Former national security minister Martin Joseph said he had a poignant moment yesterday when he cried as he thought about senior counsel Dana Seetahal.
Seetahal, who was murdered early Sunday morning, and Joseph were senators at the same time from 2002-2010.
Joseph said he worked closely with her when the police were having difficulties in bringing cases to the Magistrates’ Courts and winning, because they were not properly trained and because they were up against competent lawyers.
“Dana had made some suggestions and, based on those suggestions, we raised the rank of our court prosecutors to sergeant. And Dana conducted training for all of our sergeants over a period of time to raise their level of competence in the court. The training course took a whole year and when it was over she gave me a book called Criminology.
“And I cried this morning when I took out that book, because she had put a little note in it saying ‘To Senator the Honourable Martin Joseph, Minister of National Security, you made it happen’, with her signature under it.”
Joseph said when he got the call, informing him that Seetahal had been assassinated, he said to himself: “We have reached. I felt I had lost someone (close).”
Joseph said Seetahal was very strong on MILAT (Military-led Academy Training) and MIPAT (Military-led Youth Programme of Apprenticeship and Reorientation Training), the two military projects out of the National Security Ministry for young people who have difficulties with discipline, “because she was so strong on young offenders being allowed another opportunity”.
One of the other things Seetahal was very interested in was the rehabilitation of persons who were convicted for drug use.
“She always talked about a Minnesota model that existed where courts would sentence persons to a programme that would allow them to treat with these drug problems. She was passionate about the prison system providing opportunities for prisoners, especially those who came in based on drug use and the provision of the chance for them to get rehabilitated,” Joseph stated
Joseph said when the People’s National Government (PNM) government established the Crime and Justice Commission, Seetahal was a key player, along with Gillian Lucky (now director of the Police Complaints Authority).
He said the commission was established as an entity to help the Government adopt a more holistic approach to the challenges it was facing with crime. He said it would be interesting to know what happened to that commission after the PNM demitted office.
Joseph said more than anything else, Seetahal used to come to his defence during debates in the Senate, when he was being severely criticised by her colleague, Prof Ramesh Deosaran.
“The country has lost a very, very competent and extremely dedicated person. She was really unique,” Joseph said.