Former Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister for Health and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr Kenneth Lee O’Neil Baugh, died yesterday at his home in Kingston.
Dr Baugh, 78, who had been ailing for some time and had been confined to a wheelchair, made his last major public appearance at the funeral for his political mentor, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, in May this year at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. He was born on February 24, 1941, in Montego Bay, St James.
One of Seaga’s protégés and confidante, Dr. Baugh was appointed Minister of Health in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration which replaced the Michael Manley led People’s National Party (PNP) administration in 1980, winning 51 of the 60 seats. However he lost his North West St James seat in the General Election of 1989, when Manley returned to power, and sat in the Senate for several years.
He lost his first bid to return to the House of Representatives in1993 to Vernon Robinson in West Rural St. Andrew. He moved to West Central St. Catherine where he became the JLP’s candidate in 1997 on the retirement of veteran JLP MP Enid Bennet, but lost again to the PNP’s Alethia Barker.
However, Dr. Baugh eventually returned to the House of Representatives in 2002, when he eventually won the West Central St. Catherine seat, which he retained until he resigned from representation politics in 2015 due to ill-health.
But, in the meantime he held several important positions in the JLP including Chairman and General Secretary. He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in the Bruce Golding-led cabinet between 2007 and 2011, a period of extremely tense relationship between Jamaica and the United States triggered by the so-called Manatt/”Dudus” affair, as well as the severe trading problems arising from the global meltdown.
His other important roles in the JLP was acting briefly as Leader of the Opposition, while party conducted the transferral of leadership from Seaga to Bruce Golding in 2005, and was regarded as probably the most respected voice within the JLP’s hierarchy after the resignation of Bruce Golding as Prime Minister in 2011 and until his retirement. Sponsored LinksHelp for JahmarleyHorne does not support Bunting challenging Phillips
In 2016, his West Central St. Catherine seat was retained for the JLP by the current Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton.
Dr Baugh was born in Montego Bay, St James, fourth of 10 children. He was educated at Springfield Elementary School, Cornwall College and the Royal College of Surgeons and the University of the West Indies (UWI).He was a medical doctor and consultant surgeon by profession.
In his tribute to the late MP yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness recalled him as “the consummate professional who gave the better part of his life in service for the people he represented and his country”.
“He exemplified dignity and integrity throughout his public life. He was respected and held in high esteem by both sides of the political divide, and could always be relied on to be a balanced and reasoned voice. His manner was always conciliatory and solution-oriented,” Holness said.
“He was an honest man, a sincere man; a decent man. His conduct gave him stature elevated above politics. He was a true statesman and we will miss his guidance and steady hand. The entire nation owes him a debt of gratitude,” the Prime Minister added.
Former Prime Minister Golding said that he was deeply saddened at his passing, although it was not unexpected in view of his prolonged illness, but was still “painful” to those who knew him well.
“Ken was a person of impeccable character and unquestionable integrity – qualities which he steadfastly maintained even in the tumult of political life. He was passionate about giving public service, whether as a gifted surgeon at the Cornwall Regional Hospital or as a Member of Parliament and minister of government…As my deputy prime minister, he was absolutely trustworthy and I benefitted from his sound judgment and advice,” Golding noted.
Chairman of the JLP, Robert Montague, said that Baugh served well as both General Secretary and Chairman of the party.
“But, most importantly, he was a friend. May the Lord’s grace clothe his family. May we, his extended family, find strength in humility and comfort in his gentleness,” he added.
Neighbouring MP for Central St. Catherine, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, said that as a member of the party and a minister of government, Dr. Baugh contributed tremendously to how the party conducted the business of the nation, as well as internationally.
“As Minister of Health, he made great strides in setting our policy on a very progressive journey, and he must be credited for a number of things that have been done in health under the Jamaica Labour Party administrations. He was one of the outstanding medical practitioners of Jamaica. His contribution was in so many ways and his community service was tremendous,” she stated.
Dr Baugh is survived by his wife, Vilna, two sons and a daughter.