Murdered senior counsel Dana Seetahal should have receive the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the country’s highest award, her family believes.
Instead, Seetahal has been posthumously awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) for her service to the country, the Office of the President announced yesterday.
Her sister, Susan Francois, director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), said Seetahal should have been conferred with the ORTT at today’s Independence Awards ceremony at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain.
She expressed shock yesterday that Seetahal did not received the ORTT.
As the country commemorates its 52nd anniversary of Independence today with the presentation of national awards, no one has been listed to receive the ORTT.
Sources close to the awards said yesterday the Office of the President was unable to contact or interview former prime ministers Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday as is procedure and therefore could not list them as awardees.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had previously announced that they would receive the ORTT.
Seetahal was killed on May 3 in her car as she drove to her One Woodbrook Place apartment minutes after she left Ma Pau Casino at Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Francois said: “I know she was nominated for the nation’s ORTT. While I appreciate all the positive feedback on Dana’s life and contribution, and we appreciate the award, I think when it comes to official national recognition from her country anything less than the nation’s highest award is shocking. It is shocking given the fact she knowingly risked her life and paid the ultimate price for her contribution and service to this country. She fought for order and justice in this society and paid for it with her life.”
Paying tribute to Seetahal’s legacy, Francois said: “She knowingly risked her life. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has also commented on the fact she did what she did knowing the risk she took in her fearless contribution and commentary that is well recognised by people in all walks of society.”
Yesterday the National Awards List which was released by President Anthony Carmona’s office said Seetahal, an attorney at law, will be conferred with the (posthumous) Chaconia Medal (Gold) for long and meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago in the sphere of law.
President of the Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) Gillian Wall said they had nominated Seetahal for the prestigious award.
Asked if she will be attending today’s ceremony, Francois said: “Unfortunately, I am not able to attend. At this time, I can’t get confirmation from my family if anybody will be attending. We are still working on it. It’s not possible for another member of the family to attend. So it would have to be another day.”
To date, it has been 120 days since Seetahal was gunned down.
The police investigation into her killing is ongoing.
She said: “The days speak for themselves. We are aware there have been no arrests.”
PLOTT: Dana paid ultimate price
The Powerful Ladies Association of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) which nominated Seetahal for the ORTT said Seetahal paid the ultimate price for her country.
In a telephone interview yesterday Wall said: “She was nominated for the nation’s highest honour. Any recognition Dana gets is well deserving. But we were looking for something consistent with her having paid the ultimate price. We submitted a detailed document and we submitted appendices. (ORTT) was what she was nominated for. And that remains the level of recognition that she should get.”
Asked to share her sentiments on the delay in catching Seetahal’s murderers, Wall said: “It’s taking too long. We received feedback the investigations are ongoing. Very often the witnesses disappear and that’s the concern.”
Wall added: “There is the concern whether accountability will be achieved. The biggest concern is the duration of the investigation which could result in the disappearance of witnesses. It is the length of time that concerns us.”
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar could not be immediately reached for comment on her mobile phone yesterday.