TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO is a Caribbean nation whose vibrant, creative and cosmopolitan citizens continue to positively impact on the cultural life of our Caribbean Community. But it is becoming increasingly painful to share T&T’s multiplying agonies, not the least being the wastage of life at the hands of brazen criminals. Their latest murder victim is the courageous legal luminary, Dana Seetahal.
If it is of any comfort to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago they should be aware, at this time of national mourning over the shocking execution late Saturday night of Ms Seetahal, that their agony is widely shared across the Caribbean Community where citizens of all races and classes are uneasily coping with a mindless criminal epidemic.
This epidemic has methodically taken root through the years by an evolving mix of opportunistic party politicking and complicity by various sectors in drugs, arms and human trafficking which have seriously scarred the Caribbean landscape.
The spreading criminality has occasionally been aided by corrupt elements within the security forces and some state agencies.
This has resulted in murders being counted in the hundreds annually for countries like Jamaica and T&T with Guyana following closely. No Caricom partner state has escaped the crime epidemic.
The harsh reality is that those involved in sex crimes, human and drug-trafficking and gun-running have no respect for territorial and legal boundaries or cultural norms.
It was my good fortune to have had some encounters with Dana Seetahal during visits to Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to being highly respected by her peers, the senior counsel, widely admired for her professional competence, had sustained a keen interest in the media—beyond being a columnist—first for the Guardian and up to the time of her killing, the Express.
Consistent with a habit of courageously facing up to the challenges of her profession and also revealing awareness of the social functions of the news media, her last Express column was to reflect those very qualities.
Ms Seetahal’s last column was an open challenge to a recent controversial letter by former solicitor general, Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, to explain “what exactly” she wanted the Attorney General to “investigate” in relation to reported questionable practices between lawyers acting for the State and prison officers.
Following a decision by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to forward the ex-solicitor general’s letter to the Attorney General, the PM also advised him to invite the Prison Officers Association (POA), among other stakeholders, to address the issue of the alleged questionable practices.
However, the POA surprisingly lost no time in announcing their refusal to meet with the AG on the issue.
Against the backdrop of the controversy involving correspondence between the ex-solicitor general and the Prime Minister and the POA and the Attorney General, speculation has emerged about the hired guns in the execution of Ms Seetahal who was one of the lead prosecutors in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial.
With the Government adding $2.5 million to an earlier CrimeStoppers $1 million reward for any information leading to the arrest and trial of Ms Seetahal’s killers, Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams made a nationwide appeal for help…. “Let us work together as one country…” was his plea.
Regrettably, the “one country” concept is being constantly eroded by narrow, divisive party politics.
But the alternative to national co-operation is grim for a multiethnic nation which has survived some serious civil disturbances over the years and the botched Muslimeen coup.
Given the nature of the criminal networks, nationally, regionally and internationally, all governments of Caricom would be advised to have their respective security agencies/services work as closely as possible to help Trinidad and Tobago bring to justice the killers of Dana Seetahal. After all, most Caricom states would have experiences of execution-style killings by the criminal underworld.
For its part, T&T, which has emerged as the shopping metropolis for many Caricom citizens, as well as a valued aid and trade partner within our 15-member community, must be seen to be moving with unity and firm resolve to uproot the embedded criminal networks that continue to mock the law enforcing agencies, make virtual prisoners of citizens in their homes and, tragically, continue to waste lives like that of Dana Seetahal.
• Rickey Singh is a