Twice as he gave the tribute to Dana Seetahal yesterday, Independent Senator Anthony Vieira almost cried, but then he composed himself and held it together.
Seetahal’s assassination sets a dangerous and destabilising precedent, Vieira, an attorney, said in the Senate.
Seetahal served as an independent senator from 2002 to 2010.
The mood in the Senate was overwhelmingly sombre and heavy as the Senate paid tribute to Seetahal.
There was one theme throughout the tributes—that her death was not simply the murder of another person by the hands of criminals, but represented an irreplaceable and significant loss. She literally gave her talent, her commitment, her love and sadly her life, to this country.
The sentiment expressed by those who spoke was she was married to her dedication to Trinidad and Tobago—a true public servant, whether she was part of the civil service or not.
An emotional Vieira said: “This premeditated and carefully executed assassination goes beyond the murder of a defenceless woman—it represents an attack on our justice system and an attack on law and order itself.
“It calls for a frank assessment of the existing deficiencies in our criminal justice system; and our law enforcement and security capabilities, particularly bearing in mind that Trinidad and Tobago falls within a network of drug-trafficking and international criminal activity (including gun-running, money-laundering and drug related crimes).
“And it calls us to consider whether our law enforcement architecture has the requisite capability to effectively address this latest form of terror tactics and the non-traditional types of crime.”
He added: “We can no longer proceed in our customary, relaxed manner. We need to restore public confidence and reduce the feelings of insecurity and disquiet which now grips the nation.
“Among other things, we need to upgrade our security laws, develop our intelligence-gathering capabilities, and allocate the necessary resources to protect those serving at the front line and who may be at risk; in particular judges, magistrates and prosecutors handling high-profile criminal cases.
“I stand with the Police Complaints Authority director Gillian Lucky in demanding action from the State to protect them.”
Vieira continued: “We have become adjusted and have grown to accept the deterioration of our criminal justice system. Dana’s death must serve as a call to arms to all who would establish the rule of law and justice in the affairs and men.”
He added that this was a solemn moment in the course of the country’s struggle for law and order. He said it needed to be recognised that “we can’t have a free, safe and stable society if we lack an overarching strategy to cope with the crime and security challenges”.
He said the Dana he knew was warm and engaging, full of good spirit and humour and possessed of the highest ideals.
He said: “I remember the younger Dana jogging all over the place, most times alone. She was fearless. Dana celebrated who we are as a people and all the aspects that make up our culture. She loved life and was a ‘Trini to the bone’.
“Dana was comfortable in her own skin, equally at ease whether dealing with the highest or lowest in the land.”
Vierra said: “As a friend, as a practising attorney-at-law and as a member of the Independent bench, I wish to acknowledge with deep gratitude and appreciation Dana’s considerable and important contributions: in the law courts, in the halls of academia, in the media, in the Law Association, and in this Honourable Senate.”