Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hope for turnaround in murder ‘impunity’

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Mark Fraser

 The overhang of dread, in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Dana Seetahal, SC derives in large part from the evident effectiveness of the perpetrators in sending a chilling message about their capacity and their disposition. That they can target as prominent and well-regarded an individual as Ms Seetahal is what the assassins have managed clearly to communicate. 

As the pieces are being put together for the narrative of how Ms Seetahal met her end, it has to be acknowledged that the potential for even this frightful occurrence has long been in place. Earliest reports suggest the use by last Sunday morning’s shooters of military-quality arms and ammunition. 

In Cunupia, just four days before, police had seized guns described as  “high-powered” enough for soldiers, together with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and even bullet-proof vests marked “Police”. Nor was this the first such find. Evidently, for the purposes of deadly wrongdoing, no shortage of resources applies.

This is Trinidad and Tobago today: an unsettling reality known and endured by its citizens, but not really bestirring any sustained response of popular repudiation of the murderous peril that stares everyone in the face. Ms Seetahal obviously did not see herself as someone singled out for stalking and ambush, while on her way home after an evening’s recreation.

On reflection, as a senior criminal lawyer, and sometimes prosecutor, also known to be fearlessly outspoken on national issues, her profile must have been a larger than average one in the eyes of those seeking to make an example of an appropriate victim. It turned out that the prudence behind her reported possession of a licensed firearm availed little when it mattered most.

Resisting, as it should, any temptation to speculate, T&T awaits the outcome of such investigations as would discover the proximate cause of the wasting last weekend of a valued and much admired personage.

What the country should have no difficulty in recognising, however, is the predisposing context of rampant murder, conspicuously enabled by the ready availability of illegal guns, and encouraged effectively by the under-performance in detection and prosecution. The means, the mind-set and the motivation for homicide dwell among citizens as perils ever ready to be visited upon the unwary, the unlucky, and those proverbially found in the wrong place at the wrong time.   

Reflecting on the pervasive mortal danger in which citizens carry on mostly regardless, Senior Counsel Martin Daly observed: “A life in Trinidad is worth nothing.” Mr Daly was referring to the tendency to shrug off the continuing rise of murders repeatedly committed with “impunity”. 

The message of Ms Seetahal’s demise is that the killers can do it and get away. The desperate hope since given rise may be simply expressed as: not this time.