Sunday, February 25, 2018

‘She will get justice’

PM meets with National Security Council:


GUNNED DOWN: Dana Seetahal

Mark Fraser

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Chief Justice Ivor Archie have agreed to meet to devote urgent attention to necessary reforms in the criminal justice system and security issues connected there “following the assassination of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal” yesterday.

Persad-Bissessar also convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

Around 12.05 a.m. yesterday Seetahal was shot dead inside in her Volkswagen SUV near the Woodbrook Youth Facility after two vehicles pulled alongside causing her to stop.

Seetahal, a columnist with the Express newspaper, was a special State Prosecutor at the murder trial for Chaguanas businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman which is ongoing at the Port of Spain High Court.

Persad-Bissessar described Seetahal’s killing as a “reprehensible act” which has created an “abyss of loss and sadness”.

“It is with profound sadness and shock that I learned of the tragic death of a dear friend and colleague Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal,” Persad-Bissessar said in a release issued yesterday.

“It is a reprehensible act which has robbed us all of one of our nation’s best and brightest daughters,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said Seetahal would be recognisable to even those who never met her because of her “proud legacy”.

“There is an abyss of loss and sadness for this brutal removal of a sister, friend, legal luminary and fearless, independent thinker on national issues,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Persad-Bissessar said she is committed to ensuring justice is sought in this matter, just like Seetahal would have wanted.

“As Prime Minister, I am resolutely committed to meeting the viciousness with which Dana Seetahal’s brilliant life was cut down on the terms she would have wanted and fought so courageously and fearlessly every day,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“Dana Seetahal would have uncompromisingly sought justice and made her voice known. Dana Seetahal would have made her tragedy an impetus and symbol for sweeping changes,” she said.

“Dana Seetahal would have fought with her last breath to ensure justice was served. By our response let us preserve that legacy,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said mere expressions of sympathy and regret are not enough.

“This outrageous act of brutality cannot be concluded by mere expressions of regret and sympathy,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“I have enjoined with the Minister of National Security to ensure that every resource of the law enforcement machinery of the State is utilised in relentless pursuit of apprehending those involved in this dastardly and heinous act,” she said.

“Yet further I have spoken with Chief Justice Mr Ivor Archie and we have agreed to meet in order to devote urgent attention to necessary reform in the criminal justice system and security issues connected there with,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She said the legal profession and the country as a whole have lost a truly remarkable daughter of Trinidad and Tobago.

“We have lost someone who never allowed herself to be defined by the change she advocated and whose courage and boldness will always stand as an inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s legal professionals,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“I send my most heartfelt condolences to her family and closest friends and wish them on behalf of the nation God’s blessings and guidance in this time of deep grief and loss,” she said.

Profile of Dana’s life

DANA SEETAHAL attended the Tunapuna Presbyterian school and at the age of 11 passed for her first choice Bishop Anstey High School.

At Bishop’s, Seetahal represented the school in debating and chess. She also held a purple belt in karate.

After leaving secondary school Seetahal worked for 15 months at the Ministry of Health to earn money to assist in furthering her education.

Seetahal attained a Bachelor of Laws from The University of the West Indies (UWI) and in October 1979 was admitted to the bar.

Seetahal eventually joined the chambers of Senior Counsel Dr Aeneas Wills alongside former classmate Israel Khan.

After leaving Wills’ law firm Seetahal joined the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where she rose to the post of acting State Counsel III.

In 1994 she was awarded a scholarship to do her Masters Degree in Criminology from the Florida State University and is a Fulbright scholar.

Apart from serving as a State prosecutor, she was also an Assistant Solicitor General and a magistrate.

Seetahal was former lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School and held the position of course director in Criminal Practice and Procedure.

In 2002 she first entered Parliament as an Independent Senator.

In 2006 Seetahal was made a senior counsel and in 2008 she opened her own private chambers “El Dorado Chambers” located in Port of Spain.

Seetahal also served as a president for the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago.

She authored a book called The Commonwealth Caribbean on Criminal Procedure.

In February Seetahal was among 25 distinguished UWI graduates to be honoured at The UWI Alumni Association Trinidad and Tobago Chapter (UWIAATT) Distinguished Awards.

She has featured in numerous high-profile cases in this country including soca artiste Machel Montano’s assault matter.

In 2010 when the State sought to recover a multi-million-dollar debt owed by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen Seetahal was hired as a special prosecutor.

At the time of her death, Seetahal was assisting the State as a special prosecutor in the trial of murdered Chaguanas businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.

Seetahal was a columnist with the Express since August 2010.

Her sister Susan Francois is the director of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).