- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Silence Will Not Solve Trinidad & Tobago's Crime Problem

Categories: Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech, History, Law, Media & Journalism, Politics

Following the widespread shock of Trinidad and Tobago netizens over the murder of attorney Dana Seetahal [1] yesterday, one blog, The Eternal Pantomime, turns the public outcry on its head with a post [2] that addresses issues of race, class and politics.

Starting with a reference to a heinous and as yet unsolved crime [3] 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 [4]:

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” [2] 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 [5], 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 [6]. Visit Lotte Grønkjær's flickr photostream [7].