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‘Role model to nephews, nieces’

By Rachael Espinet Tuesday, May 6 2014

Slain Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal will always be remembered by her family as a hard working, dedicated, independent woman who was not only driven to succeed, but who served as a “great role model” for her nieces and nephews by encouraging them to strive for success.

“She was always a role model to her nieces and nephews. That is why they are all lawyers, doctors and psychologists,” Seetahal’s eldest sister, Rosie Seetahal, told Newsday at their childhood home on Wilkinson Street, El Dorado.

Seetahal, 59, was assassinated at about 12.05 am Sunday in an organised “hit.” Seetahal had just left Ma Pau Casino in Woodbrook and appeared to be heading home when two vehicles — a panel van and a white station wagon — sandwiched her silver-coloured Volkswagen SUV and an occupant opened fire, killing her instantly.

“I already miss her. Last week we were supposed to go out, and she said she had to work on the case (Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial). I wish I could see her again. I don’t think there is anybody like her in the country,” Rosie said.

Rosie who kept herself composed while speaking to Newsday said when she first learned of her sister’s murder she was so distraught she collapsed. “When my son-in-law told me, I fell down. I could not take it. She was always there for me, and now she isn’t here. She was always willing to help us financially or otherwise. We miss her terribly,” Rosie said.

Rosie said her sister, the eighth of 11 children, was so dedicated to the family that she never missed a special occasion whether it was a birthday, Christmas or Easter. However, Rosie said Seetahal always put her work as a Senior Counsel first as she always did as a child. Seetahal, who was a Fulbright scholar, was dedicated to her work even when she was a child. Rosie said Seetahal was always reading at home, at the library or taking part in extracurricular activities.

“She was very dedicated to her work. She went to Bishop Anstey High School, Port-of-Spain. She represented the school in chess and karate. She was really a good girl. She never depended on anyone. She worked on everything she wanted,” Rosie said. Rosie said her sister’s assassination came as a shock to the family, particularly because throughout Seetahal’s career she did not receive many threats on her life. Rosie recalled one incident in 1984 when a man attempted to rape Seetahal while jogging. However, Seetahal was versed in self defence and fought off her attacker.

Though that incident was the only moment Rosie could recall a threat on her sister’s life, she said she was always concerned for her sister’s safety, especially when she was dealing with high-profile criminal cases.

“I told her don’t take all those cases,” Rosie said.

Rosie, a past teacher of the Russel Latapy High School, Morvant, said the school would hold a memorial service in memory of her sister. Another of Seetahal’s sisters, Susan Francois, Director of the Finance Intelligence Unit, also said her death was a big loss to her family.

“We are all saddened, we are all saddened,” Francois said, her voice choking with emotion.

Seetahal belonged to a close-knit community in El Dorado, and her childhood neighbours described her as a loyal woman who never forgot from where she came. Seetahal named her law office from which she worked: El Dorado Chambers. Samaroo Siewah, Seetahal’s childhood neighbour said, “The family was a very good example for the village to come from very humble beginnings to make a huge contribution to the society. Dana was one of the outstanding members of her family, if not the first.

“She has a good interaction with the village. Even though she left the village, she still reestablished the connection with the community.”

A shopkeeper, who declined to be named, knew Seetahal since she was as a little girl. He remembered her as a down-to-earth person who was always willing to listen to the concerns of the poor and oppressed. He joked that at one time he wanted legal advice on a matter and she turned to him and said, “Let’s do this by the book, say I retain you,” which he did and then Seetahal gave him all the legal advice he needed.

Seetahal’s funeral is due to take place on Thursday at the Aramalaya Presbyterian Church, Tunapuna.

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