Friday, December 15, 2017

Mourning for Dana in Minnesota


FLASHBACK: Dana Seetahal, left, with host family members Rhea Lewis and Sheila Thoulouis. It was taken at the home of Dr Barbara Grazette-Skerrett.

Mark Fraser

The following article appeared in the University of Minnesota’s Law School newsletter online on Friday. Senior counsel Dana Seetahal was cremated on Thursday.

The International Fellowship Programmes at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School express their sincere condolences to the family and friends of senior counsel Dana Seetahal of Trinidad and Tobago. On May 4, Seetahal was gunned down while driving in the vicinity of the Woodbrook Youth Club in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the victim of an apparent political assassination.

Seetahal was a Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota during the 1998-99 academic year. During her fellowship year, she focused on criminal justice in the areas of witness protection, jury selection, plea bargaining, and victimology. She was a well-respected senior counsel and an independent senator in the Trinidad and Tobago Senate. She was also an attorney in private practice and was formerly a lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago, where she held the position of course director in criminal practice and procedure.

Her book Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure is the first of its kind to be published. Its credibility is supported not only by her theoretical knowledge, but also by her practical experience of more than 20 years in the field as a prosecutor, a magistrate, a criminologist, a criminal justice consultant, and, finally, as a law school lecturer.

Toni Pierre, who was mentored by Seetahal during her Fulbright Humphrey Fellowship (2003-04), recalled their first meeting: “Dana opened up her heart, her wardrobe of warm clothes, and her little black book of contacts whom she assured me I should call, [saying] ‘They are real “Trinis” in all that cold and will look out for you.’ She was right…. She will be terribly missed, especially her fearlessness.”

Brent Bidjou, who was a board member of the Minnesota International Center when Seetahal arrived in Minnesota in 1998, said, “I am still in shock over this unspeakable tragedy. Trinidad and Tobago has lost its brightest and its best. May my friend Dana Seetahal rest in eternal peace, and may justice, which she dedicated her entire career to, prevail in Trinidad and Tobago’s future.”

Dr Barbara Grazette-Skerrett, a Minnesotan originally from Trinidad and Tobago, served as a host family representative for Seetahal during her time as a Humphrey Fellow. In Grazette-Skerrett’s words, “I met Dana during her time at the Humphrey Institute and she became part of my family while in the Twin Cities…. She returned to Trinidad and Tobago and worked tirelessly for her country, giving above and beyond what was required of her…. She was a ‘shining star,’ loved and respected by her fellow citizens, with the entire island grieving her loss.”