Silence Will Not Solve Trinidad & Tobago's Crime Problem

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.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Lotte Grønkjær, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Lotte Grønkjær's flickr photostream.


  • 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
    considered repaid.

    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
    police bullets.

    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.

    Written By:Radar

  • […] Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, la cui morte ha scioccato la nazione. I cittadini da tutti i livelli hanno assalito il web per denunciare lo stato del crimine nella […]

  • […] casa. Ma mentre tagliare l'erba diventava più monotono, ho cominciato a pensare ad altre cose: l'escalation della criminalità [en, come i seguenti, salvo diversamente indicato], la corruzione sistematica, […]

  • […] domem. Jednak kiedy pielenie stało się bardziej monotonne, zaczęłam myśleć o innych rzeczach: eskalacji przestępczości, korupcji systemowej i szarej strefie gospodarki, podobno opartej na handlu bronią i […]

  • […] 先週末、庭で過ごしていたときに私は、元気づけられているように感じた。外に出て、土を掘り、手に感じる地球の自然のちからに驚きながら。そう最初は。雨でさえ、私を家の中に追いやることはできない。すぐそばの木に実るマンゴーやカカオの熟れた香りと混ざり合った雨の香りは、家にいるように心地よい。しかし、草むしりが単調になってくると、私は別のことを考え始める。たとえば、エスカレートする犯罪や、構造的な腐敗、違法ドラッグや武器の売買が元になっているといわれるブラックマーケットなどだ。 […]

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