Following the widespread shock of Trinidad and Tobago netizens over the murder of attorney Dana Seetahal yesterday, one blog, The Eternal Pantomime, turns the public outcry on its head with a post that addresses issues of race, class and politics.
Starting with a reference to a heinous and as yet unsolved crime that took place nearly 16 years ago, the blogger says:
If the assassination of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal is a wake up call to you…then something wrong with you.
If a little boy being raped to death in a swimming pool at a birthday party wasn’t a wake up call then, Dana’s assassination can’t wake you up to nothing. You in denial long time and using your moral panic over this latest killing to soothe your general inertia.
In the same breath, she tackles privilege as a contributing factor to the ostrich syndrome:
Or, you could be a member of the cocooned and protected upper classes here who only get hysterical when they realize crime doesn’t just exist Behind D Bridge or along the distant edges of the East/West corridors in the Malabars and La Horquettas of their imaginations. And then, if you’re a member of that just awakened group…it must suck to be you: having all those resources and still can’t ward off death.
Conceding that the assassination was shocking, the blogger refers to Seetahal's death “a marker” that will take its place along all the other check points along the country's steady path of decline:
The act, along with Hamilton Holder/O’Connor Street, will become a part of a macabre and grisly list of checkpoints that heralded our descent while we sat shell shocked and panicked waiting for someone else…not us…to take back our power in this country. It will join markers like the Scott Drug Report; the 1990 Coup and the subsequent court ruling in favor of the Muslimeen; it will join the rise of the Muslimeen as a group that was consistently awarded Government contracts as part of every sitting government’s secret crime initiative, whether PNM, UNC or PP; it will join the Crowne Plaza agreement; the illegal SoE; Section 34; EmailGate; Ish and Steve and a very long list of markers that all point to us descending in narco state fourth world hell.
Comparing Trinidad and Tobago with two Latin American countries which have been long been controlled by organised crime, the post continues:
You hear it on the lips of citizens all the time, ‘Here getting like Mexico’, ‘Here getting like Colombia’. We not getting folks, we reach. That is what Dana’s death means. Final destination point. When a State Prosecutor is murdered in cold blood like that, in a country that is already awash in drugs, arms and human trafficking and has a corrupt and compromised police force and government…know that we reach. We not heading to hell anymore. It is here. It takes only one high profile murder like that to happen and go unsolved and you know we have arrived. Trinidad now has two: Selwyn Richardson in the 90s and Dana Seetahal in the early decades of the 21st century.
She expands on that point, saying:
Her assassination in an upscale residential/commercial neighborhood at midnight is meant to send a message. And I’d vouchsafe from the social media reactions yesterday: message received.
We woke up Sunday morning knowing in a very concrete way, maybe more so than before, that a message was being sent to the legal profession, journalists, columnists, activists, anyone bold enough to question the criminal and corruption status quo. Toe the blasted line…or this will be you.
She took her argument even further, calling the assassination an attack on freedom of speech:
In assassinating Dana, we are very aware that persons with strong Independent voices are under attack. Dana, to my knowledge, never verbally lashed out at any entity, political or otherwise. But, she was a rare thing, a lawyer, who took elitist, legal jargon and made it accessible to the layperson.
Few lawyers or intellectuals here have been as lucid, accessible and relevant as she has been. That’s what made Dana true silk. She had a fearsome legal mind, and instead of keeping it to herself and her clients for handsome fees, she made it available to all of us for the price of a newspaper…less if you read her articles online.
Pulling no punches, the blogger called the “hit” a success on two disturbing levels, putting her finger on the pulse of what seems to be bothering citizens the most – the impact of widespread crime on their own survival:
[It] will be a success not just because Dana Seetahal has been silenced, but because the wider public will silence itself, retreat further indoors, put more useless security systems in place…not understanding that in growing quiet and retreating indoors, that’s how we gave criminals control of this place.
Our very predictable response to violence, from enslavement to now has never been overt; it has been passive aggression. So we will lead trapped lives and break more laws in an unconscious lashing out at all that is wrong around us: more child abuse, more road rage, more petty crimes and more silences and looking the other way when corruption happens because suppose we end up like Dana?
She did not hide her disdain for the government's response to the news of Seetahal's death, calling the attorney general's statement “an extreme pappyshow on his part [and] a clear attempt at image management in the midst of what was clearly a national crisis.” She had even less faith in the ability of law enforcement to solve the murder:
By Sunday night, they were back in Media and PR mode. Whole television stations commandeered. Panels convened. Police press conferences, all over a background of National Security ads saying ‘Serious Crime is Down’ despite the fact that we have 29 more murder in 2014 than we had in the corresponding period for 2013.
The post made an eerie prediction:
I expect that three or four bodies of victims of a murder will be discovered soon. Just like with the Selwyn Richardson murder. And whether we know it or not, those bodies would have belonged to Dana’s killers. It’s part of how here, a narco state, works. And the sooner we start noticing the patterns, the sooner we can either grow accustomed or fight back.
She explained why Seetahal's death was so personal to her:
I recognized immediately the threat to free speech and independent thinking this is for journalists, columnists, activists and bloggers like myself. But I’m not going to stop questioning this place and writing about the things that upset me. Dana’s Assassination is real….in fact, too real. We are in dangerous times. But silence and withdrawal has never been nor will ever be the cure for it.
Most of us remain saddened and
outraged today by Ms. Seetahal’s killing at the hands of cowards. May God bless her departed soul and may she rest in the
very peace that her “Free Chuck Attin” crusade is likely to deprive
Society of, if he is released.
But there have been other occasions when we experienced similar sadness and outrage over other heinous
crimes against persons of both greater and lesser prominence than the
highly respected Special State Prosecutor.
The 1993 murder of radiologist Marion Naraynsingh and the 1994 murders
of two young Westmoorings mothers Karen Sa Gomes and Candace Scott
immediately come to mind. Even though none of the victims was high
profile or enjoyed the popularity that Ms. Seetahal did, the
circumstances of their murders were just as brutal and incurred public
wrath and resentment in no less a manner.
We have singled out those two cases because of their respective outcomes
and to demonstrate that as outraged and saddened as we are as a society
whenever these senseless and unprovoked acts of violence are committed
against harmless, law abiding citizens, there are those among us,
particularly within the legal fraternity, who simply do not share our
sentiments, who refuse point blank to understand the grief and
overwhelming sense of loss and emptiness that the families of murder
victims must endure for the rest of their lives, and who choose instead
to identify with the rights of the perpetrators of these crimes.
And we forever bemoan the state of criminal activity and wonder why
criminals seem to be getting bolder by the day. But why shouldn’t they?
Aided and abetted as they have been by attorneys who jeopardize public
safety without a second thought, ostensibly, to satisfy some misguided
sense of professional ethics.
Leroy Andrews. the convicted killer of Marion Naraynsingh who boasted of
his gruesome deed to his friends has already been freed at age 33
without any consideration of the impact his release would have on the
victim’s family thanks to the efforts of attorney Gerald Ramdeen, while
Chuck Attin, the convicted killer of Karen Sa Gomes and Candace Scott
who was described by the trial judge as “one of the most brutal and
sadistic killers of his time” is expected to be freed as well in the
near future at age 35, with similar disregard for the impact his
release would have on the Sa Gomes and Scott families, thanks to Dana
Seetahal (Irony of all ironies) and Keith Scotland who embarked on a
crusade to have him released since he was 25, almost as if they had a
wish to inflict pain on Society.
The above are just two examples of how attorneys have discarded the
public interest, with impunity, to promote the welfare of two convicted
killers, neither of whom has ever apologized or sought forgiveness for
their unconscionable crimes, and who in fact have always fought their
sentences from the boldfaced and unremorseful position that they have
been incarcerated for too long and that their debts to Society should be
But no amount of prison time can ever be sufficient punishment for
taking someone’s life unlawfully. There will always be that inequity of
the victim being dead and his family mourning his death while his killer
is still alive, enjoying interactions, albeit limited, with his family.
It is only when the convicted murderer swings from the end of a rope,
his neck broken that his debt to Society can be considered paid.
Of course, true innocence or real guilt is of no consequence to the
attorneys who fight these cases. They use all their legal knowledge and
skills to manipulate, if not abuse the legal process, exploiting
loopholes if they exist, creating them when they don’t, to ensure that
killers when apprehended, get acquitted, and if convicted, to frustrate
the mandatory death sentence imposed on them by the courts.
Whether Justice is served at the end of the day remains incidental to
the goal of helping the killer escape his just deserts. And to
demonstrate how twisted and perverse their sympathies are, these
attorneys offer their services free of charge. I almost used the term
‘pro bono’, but I could not identify the public interest being served by their anti-victim, anti-public safety crusades.
One well known attorney broke down and wept when the State put paid to
the abuse of the appeal process by executing convicted murderer Glen
Ashby in the midst of manipulations to cheat the Hangman. He wept and he
wept bitterly at that. He shed tears for Ashby publicly that we are
certain he did not shed, not even in private, for either BWIA Captain
Kemraj Singh or Prison Officer Goolcharan, Ashby’s two victims.
Other attorneys have been known to wail and gnash their teeth, and yet
others descend into bouts of severe depression whenever a convicted
murderer is executed by the State. And they justify their disregard of
the public interest on the grounds that they are merely discharging
their professional responsibilities to their clients in keeping with the
tenets of the legal profession.
Such warped sense of values raises fundamental questions about what some
lawyers believe in and what they are committed to as human beings.
Something has to be radically wrong when the ethics of a profession are
allowed to stifle social conscience and trample human decency. That is
precisely what happens when the Law is manipulated to serve and fulfill
the agenda of the guilty and the convicted, to allow them a benefit that
is prejudicial and unjust to the victims of crime, whether deceased or
living and to law abiding Society in general.
And digressing somewhat, what of our Namby-Pamby Judges who allow their
personal viewpoints, bleeding heart sentiments and kinship loyalties
rather than the law to influence their decisions and sometimes their
directions to juries. Jason Johnson’s killer, Brad Boyce was freed in a
ruling that devastated the Johnson family. The judge admitted twenty
years later on a political platform that he had grievously erred and
begged the family for forgiveness.
In another case a jury freed young Mervyn Caton’s killer, Police Officer
Sunil Tota-Maharaj after instructions from the trial judge cast the
accused officer’s actions in a certain light in spite of overwhelming
evidence that the shooting was deliberate and possibly racially
motivated, given the officer’s close relationship to a renowned racist.
Tota-Maharaj was heard humming Brother Marvin’s ‘Jahaji Bhai’ on exiting
the Court after being freed.
And quite recently another judge discharged a murder accused because he
found that the man had waited too long for his trial to start. On
discharge, that person went on a killing spree until he was stopped by
Such perverse decisions fueled by considerations that have no place in
law are directly responsible for the distrust people have for the
criminal justice system and those who administer and practice within it,
giving rise to the cynical belief that justice can be purchased by
those who can afford it.
It is because of that overall contempt for our judicial officers that
the underworld’s parallel but more efficient extra-judicial justice
system is viewed by many as the preferred arena for righting certain
wrongs. Without loopholes and legal technicalities for defense attorneys
to exploit and no bleeding heart judges to issue instructions to juries
that produce unjust verdicts, justice is delivered swiftly,
efficiently, decisively and most of all, economically.
Thanks to that system of street justice there are far fewer murderers
and other types of violent criminals walking the streets today than
there would have been under the State’s lethargic and inefficient
criminal justice system where priority is given to form and formalities
over substance, merit and truth by judges and magistrates who are more
concerned with the observance of deadlines and protocols than dispensing
justice and protecting the public.
But back to Dana Seetahal’s case.
We wait with bated breath to see whether her death at the hands of
cowardly criminals would act as the catalyst for badly needed change in
the ethos of the legal profession. Will it be business as usual for her
colleagues, those same colleagues who were saddened beyond measure by
her senseless killing, who paid tribute to her, held candle light vigil
and prayed for the repose of her soul? Will they now in spite of their
hackneyed expressions of shock and condolence over her untimely
departure, defend her killers with a view to having them found not
guilty? Or if convicted, will they burn the midnight oil to have them
beat the Hangman? And if sentenced to life incarceration will they
exploit loopholes and technicalities to have those life sentences
If we don’t ask the questions now, we may be prevented from doing so later once a criminal prosecution gets underway.