Senior Counsel and former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal was murdered in Trinidad and Tobago early this morning, reportedly the victim of an organised “hit”. Police are working under the assumption that her assassination may be linked to her work as a prosecutor in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial.
News of Seetahal's death spread quickly on social media, with many Facebook users referring to the assassination as a yardstick by which the state of the country can be measured. Most lamented the loss of a principled lawyer and independent voice.
The country's attorney general, who has been under public scrutiny over allegations against his office involving questionable business dealings between attorneys and inmates involved in prison litigation against the state, released a statement on Seetahal's death:
We have lost a titan.
She was a public spirited lawyer who served her country in many different capacities including assistant solicitor general, lecturer, magistrate, prosecutor, independent senator, president of the Law Association, newspaper columnist and author. Hers was a truly unbiased, independent voice that helped shape public opinion. Everyone respected and looked forward to hearing from her. The wisdom of her counsel provided guidance to the nation on critical issues.
Dana had a piercing intellect and a wonderful sense of humour. She was an excellent advocate in the courts and the consummate professional who was never afraid of hard work.
In his statement, he mentioned that their last conversation involved “her column in yesterday's Express”:
It provided support for me in the present controversy over the letter from the solicitor general. She was one of the few who came out in my defence and supported my position. It is a powerful reminder of the strength of her independence as she was not afraid to voice her opinion even if it meant swimming against the tide.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has lost a critical support as Dana was assisting me with important and sensitive work on a number of legislative measures to help with the fight against crime and improve the administration of justice.
Her death will leave a void in society and the legal profession. These are big shoes to fill. She was one of a kind. May her soul rest in peace.
The blog Wired868 did not allow the attorney general's words to go unchallenged:
News about the shocking murder of former Law Association president Dana Seetahal SC, which occurred just after midnight today, was swiftly followed by a tribute from Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who claimed a long-standing friendship with her.
‘In fact, we spoke this evening as she’d called to ask if I’d read her column in the Express over the controversy over the SG’s letter,’ Ramlogan told the Express. ‘I read it and called her back to thank her.’
The AG was referring to Seetahal’s column entitled ‘Investigate what exactly?’ which criticised ex-Solicitor General Eleanor Honeywall’s request to the Prime Minister for an investigation into certain ‘key office holders’ within the Office of the Attorney General.
Ramlogan, who got a second life as AG with the political death of former Justice Minister Herbert Volney, did not say that Seetahal’s last words were: ‘exonerate the AG.’ But Mr Live Wire noted that he did not not say it either.
The post accused the attorney general of “using this tragedy to discuss his own political health”:
Ramlogan went further:
‘She was one of the few people to step forward and be in my corner,’ he said. ‘I had even asked her if she would consider assisting the committee. And she’d agreed.’
It that how you earn selection on one of the AG’s investigating committees? By stating the outcome you expect to find in advance?
Mr. Live Wire turned his attention to the responses of the police and the Minister of National Security in the investigation of Seetahal's murder:
Meanwhile, the police said one of its two theories about the murder is Seetahal ‘allegedly was on her way home after spending some time in a casino’. Mr Live Wire has no training in police investigative work but is guessing that this theory is based on the fact that Seetahal had left a casino, was driving at the time of her murder and had a home to go to.
Mr Live Wire also has a theory that the police officer in question does not understand the meaning of the word ‘theory’.
For once, National Security Minister Gary Griffith offered the most dignified response to the assassination-styled killing. He gave no information, offered no solace or comfort to bereaved family members or the stunned public and, best of all, did not say that the people responsible were cockroaches running scared from his brilliant work as minister.
Griffith, eloquently, said nothing all.
The bar is set quite low these days.
Satire aside, the post contained an editor's note at the end, which said:
Wired868 offers heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of Dana Seetahal SC and would like to pay tribute to a lawyer who made the legal profession seem more accessible, sensible and relevant to most of us.
It would be a double-tragedy if the perpetrators of this horrific crime are not brought to justice.
Blogger Kris Rampersad noted:
Independent thought and action comes (sic) at a high price. Dana Seetahal is one of our most tirelessly independent minds and to have it snuffed out so casually is just another indicator of the little value given to the best that we can boast of. It is not only her incessant efforts to balance the scales of justice that lent value to knowing her, it was her rootedness in making this society a better place in which to live. Some warmth went out of this very sunny day. RIP Dana. #DanaSeetahalAssassination
The Law Association mourns the tragic and violent death of Ms. Dana Seetahal SC former President of the Law Association who was killed this morning and extends its deepest condolences to her family.
Ms. Seetahal SC has contributed significantly to the development of the criminal law, practice and procedure. She was a distinguished Senior member of the legal profession.
Ms. Seetahal SC epitomised fearlessness, integrity and independence and was a champion of reform of the criminal justice system.
The Association is concerned about the level of crime and strongly condemns the murder of Ms. Seetahal SC and calls for a speedy and thorough investigation into the matter by the Police.
Twitter was a magnet for updates and reactions to news of the murder. Journalists who were on the scene early this morning tweeted photographs of the law enforcement presence in the Woodbrook area, where Seetahal was gunned down:
Flashing blue lights & crime scene investigators outside Woodbrook Youth Facility, where Dana Seetahal was killed. pic.twitter.com/Xb0Q6nnRIk
— Jabari Fraser (@JabariFraser) May 4, 2014
Family/friends of Dana Seetahal SC speak with police at crime scene on Hamilton Holder Street, Woodbrook. Photo: AA pic.twitter.com/DelkQxtYKj
— Jabari Fraser (@JabariFraser) May 4, 2014
PHOTOS: Murder scene of Dana Seetahal, who was gunned down by unknown assailants in Woodbrook, around midnight. pic.twitter.com/sSPmksiLMJ
— Gerard Best (@GerardBest) May 4, 2014
These Twitter users were appalled at the level of lawlessness:
So Trinidad has finally turned into the wild Wild West ? Rip #danaseetahal … My goodness
— Iceberg Slim (@icequeentt) May 4, 2014
#DanaSeetahal OMG! Absolutely shocked! This country is degrading itself day by day!
— Aarti Jagmohansingh (@AartiJsingh) May 4, 2014
Another compared Seetahal's death with the 1995 execution of lawyer and former Attorney General Selwyn Richardson:
— Samuel Mohammed (@samuelmohammed) May 4, 2014
Others were fed up with the high occurrence of crime in the country:
Trinidad no this cannot continue. #DanaSeetahal
— Kimberly Philip (@kim_mimosa) May 4, 2014
Richard Lord wondered why Seetahal didn't have police protection:
— Richard Lord (@Lordrich6) May 4, 2014
Many Twitter users remembered Seetahal for her commitment and outspokenness:
— Joel Villafana (@JoelVillafana) May 4, 2014
— Melisa Sammy (@Mineyredz) May 4, 2014
An amazing legal mind was lost this morning. One of the few females in our system I admired. Fair and just. Rip #DanaSeetahal
— Mrs. CEO™（`_ゝ´)┌∩┐ (@ShelzFynest) May 4, 2014
— Dahlia Bradshaw (@damishawblessed) May 4, 2014
An autopsy is, at present, being done on Seetahal's body. There is a one million Trinidad and Tobago dollar reward (just over $150,000 US) for information relating to her murder.