As if already she had not taken too many bombs below her belt, this week the enfeebled Lady Caribbean Justice suffered yet another devastating hit, the consequences of which are unimaginably ominous.
By all accounts a well-respected senior counsel, 58-year-old Trinidadian Dana Seetahal was on her way home in the early hours of last Sunday morning when her car was trapped by two other vehicles and her body riddled with bullets.
Noted the Jamaica Observer, softly-softly: “It was the first assassination of a senior member of the criminal justice system, a major blow which threatens to reverberate throughout the system and strike at its very heart.”
Threatened my asp! The discombobulating truth is that the “major blow” was deftly delivered with malice aforethought. It sent out the intended message that absolutely no one was beyond the criminal reach. It shook up the Caribbean to its complacent core and dealt a lethal blow to our long shaky justice system.
Mission accomplished. Today Trinidad & Tobago; tomorrow? Is the Caribbean destined soon to be the new Mexico?
The Jamaica press described the deceased as “a fearless prosecutor who had prosecuted attempted-coup leader Abu Bakr in the past [sic] and successfully won [sic] the lawsuit which enabled the State to sell the former insurgent’s property.” (In my present uncharitable state of mind, I can’t help underscoring the sophomoric journalism . . . but that’s for another inquiry!)
At the time of her
devilishly executed murder, Seetahal was prosecuting another high-profile Trinidad murder trial. While her “assassination” had reportedly rattled fellow Trinidadians and other right-thinking people the world over, in Saint Lucia it evidently did not merit much public discussion, not even a ritual official statement, not from our Trini-obsessed prime minister, not from his often embarrassingly loquacious justice minister. (Granted, lately he’s been giving the impression the cat got his tongue!)
If I might resort to the argot of HTS’ William Peter Boulevard pollsters, the local bar association either doesn’t know—or doesn’t care!—about Sunday’s fatal shooting of a colleague in the land of the hummingbird turned vulture heaven, judging by its deathly silence.
RCI featured a transparent statement by an obviously self-serving Trinidad politician (pardon the redundancy!) in which he expressed the hope that what had happened to Seetahal had “nothing to do with her work because that would mean all fall down.” Spoken like a true representative of the people!
The undeniable truth is that it matters little what was the motive for the unconscionable shooting. Judges, magistrates, police officers—our whole justice system—has been given the worst cause for pause. And that game-changing fact alone should’ve by now moved the region’s HOGs without vision to convene yet another “urgent meeting to discuss,” as they like to put it to us accommodating plebes, “the way forward.”
If there has been a related word from out-to-lunch CARICOM, it has not yet reached my ears.
With the usual pomp and ceremony, Saint Lucia’s increasingly anachronistic governor general (with what appeared to be a lettuce on her head) needlessly reminded victims about the mess that engulfs us, a mess created by what she often majestically refers to as “my government,” whether decked out in yellow or red.
For the third time since 2011, she appealed to the deliberately polarized people of this poverty-stricken nation to come together in a united effort to right—at great cost to themselves—the wrongs that had been done them by the government that by some colonial arrangement she ostensibly heads in the name of the Queen of England.
But the governor general had not a word for Trinidad’s brutally gunned down crown prosecutor, or for the
Caribbean population now scared witless in consequence. Instead, the governor general parroted the prime minister’s regret that certain long—not necessarily dearly—departed notables, absolute strangers to most of our nation, thanks to our education system and the mindless politicians that drive it, had not lived to be a hundred.
Among the identified too-soon-departed, ironically, was Sir Allen Lewis, father of the government’s current advisor on international relations. What Sir Allen was subjected to by the 1979 Labour administration shortly before he was unceremoniously evicted from Government House is a matter of sad record.
But then the governor general was, as usual, reading from a script written for her with particular motives. Conceivably, the farthest thing from her scriptwriter’s mind was the pregnant-with-implications precedential Trinidad disaster, mention of which might’ve reminded listeners of what had happened to Anne-Marie Smith and her daughter right here in Castries on April 2010.
A Jamaican magistrate doing a stint in Saint Lucia, Smith was on here way to work with her daughter, when ghouls unknown opened fire on her car. The young girl escaped, shaken but unscratched. Her mother was not so lucky. Several bullets tore into her flesh. It will come as no surprise that to date no one has been arrested in connection with this forgotten incident that, as usual, had for a week or so panicked the nation.
As the governor general reminded us last year: “We are a nation used to hardship.” By which I understood her to say, we are by now accustomed to egregious abuse.
The smallest reference to Dana Seetahal at Tuesday’s House gathering might also have returned to the public mind to the ongoing IMPACS investigation into several murders allegedly carried out by particular members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
An expression of sympathy for Seetahal might’ve confronted us with our record of over 400 unresolved homicides. Also of Hannah Defoe’s unresolved electrocution two years ago in the swimming pool of a hotel in the prime minister’s constituency. All of which would’ve underscored the damage that one lesser evil can do to a trusting, naïve people, aided and abetted by another lesser evil!
The governor general spoke at length about last year’s controversial two-one court decision that she said would lead to our dumping the Privy Council in favor of our own court of last resort. Alas, she had not one word of concern for the safety of Dennis Byron and others, on whose shoulders rests the burden of dispensing CCJ justice though the heavens fall!
For now I will resist making any suggestions that might more effectively be made by others directly connected with our region’s justice system. I will say only that even as I write, seasoned members of the judiciary are suddenly having second thoughts about their chosen careers.
It may be worth noting that if our judges and magistrates are not afforded the protection they so obviously must have in the public interest, if our HOGs and their demonstrably visionless vision commissions persist in leaving them as sitting ducks for unconscionable criminals, it won’t be long before we all find ourselves living by the unwritten laws of jungle predators—most of us as easy prey!