANGLOBE – Edward Seaga will be remembered, as a man who advanced thuggery, violence and dehumanisation in the Jamaican society and who left the office of Prime Minister devoid of dignity, authority and values.
The island of Jamaica has achieved international notoriety, as a space of unbridled violence and as one of the main hubs for the trans-Caribbean and trans-Atlantic drug networks within the illicit global economy. These features of Jamaican society developed rapidly after 1980 when Edward Seaga became the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica. As the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from 1974 to 2005, Seaga was associated with the refinement of a mode of politics that garrisoned poor Jamaicans into areas controlled by political contractors. Seaga was born in Boston in 1930 and died peacefully in Miami, Florida in May 2019.
In the ensuing 89 years, his insecurity—as to his identity and his wish to be accepted, as part of the Jamaican ruling oligarchy—sent him into a career to be an expert on Jamaicans of African descent. Edward Seaga and the JLP mobilised Jamaican workers against their own interests in organisations that guaranteed his success, as a political entrepreneur. One organisation that has been linked to Edward Seaga was the deadly Shower Posse that wreaked murder, violence and drug running in the Caribbean, North America and Europe. The historical record now attests to the fact that this organisation was integrated into the networks of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States when the USA moved to destabilise the Jamaican society in the 1970s. []
Elements from these same networks were to later name Seaga, as involved in drugs in congressional hearings and in court cases in the United States. Names such as Lester Cole also known as ‘Jim Brown,’ Claude Massop, Vivian Blake, Cecil Connor also known as Charles ‘Little Nut’ Miller, and Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke are forever etched into the political history of thuggery, violence, money laundering and drugs in Jamaican society. Edward Seaga was dependent on these gunmen within the polity and in the process undermined the office of Prime Minister and left this position in Jamaica devoid of dignity, authority and values.
The case of the extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke from Jamaica in 2010 to prison in New York revealed to those who followed the case the extent of dehumanisation of the poor in the political constituency of West Kingston. This debasement of politics and humanity was to be fully revealed under the leadership of Bruce Golding who attempted to extricate the JLP from the clutches of dons (political enforcers). The killing of over 70 Jamaicans in Tivoli gardens [neighbourhood in Kingston] in 2010 exposed the levels of dehumanisation that had overtaken Jamaican society when Prime Minister Golding ordered the army to kill innocent civilians who defended Christopher Coke.
The lessons of these aspects of the life of Edward Seaga have not been revealed in the obituaries that have been written about him since his death. Most of these obituaries downplayed the extent of the CIA, the Cold War, and Cocaine triangle in Jamaica under Edward Seaga, although the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Times of Londona nd the Telegraph all paid homage to his conservatism and his alliance with the neo liberal forces represented by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Edward Seaga’s own autobiography was part of the literature to praise unfettered capitalism, which he celebrated in the two volumes entitled: My Life and Leadership. Volume 1.Clash of Ideologies 1930-1980 and Volume II, My Life and Leadership: Hard Road to Travel 1980– 2008. Seaga was explicit in Volume 2 that “socialism is a pulling down ideology. Capitalism is a pulling up strategy.”[]
This ideological outlook defined the career of Edward Seaga as he opted to mobilise the human and material resources of Jamaica to establish sweat shop conditions, opposing black liberation in Jamaica and in Africa, opposing the Cuban revolution and spearheading the invasion of Grenada in 1983. Conscious of the importance of history, Edward Seaga had attempted to distort the historical record of the collusion between the Jamaican oligarchs and the Reagan Administration in the invasion of Grenada in his pamphlet entitled, Grenada Intervention: The Inside Story, 2009. Such was the trepidation of Edward Seaga among some Caribbean intellectuals that this relationship in the Shower Posse killings have only been fully revealed in unpublished doctoral dissertations, in the book Born Fi Dead[] and in the fictional work by Marlon James, A Brief History Of Seven Killings.
At the time of his death, Edward had become marginalised in his own party by young black professionals who wanted to rise above the dehumanising traditions of garrison politics. He had taken refuge into academia becoming a Fellow of the University of the West Indies, but now the road has been cleared for a full analysis of the role of Edward Seaga and his ilk in the politics of Jamaica and the Caribbean. This is urgent to reclaim the dignity and humanity of those who were dehumanised by the political traditions of Edward Seaga in the Caribbean.
Background of Edward Seaga
When Edward Philip George Seaga was born on 28 May 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, his parents had been suspended between the African majority in Jamaica and the small planter class of British and Europeans who dominated the plantation economy of Jamaica. The grandparents of Seaga had migrated to Jamaica from what is now called Lebanon to escape the stultifying effects of the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Jamaica was then, and now, a predominantly African society with the majority of the population tracing their roots back to Africa. In 1930, over 91 percent of the population were Africans with a small percentage highlighting their European heritage to be called Afro Jamaicans or brown skinned Jamaicans.
These ‘brownpeople’ comprised 15.1 percent of the population by 1950. According to the census of Jamaica in 1960 the population was divided into six categories of racial origin: 76.3 percent African, 15.1 percent Afro-European, 0.8 percent European, 1.2 percent Chinese or Afro-Chinese, 3.4 percent East Indian and 3.2 percent ‘other races.’ The Lebanese/Syrian community in Jamaica had comprised the small percentage of colonial subjects determined to be ‘other races’ under the colonial racial hierarchy of Jamaica. The economy of Jamaica was dominated by the less than 1 percent of the society, designated as Europeans. Phillip Seaga had moved to the United States to make life in the context of the roaring twenties, but by the time he was seeking to advance, the Wall Street crash of 1929 created conditions of desperation for immigrants such as Phillip Seaga and his wife Erna (née Maxwell), who was Jamaican of African, Scottish and Indian descent. Hence, three months after his [Edward] birth in Boston, the family of Phillip Seaga returned to Jamaica. Hence the birth of Edward Seaga in the USA.
The capitalist depression had a devastating impact on the oppressed in Jamaica, exacerbating impoverishment and cultural domination. It was in the midst of this crisis that the African poor in Jamaica deepened their identification with Africa, as an expression of cultural resistance and human affirmation. The Rastafari Movement blossomed after the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 and in 1938; the working peoples registered their opposition to colonialism with massive working class protests on the sugar plantations. These protests in Frome, Westmoreland on the Serge Island Sugar Estates of St Thomas and in the working class areas of Kingston, (especially the docks in West Kingston), had been stimulated by Garveyites such as St William Grant and worker activists such as Allan George St Claver Coombs of Western Jamaica.
After the 1938 uprisings, Alexander Bustamante offered himself up, as a leader of Jamaican workers diminishing the importance of Garveyism within the anti-colonial cultural resistance. Bustamante and his cousin, Norman Washington Manley became activists for Jamaican freedom in the period 1938-1962 forming two political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). Both of these parties had a trade union and worker base in the form of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union. By the time Jamaicans wrestled universal adult suffrage from the British in 1944, Bustamante was riding two horses, as the leader of the trade union named after himself (the BITU) and leader of government business in the colonial parliament.
Seaga the applied anthropologist
Volume 1 of the autobiography of Seaga, Clash of Ideologies 1930-1980 gave some indication of the frustrations of this Lebanese/Syrian stratum in Jamaican society and at the same time the privileges as passing for white.After high school in Jamaica at Wolmers, Seaga had studied social anthropology in the United States at Harvard University. By virtue of his background, Seaga the anthropologist brought his understanding of the retention of African culture in Jamaica in his study of the lifestyle of the poor and oppressed and their religious practices.
In colonial Jamaica, according to social scientists such as M.G. Smith, the only ‘cultural’ persons were Europeans while African descendants followed ‘cults.’ Edward Seaga was slowly learning of the cultural power of the African ideation system among the poor, as he sought to document and observe the rituals that were practiced in Pocomania and Kumina, African religious forms that still persisted in Jamaica. The rituals of Africa spiritual observances involved nonverbal interaction with the ancestral world in the form of dancing, possession by spirits, and animal sacrifice.
Seaga who extended his career as an applied anthropologist research to child development and revivalist churcheswas to later weaponise the cultural practices of the poor to sow division and mayhem. It was in this period of anti-colonial energy in the Jamaican countryside where Seaga recognised the financial potential of Jamaican music.
Seaga as the political apprentice
While in the process of studying the music of Africans in Jamaica, Edward Seaga recognised the long term potential of the voices of the people and embarked on opening a record store, becoming a music producer founding his own record label, West Indies Recording Limited. From this vantage point as a music entrepreneur, Seaga got to feel the pulse of Jamaican popular culture, as it was emerging in Ska, Rock Steady and later Reggae. As a producer, Edward Seaga signed popular Ska artists such as Joe Higgs and Byron Lee and the Dragonaiers.
It was from this musical perch where Seaga made his probing with respect to his future in Jamaican political life. In the period between 1955 and 1959 when the PNP had come to power, Seaga had sent out feelers to the leadership of both the PNP and the JLP. In his own words, Seaga tells the tale of how Alexander Bustamante recognised his skills, as an organiser and recruited him to the political leadership of the JLP. In 1959, Bustamante had appointed Seaga to the Senate while the JLP was in opposition, and it was from the Senate at the age of 29 where Seaga made his famous speech about the ‘haves and haves not’ in Jamaica.
Alexander Bustamante had dominated the JLP with an iron hand; hence there had been no opposition to his naming Edward Seaga, as the contestant for the constituency of West Kingston in 1962. Prior to 1962, Seaga had demonstrated his energy and loyalty (some would say sycophancy) to Bustamante, especially in the context of the referendum over whether Jamaica should remain in the West Indies Federation. By the time of independence in 1962, the JLP had gravitated away from its political commitment to the poor workers and had become the party with a base of poor black workers and peasants, but a party serving the interests of the white planters.
Bustamante himself had retreated from his trade union militancy and had become conciliatory to local capital. In the retreat of Bustamante from the defence of workers, the son of Norman Manley, Michael Manley became a major trade union organiser of the National Workers Union; the party affiliate of the PNP. In order to satisfy the Cold War hysteria of the fifties, the PNP had purged Richard Hart, Ken Hill, Frank Hill and Arthur Henry from the party. These four were among the most formidable defenders of the working people and by 1949 the unions that they officered were among the largest after the BITU. []
Edward Seaga and the constituency of West Kingston
After the purging of the four Hs from the electoral political space, the Jamaican society proceeded towards decolonisation in carefully orchestrated steps after the results of the referendum in 1961. There were elections in April 1962 and 6 August 1962 was designated as the date of independence. Edward Seaga was an activist of the JLP and he was named as Minister of Development and Welfare from 1962 to 1967. Seaga had contested the elections in April 1962 against three other candidates who ran on explicit African values and orientation.
Of the three candidates, the candidate for the PNP, Dudley Thompson had served in East Africa as counsel for Jomo Kenyatta and had earned the name of ‘Burning Spear’. Sam Brown, a well-known organiser and leader in the Rastafari Movement ran, as an independent and Byron Moore carried the mantle of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Seaga mobilised the resources of the JLP and the BITU to win in this constituency and represented himself, as a messianic leader. Seaga, the ‘white man’ who the black masses would follow became the narrative of the JLP.
The opportunism of Seaga was manifest early when two years after independence in 1964 he opportunistically championed the cause of the return of the body of Marcus Garvey to Jamaica. Prior to this re-entombment of the body of Marcus Garvey in Jamaica, in the election campaign of 1962, Seaga had opposed the ideas of Marcus Garvey and the candidates who appealed to citizens on the basis of black dignity. Four years later Seaga was complicit in the decision of the JLP cabinet to ban Walter Rodney from Jamaica and to accuse him of stirring up racial hatred. []
Edward Seaga had been an enthusiastic member of the Bustamante government that moved to arrest thousands of Rastafari brethren after the Coral Gardens altercations in April 1963. Seaga’s own anti Rasta exuberance was manifest in the massive destruction of the poor communities of Western Kingston called Back o Wall in the ‘urban renewal’ project that became known, as Tivoli gardens. [] Tivoli became associated with the person of Seaga and as a community that gradually purged from its midst Jamaican citizens who considered loyalty to another formation other than the JLP. In the process, after 1967 Tivoli became a near political homogenous community where violent enforcers emerge to ensure that sympathisers of other political tendencies were unwelcome in Tivoli.
In October1965, Seaga had signalled his orientation toward political thuggery when at an event at the National Stadium, Seaga had declared in response to booing from the assembled crowd recognising Paul Bogle and Marcus Garvey as national heroes that, “If they think they are bad, I can bring the crowd of West Kingston. We can deal with you in any way and at any time. It will be fire for fire, and blood for blood.” []
This language of blood and fire took on real meaning in the State of Emergency of 1966 and the violent conflict for power fought out in the elections in 1967. Dudley Thompson, the candidate for the opposition PNP, had campaigned against Seaga in 1967 and had surrounded himself with PNP gunmen while with the resources of the government, Seaga developed a small force of gunmen that outgunned the Dudley Thompson forces. Despite this political rivalry, both Seaga and Thompson remained good friends. This was revealed to the citizens of Jamaica after the death of Dudley Thompson when Seaga revealed the depth of their friendship. Prior to his death, Dudley Thompson apologised to the people of Jamaica for his complicity in the Green Bay massacre. This was an episode where the military ambushed young JLP adherents and shot them down in cold blood.
Petty violence in the form of throwing stones, use of cutlasses, throwing Molotov cocktails and fist fights had been a feature of competitive politics in Jamaica since 1944. By the 1960s, the quality and intensity of the violence edged up a notch with the introduction of handguns among the enforcers. At the end of the decade the mix of sub machine guns, drugs and politics had become toxic in Jamaican society with Tivoli becoming the place associated with guns and repression. With the rise of political violence and the increased use of guns in political battles, Tivoli earned the distinction of becoming a garrison community. The political enforcers and gunmen who coerced citizens were called dons. These figures received government contracts and were the source of political payoffs (called patronage). [] In Jamaican society, Edward Seaga was known as the don of the dons and the architect of a new form of housing called the garrison.
Garrisons were and are “a veritable fortress where the dominant party and or its local agents and supporters are able to exercise control over all significant political, economic and community related social activities.”[] Political enforcers such as Claude Massop created fear among poor workers. Mark Figueroa in his study of “Garrison Communities in Jamaica 1962-1993,” outlined the violence that was associated with gunmen such as Massop in the JLP while the PNP countered with its own garrisons and gunmen such as George ‘Feathermop’ Spence, Winston ‘Burry Boy’ Blake and Anthony (Tony) Welch from the nearby area of Arnett Gardens (Jungle).
Emergence as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party 1974
During his tenure as Minister of Finance 1967-1972, Edward Seaga had strengthened the financial institutions to fully wrest economic power from the old planter classes that had discriminated against the Lebanese/Syrians. The bauxite and tourist industries had created new poles of accumulation away from sugar plantations, banana production and cocoa farming. Noel Nethersole, as Minister of Finance under the PNP before independence had laid the foundations for a central bank—Bank of Jamaica, and founded the Development Finance Corporation. [] With technocrats such as G. Arthur Brown and Noel Nethersole, there were social democrats who wanted the public institutions to register an independent path for the society with clear planning. It was in this climate where the intellectuals of the New World Group flourished. The intellectual and political energies of these intellectuals were clearly having an impact on the region as a whole, inspired as they were by the anti-imperialist ideas of Bandung.
Edward Seaga sold himself to the US leaders as an opponent of the Bandung spirit. Yet, the Jamaica media celebrated Seaga as the brains behind decolonising the financial sector and the establishment of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Jamaica Unit Trust, Export-Import Bank, Jamaica Promotions Ltd, the Agricultural Credit Bank, the Jamaica Mortgage Bank, the National Development Bank, Urban Development Corporation and the Kingston Waterfront. Of these ventures, the Urban Development Corporation facilitated the basis for the emergence of new elements in real estate capital and the control of the Kingston Waterfront wrest control from the shippers and insurers that were linked to the export of banana and sugar. The export of bulk shipments of marijuana and cocaine were to develop in the seventies as new sources of wealth for the new narco-capitalist class.
The inequalities and class polarisation in the society alienated the poor and the PNP mobilised around the question of the oppression of the sufferers. Michael Manley had succeeded his father as President of the PNP in 1969. Shortly thereafter, in 1972, Manley as head of the PNP won the general elections. Michael Manley had campaigned on the slogans and platform of the PPP of Millard Johnson openly canvassing for the votes of the oppressed, especially the Rastafari. []
In 1974, Manley declared that Jamaica was moving in the direction of Democratic Socialism announcing a number of social welfare reforms as socialist. Moving to embrace the spirit of Bandung, the non-aligned world and support for African liberation created a new sense of pride among the mass of African descendants in Jamaican society. Within the Caribbean, Jamaica strengthened relations with Cuba and Michael Manley championed the push against imperialism with the call for a New International Economic Order. These initiatives scared the entrenched local capitalists in Jamaica while Edward Seaga moved to establish himself, as the defender of international capital.
In order to better position himself as a full servant of international capital, Edward Seaga had to capture the leadership of the JLP. Seaga could not compete with Donald Sangster who had been one of the brains running the party after Bustamante had been stricken with illness, but Sangster had died suddenly after becoming Prime Minister. Hugh Shearer had become Prime Minister, but by the time of the competition for leadership of the party, Shearer had stood down.
By 1974, the leaders of the JLP standing in the path of Edward Seaga were competent leaders such as Frank Phipps, Wilton Hill, Ronald Irvine, and Ian Ramsay. Senior figures such as Robert Lightbourne had been nudged out of the party with the rise of Seaga and the legalistic /professional blacks of the likes of Phipps, Irvine and Ramsay were not cut from the same cloth as the blood and fire vintage of Edward Seaga. Wilton Hill had sought to develop his own fighting force but did not have the financial resources that Seaga had at his disposal. In his push for power within the party Edward Seaga also dumped experienced JLP leaders such as L.G. Newland, Edwin Allen and Tacius Golding.
Edward Seaga: the anti-communist champion
During the era of the seventies, the anti-colonial struggles had intensified after the defeat of the US military forces in Vietnam in 1975. In the same year, the Angolan forces with the support of Cuban internationalists defeated the South African apartheid army in Angola. Poor Jamaicans had followed these battles and many reggae artists used songs to mobilise the people to support African liberation. The government of the USA labelled the Jamaican support for liberation, as hostile and in December 1975 the Secretary of State of the USA, Henry Kissinger visited Jamaica.
In his meetings with the Prime Minister Michael Manley, Kissinger warned Jamaica to limit its support for the Cubans in Angola and diminish its relations with Cuba. Kissinger held out the promise of US$100 million for the Jamaican economy if Manley agreed to distance Jamaica from the non-aligned movement, from African liberation and from Cuba. When the Prime Minister of Jamaica disagreed, there was a new thrust to destabilise Jamaica and Edward Seaga offered himself as an instrument for the CIA destabilisation of Jamaica. [] The experience of the Jamaican society became another textbook case of how the CIA destabilised societies. Using some of the same tactics that had been deployed in the over-show of the Salvador Allende government in Chile in 1973, the CIA mobilised its resources to undermine the PNP government.
The six key mechanisms were:
1. Covert financial support for the opposition.
2. Extensive labour unrest.
3. Covert shipments of arms and other equipment to opposition forces.
4. Economic destabilisation.
5. Mobilisation of the middle class into CIA-created anti-government organisations to carry out well publicised demonstrations.
6. Infiltration of security services and armed forces to turn them against the government
All of these elements were expanded in Jamaica. There were three attempts on the life of Michael Manley as the Prime Minister. “The unexplained presence of M16 rifles, submachine guns, as well as sophisticated communications equipment also caused alarm, for the paltry Jamaican security forces were simply unable to cope with the violence.” [] No section of the population escaped the new violence and the reggae artists Bob Marley was shot at his home in Hope Road prior to a free reggae concert in Kingston, December 1976. A decade later, in September 1987, Peter Tosh was to lose his life when gunmen invaded his home to send him to the land of the ancestors.
Despite the escalation of violence, the PNP defeated Edward Seaga and the JLP in the 1976 general elections. It was the elections with the highest voter turnout in the history of Jamaica, over 86 percent of the electorate participating. The PNP won the elections with 57 per cent of the votes, but this victory only stimulated the CIA to intensify its campaign of destabilisation supporting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to undermine the economy, using propaganda to scare citizens and intensifying violence in the streets. The CIA propaganda represented Seaga, as the economic genius while the local media propagated misleading stories scaring local entrepreneurs resulting in the mobilisation of the Jamaican Manufacturers Association and the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce against the PNP. It was in this period when the new organisation called the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica appeared on the political scene as one other form of support for Edward Seaga.
Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and 13 other major of reggae artists had attempted to stand aloof from the violence but they had grown up with many of the former ‘rude boys’ who were now political enforcers. It is this intimate knowledge of the shooters that precipitated the reggae artists to mobilise with others for the historic peace concert at the National Stadium in 1978. This peace gesture, which brought together 16 of the most well-known reggae artists was at the other end of the plans of the CIA for Seaga and for Jamaica. It was at this peace concert where Peter Tosh condemned imperialist violence and where Marley called on Seaga and Manley to come on stage and pledge to end the violent political war in Jamaica.
Despite the pledge for peace, the top contractors/ enforcers for the JLP and the PNP, Claude Massop and Buckie Marshall were both killed within two years after the concert. The following election year in 1980 would see 889 reported murders in Jamaica, over 500 more than the previous year. The combination of violence and the economic terror of the IMF against Jamaica was too much for the people and in the 1980 elections, then the bloodiest in the history of Jamaica, Seaga won the elections after hundreds lay dead and tens of thousands displaced.
Edward Seaga the Prime Minister of Jamaica 1980-89
When the PNP won the elections in 1976 there were two choices before the society, either give meaning to the massive support that had been gained in the 1976 elections for drastic social change or succumb to the dictates of the IMF. Michael Manley chose the latter and the IMF intensified the economic destabilisation while Seaga and the gunmen escalated the violence in the streets. Long before the Mexican debt crisis of 1982, the IMF had decided to use Jamaica as a guinea pig in its new direction of structural adjustment. The decision to cut the Civil Service, to devalue the currency, to lift price controls and to liberalise the economy led to the huge capital flight, reinforcing the already dire conditions for the sufferers.
Three months after the signing of IMF agreements, according to the IMF Jamaica failed its first quarterly performance test. We now know from historical hindsight that there was no way that governments such as those of Manley in Jamaica or the Julius Nyerere ujamaa administration in Tanzania could pass the IMF performance tests. What was instructive was that the apartheid government of South Africa that oppressed the African majority could pass the IMF tests but leaders such as Manley, Nyerere or Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia could not pass these tests. It is now well documented by economists (such as the late Norman Girvan) that the IMF performance requirements resulted in “one of the most savage packages ever imposed on any client government by the IMF.” []
Edward Seaga became the Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1980. He was not fully vested in his position before he travelled to Washington and to New York to ingratiate himself with David Rockefeller and the decision of the IMF to change the conditionalities for Jamaica. By the time Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the President of the United States in January 1981, Seaga was the first world leader to be invited to the White House. It was in the context of these meetings in 1981 where Seaga sold himself, as an opponent of organised labour in Jamaica and the Caribbean. In his autobiography Seaga has bragged how he introduced the idea of the Caribbean Basin Initiative to the Reagan administration. This orientation started the long road of the debasement of the Jamaican workers and the introduction of sweatshop conditions in Jamaica. International conservatives were pleased to have a leader of a labour party being in the forefront of denying basic rights of decent wages, and protection at the workplace for workers. These were fundamental elements of the struggles of the Jamaican working people from the time of enslavement.
As a soldier in the Cold War fighting against the rights for working people, Seaga joined forces with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in promoting crude neo-liberalism. The zeal of Seaga in his anti-communism led him to mobilise for the military intervention of the United States in Grenada. In this zealousness, Seaga trumped Margaret Thatcher because the British Prime Minister opposed the military intervention. Seaga has attempted in his book, Grenada Intervention: The Inside Story, to distort the true meaning of the invasion. There was one academic at the University of the West Indies, Patsy Lewis, who clinically exposed the lies and manipulation that was embedded in this text. [] The ignominy of this act in the Caribbean placed him in the same category as Tom Adams, the former Prime Minister of Barbados, who most Barbadians now want to forget because of his links to the cocaine trade and the US military invasion of Grenada.
This work of placing Jamaica in the ranks against basic democratic rights endeared Seaga to the conservatives internationally and he was honoured by President Reagan with the Freedom Foundation’s American Friendship medal for his “furtherance of democratic institutions” and “courageous leadership in the cause of freedom for all people.” What most Jamaicans did not know was that the International Freedom Foundation was the anti-communist front established to support regimes such as the apartheid government of South Africa and the dreaded Pinochet regime of Chile. The receipt of this award placed Seaga within the company of opportunists such as Manafort and Stone who represented Jonas Savimbi, but Seaga did not want the people of Jamaica to understand the real import of the award from the International Freedom Foundation.
Seaga was being rewarded for his opposition to the liberation of Africa and for the destabilisation of the Caribbean. In return for these services, the IMF and the international financial institutions would allow Seaga to represent himself as the financial wizard turning around the Jamaican economy from the ‘mismanagement’ of the Manley administration. The election results of 1980 made Jamaica the first victim of the Third World debt crisis and structural adjustment policies that have now produced massive inequalities on a global scale.
Edward Seaga and the illicit global economy
The era of neo-liberalism accelerated the movements of illicit funds outside of government control. Not enough research has been done in Jamaica about the way Jamaica became integrated into the contra/ cocaine pipeline that had been established by the Reagan White House. The CIA of the USA had established conduits between drug cartels and the banks to finance its contra wars in Central America and the Caribbean. It was in this period when narco banking became institutionalised. Money laundering, drugs and banks were always part of global capital, but during the era of social democracy state control over financial institutions had placed rigorous controls over the movement of illicit funds.
When Ronald Reagan became the President of the USA, the anti-communist fervour and the contra wars stimulated the loosening of controls over money laundering. The CIA strengthened its money laundering capabilities and many banks such as HSBC were attracted to this new source of wealth. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in their 2010 Annual Report, they stated that “money-laundering is the method by which criminals disguise the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their asset bases in order to avoid suspicion of law enforcement and to prevent leaving a trail of incriminating evidence.”
UNODC estimated that profits derived from narcotics rackets amount to some US$600 billion annually and that up to US$1.5 trillion dollars in drug money is laundered through seemingly legitimate enterprises. As Prime Minister in 1981, Seaga had seen the new money laundering direction of US and European banks, as an opportunity and new institutions such as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) appeared in Jamaica.
With the anti-communist obsession that had come into the international political economy after Reagan’s inauguration, the Republican administration officials tolerated drug trafficking as long as the traffickers gave support to the contras leaders who pledged to oppose socialism. This is now well documented in the 1989 Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations that was chaired by then Senator John Kerry. [] We learnt from this hearing how the narco bank, the BCCI established operations in Jamaica, “BCCI cornered the market for government funds and programs in Jamaica as the result of establishing a personal relationship with then-Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Ultimately, this relationship involved BCCI being involved in financing all of Jamaica’s commodity imports from the United States under the US Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) program and handling essentially every foreign current account of Jamaican government agencies.” []
Gary Webb in the book Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion added extra details on the way the crack epidemic in the Caribbean and the USA was facilitated by the CIA. Edward Seaga was a willing facilitator of narco banking and the Dark Alliance and he went overboard to ingratiate himself into this new illicit global network for money laundering. Seaga was able to use his position as the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to establish the infrastructure for the integration of Jamaican society into illicit financial flows. One testimony before the Kerry Senate Committee in 1992 stated unequivocally that, “By the mid-1980s, we (viz BCCI) handled every penny that came into or out of Jamaica in terms of foreign currency. We were bankers to the central bank, we were bankers to all official governmental organizations in Jamaica.”[]
Other manifestations of this integration with narco banking and the illicit global economy had come to light in the trials and tribulations of the Israeli money launderer Eli Tisona (who was called one of the top Israeli mobsters by the Jerusalem Post). Tisona had appeared in the Jamaican society after Seaga became Prime Minister. Tisona was presented to the Jamaican population, as a business person involved with a supposed high tech agricultural scheme. Tisona, with no known experience in agriculture, was represented to be the brains behind a scheme of Prime Minister Edward Seaga for the establishment of an agricultural complex called Springs Plain. It is now on record that Seaga’s Agro 21 programme was integrated into the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia.
According to the book, Cocaine Nation: How the White Trade Took Over the World, Eli Tisona was a money launderer for the Cali cartel of Colombia. [] Springs Plain was another front for the transfer of cocaine from Colombia to the United States through Jamaica. During the Seaga period, the planes that were leased to fly out the winter vegetables flew from Colombia before collecting the ‘vegetables’ from Jamaica. At this period International Lease Financing Corp, the Los Angeles-based aircraft leasing division of AIG, was the biggest force in the leasing of planes. AIG worked closely with the US intelligence services to the point where the Chief Executive Officer of AIG was once under consideration to become the director of the CIA. The agricultural complex called Springs Plain employed Lester Coke as known as Jim Brown as Head of Security and it was while at Spring Plain when Jim Brown built up his expertise to smuggle drugs from Colombia via Jamaica to the United States and the United Kingdom.
After the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Edward Seaga, Tisona was arrested and jailed in the United States on charges of fraud and money laundering. In 1997, an Israeli Knesset committee report named Eli Tisona and his brother, Ezra, as being the country’s two most powerful drug lords. Tisona was jailed in the US in 1999. By 1992 Jim Brown died mysteriously in a fire while awaiting extradition to the USA. His son Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke inherited the organisational structures developed by Jim Brown.
Seaga and the Shower Posse
Claude Massop (the top gun man for Seaga) had been an acquaintance of Bob Marley in the concrete jungle that Bob Marley wailed about early in his singing career. They had both traversed the tenement yards of pick up football and early reggae culture. The reggae world had been shaken by the ‘ambush in the night’ of December 1976. Massop crossed the CIA by agreeing to the peace concert with the PNP’s Buckie Marshall. For this he was shot, dead. []
After the death of Massop, Lester Coke, – Jim Brown became the chief lieutenant of Edward Seaga in Tivoli gardens during the period of CIA destabilisation. “One of Lester Coke’s associates, Cecil Connor, would claim that he was trained by the CIA to fight political wars for the JLP through killing and spying. Connor would stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters to help the JLP win elections. Connor would go on from being a political thug to being part of the international Jamaican based cocaine ring known as the Shower Posse. He wound up testifying against Lester Coke and his cohort Vivian Blake, only to return to his native St Kitts to become a drug kingpin who almost held the country hostage.”[]
The saga of the efforts to extradite Dudus from Jamaica is still fresh in the minds of Jamaicans and many remember that Dudus said that he did not want to suffer the same fate as his father or his brother. After the elimination of Claude Massop, the forces of Lester Coke organised the Shower Posse in Tivoli with a worldwide reach into Canada, the USA, Europe and other parts of the Caribbean. Jamaica became a node in this Dark Alliance of the CIA, contras and cocaine during the period when the Seaga administration was in power, 1980-1989.
In order to establish a firm entrepreneurial basis for the distribution of cocaine in the Caribbean, the Shower Posse developed the logistical capabilities to move large volumes of cocaine through the Caribbean. According to street legend this particular posse got its name from the JLP election slogan ‘Shower’, which was a response to the PNP’s ‘Power’ that was coined from Manley’s ‘Power for the people’ slogan in the 1970s. One other source noted that the name shower had been taken from a speech by Edward Seaga where he promised that: ‘Blessings will shower from the sky and money going jingle in your pockets.’ Seaga knew that this money was not coming from the production of goods and services within Jamaica.
Edward Seaga had skilfully studied the duplicity of the war on drugs in order to manipulate the Jamaican electorate on the integration of Jamaica in the international money laundering business. When Seaga lost the elections in 1989, Jim Brown had accumulated enough knowledge of the Springs Plain logistics to be able to move between the USA and Jamaica with the support of the infrastructures that had been perfected by Tisona and the CIA. When Jim Brown decided to be independent of Edward Seaga, he was arrested and held in jail in Jamaica. Jim Brown had agreed to testify in the USA about the infrastructure of the Shower Posse and its link to JLP politicians. Before he could testify, Brown lost his life in a mysterious fire in his jail cell in Jamaica.
The dominant Jamaica newspaper, the Daily Gleaner wrote on the rise of Dudus in this way, “The lives of the Coke family members changed again dramatically one fateful Sunday morning in 1992. The senior Coke was behind bars, locked up at the high-security Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre after losing an extradition battle, when news broke that Jah T, his heir apparent, had been killed. Jah T was riding along Maxfield Avenue, St Andrew, on a motorcycle when he was attacked. The reprisals were swift and vicious. Police said at least 12 persons were killed within a two-week period. In February 1992, on the afternoon Jah T was being buried, another tragedy hit the Coke family. Jim Brown died in a mysterious fire in his cell. With the demise of the father and heir apparent, Dudus, an adopted son, was chosen to lead Tivoli Gardens over ‘Livity’, to the latter’s displeasure. []
What was remarkable about the reporting in the Jamaican newspapers at the time of the extradition of Dudus was the silence on the role of Edward Seaga in the militarisation of Tivoli Gardens. [] When Seaga lost the elections in 1989, he gradually lost control over Tivoli. For a short while, the members of the Shower Posse gang continued to do the bidding of Seaga, but he did not have the resources of the state behind him to hand out contracts to the dons. As leader of the opposition after 1989, Seaga had brought the thuggery against the leading members of his own party. Errol Anderson, Edmund Bartlett, Karl Samuda, Douglas Vaz and Pearnel Charles were called the ‘gang of five’ and chafed under the authoritarianism of Seaga. By this time, The JLP was not a real party, but an instrument to further the goals of Seaga. As leader of the opposition, Seaga used this group of enforcers to intimidate those who opposed his leadership. Bruce Golding left the JLP after this intimidation to form the National Democratic Movement in 1995. Such was the power of Dudus by this time that Seaga had to defer to Dudus in accepting Golding back into the JLP.
Seaga resigned as leader of the JLP in 2005 after losing four consecutive elections. Historians will now await the memoirs of Dudus to explain the power the he wielded over Edward Seaga in the latter years of his service as the Member of Parliament for West Kingston. It is already known the coercive power that Dudus held over Bruce Golding when he decided to make West Kingston his political constituency. Bruce Golding was the Prime Minister of Jamaica, but Dudus Coke was referred to as President. When the US government instigated charges against Dudus, the vigour with which the Prime Minister of Jamaica moved to halt the extradition led to Golding representing himself as an anti-imperialist. To delay Coke’s extradition, Golding authorised the retention of a US law firm—for a hundred thousand dollars per quarter—to lobby officials in Washington. Bruce Golding suffered the indignities of association with gunmen and the Shower Posse, reaping the rewards of the seeds that had been sown by Edward Seaga.
Golding had placed his reputation on the line by defending Dudus and employing the US law firm to fight the extradition. While defending Dudus, Bruce Golding, as Prime Minister, later reversed himself when the US government intensified the pressures by withholding visas for members of the ruling party. Golding then unleashed the army against the citizens of Tivoli, while he well knew that Dudus was not in Tivoli but holed up in a government house in the rural areas of Jamaica. Dudus was captured in a roadblock on his way to Kingston to hand himself over to the US embassy. Dudus was extradited to the USA and is now serving a long sentence in a minimum-security prison in the USA (The full history Edward Seaga and the Shower Posse is to be written).
Edward Seaga and the debasement of Africans in Jamaica
The mass of the people of Jamaica had struggled against exploitation and slave like conditions. These working people had cut the sugar cane, planted the bananas, picked the pimento, and grew the foodstuff that fed the society. Colonialism exploited their labour and denigrated them as human beings. These people rebelled to get better working conditions. The 1938 rebellion was the high point of these worker protests. Out of these protests, Alexander Bustamante formed a political vehicle called the JLP. Working class persons from the grassroots embraced this formation and such was the loyalty to Bustamante that some workers shouted that, “I will follow Bustamante till I die”.
Despite this commitment to Bustamante, there had been a vibrant opposition party called the PNP and the quality of the political leadership in Jamaica was world class, with high levels of tolerance for opposing ideas. The competition between Noel Nethersole of the PNP and Lynden Newland of the JLP as opposing trade unionists in the 1944 elections would be a textbook case in the kind of civility that was possible in Jamaica among politicians. Gradually in the wake of international Cold War dictates and intense competition for power, the JLP deserted the working people. However, the full departure from the demands of the working people came when the JLP came under the control of Edward Seaga.
The debasement of the working peoples was on two fronts. The first was the establishment of sweat shop conditions to erode the gains of the workers after 1938. Seaga boasted of his ability to attract foreign capital to exploit non-union labour. This foreign capital was integrated into narco banking. Scamming and murder are the two legacies of the Seaga energy in establishing the Caribbean Basin Initiative. The second debasement was the escalation of gun violence and the development of garrison communities. Unemployment and the use of thugs acted as a coercive force that was more rigorous that simply state violence.
Thuggery and violence, sweat shop conditions and the general hustling and opportunistic culture bequeathed by Seaga to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans opted to leave the violence and thuggery of this centre for money laundering and the illicit global economy. This cancer of cocaine, guns, violence, scamming and money laundering then spread throughout the Caribbean. Charles Miller or Cecil Connor would go on to ensnare St Kitts and the Bahamas into this new front for the illicit global economy.
The thuggery and violence of this period of Jamaican history eroded the basic values of decency in the society. Being a bad man was now the ambition of many youths. Hustling of the poor came with this new political culture, while the Cayman Islands became one of the biggest offshore centres for narco banking.
No institution in Jamaica could escape the stain of rottenness that Edward Seaga had bequeathed on the society. After being chased out of Tivoli by Dudus, Seaga sought to reinvent himself as a social scientist. His short stint at the University of the West Indies belied his own ambivalent relationship to the University. One former Vice Chancellor, Rex Nettleford used very sophisticated language to mock Seaga’s claim to be a rigorous social scientist. This sophistication was necessary because Nettleford understood the vindictiveness of Edward Seaga in Jamaica. Anthony Abrahams had understood this vindictiveness when he attempted to come clean on the relationships between Seaga, money laundering and Tisona.
Edward Seaga is dead. Jamaican and Caribbean scholars can now lift the self-censorship that they had imposed on themselves during the lifetime of Seaga. The Jamaican society will need to heal from the wounds inflicted by Seaga to show the world that Africans in Jamaica were not Born Fi Dead. The sufferers struggled for the decriminalisation of marijuana. They are now poised to demilitarise the society. But before that point of demilitarisation can be reached, the truth about Seaga must become public knowledge. In this way the traditions of peace and love will take precedence over the culture of blood and fire.
*Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He served as the Third Distinguished Kwame Nkrumah Chair at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, 2016-2018. He is the author of Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney, Africa World Press, 1985.
By: Horace Campbell