DANA’S BLOOD CRIES OUT
By Darcel Choy and Sasha Harrinanan Friday, May 9 2014
“Evil has gone wild.”
This lament of Presbyterian minster, Reverend Daniel Teelucksingh, resonated with every single mourner inside the Aramalaya Presbyterian Church and those watching the live broadcast, on all of the country’s television stations, of the funeral service for Dana Saroop Seetahal SC.
The vibrant Seetahal, 59, was cut down in a hail of bullets during an ambush at Hamilton Holder Street, Woodbrook, on her way home to One Woodbrook Place from Ma Pau casino, early last Sunday morning.
As police continued their hunt for killers, the legal fraternity, the political directorate, law students, friends and family came together to remember and celebrate the life of Seetahal.
The church on Cochrane Street, Tunapuna was packed to capacity well before the 5 pm start of the funeral service, with dozens of mourners seated in the church yard under tents.
In his sobering, passionate sermon Teelucksingh said the day was a “miserable” and “disturbing” one because they were all there to bid farewell to one of this country’s “treasured citizens”.
“The rich and poor cry for justice. If God can hear that cry, why can’t we hear it? All of society can’t be deaf to those cries,” the revered admonished.
“Don’t you think Dana’s blood, and all of those of murdered victims, cries also to the person or persons who pulled the trigger. The soul in anguish is going to call out to them, why did you cause me such pain? Why deny me the right to live?” Teelucksingh asked, as if talking to all killers.
Addressing President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the protective services and the legal fraternity, the reverend said, “We hear the mournful voices of splattered blood on the ground crying from the ground out for justice.”
Saying Trinidad and Tobago “is no easy land to govern”, Teelucksingh was applauded by those inside the church when he said, “the conspiracy of the criminally-minded contributes to the challenges of effective governance and good administration.”
Teelucksingh, who served as an Independent Senator during the same period as Seetahal, recalled her bravery and courageousness in always speaking up about what she thought was right, even when it went against popular opinion.
“She represents the strength, the determination of the legal fraternity and the Trinidad and Tobago criminal justice system,” he said.
Teelucksingh added that Seetahal was not only a physical presence during her life but an indestructible spiritual force which not even death could silence.
“She was an inspiration for us in life and in her death. Her bravery and strength of character cannot be contained in any casket or consumed in any of Belgrove’s cremation chambers,” he said.
Although the two and a half hour service began with talk of crime and its impact on our lives, the other 15 speakers chose to share their memories of “Dana” the exceptional lawyer, of “Seets” the colleague turned loyal friend, and of “Aunty Dana,” who was “a rock” for her family. Tribute came too from one of her most high-profile clients, soca star Machel Montano, who fought back emotion during his speech and subsequent performance.
Seetahal’s sister and Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Susan Francois, led off the tributes with the simple yet moving acknowledgment of how much life can change in an instant.
“Last Sunday morning, I had five sisters. Now I have four. My sister, who was brutally taken from us, was our guiding light. I could speak of the loss and devastation we feel, but they would be woefully inadequate.”
Fighting back tears, a visibly emotional Francois said, “We will shed tears because she is gone but we will laugh because she has lived. We will open our eyes and see all she has left, and we will cherish her memory and let it live on.”
Francois also shared that “Dana had many friends, but there was one she was extremely close to”, former Director of Public Prosecutions, now Judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, Geoffrey Henderson.
He could not attend the funeral, so he sent a letter about “Seets,” which Francois read on his behalf.
In it, Henderson said his friend’s murder by “gutless cowards” has left a void that was extremely difficult to deal with and impossible to comprehend.
He also wrote of what many others yesterday recalled, that “Seets” believed in complete and thorough preparation for her cases, which made her formidable in court as an advocate, prosecutor and defence attorney, whether in criminal law or representing parties in civil litigation. Henderson also said it was no wonder, when she received Silk; was conferred the title of Senior Counsel in 2006, no one questioned the decision.
“Many felt rather, that it was an overview correction, as it should have been given sooner. Dana Silk was real Silk,” the ICC judge stated.
President Carmona was the last person to pay tribute to Seetahal. He said if there was only one word to describe what the late senior counsel steadfastly fought for, it would be “justice.”
“The ideal of ‘Justice for all’ is one she guarded with fanatical fervour. It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, or what you did. It mattered not your social class, your religion, your ethnicity or your political affiliation. If you were a victim, she wasn’t just on your side, she was your side,” he said.
Carmona, a former High Court judge, revealed that like many others, he too was “still in a state of shock.”
“I am numb and cold with grief. We as a nation cannot sit idly by and watch as the blood of our people, man and woman, young and old, flows freely as a result of the actions of those who do not view life with any degree of sanctity.”
“Dana’s death is not the first that we as a nation had to contend with, others have lost daughters, mothers, sisters, sons, fathers, and brothers, every death by violence, is one death too many,” the President stated
Montano also paid tribute to Seetahal in song. He recalled meeting Seetahal seven years ago, when he became a client of hers and that over the years, “we became a family. Naturally, Dana became the matriarch.”
His grief evident to all, Montano struggled not to break down in tears as he advised everyone that “At a time like this, we must cling to our faith in God.”
He then expressed hope that his song would help “Dana’s memory” to live on in their minds and hearts.
A second set of tributes to Seetahal followed Montano’s performance, this time from five of her nephews and two of her nieces.
In a poignant confession, Devanan Persad told his fellow mourners he and “Aunty Dana” had spent the past few months preparing to play a chess game. “It seems I will have more time to prepare. Until we meet again Aunty Dana.”
Persad also touched many when he compared his aunt and her life’s work to “an idea,” which he said “you can’t kill...with a bullet. She lives in your consciousness, she’s not dead.”
As mourners, among them Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, filed out they shared comforting hugs with Seetahal’s family, who later left for the Belgroves Crematorium, Tacarigua, where the Senior Counsel was cremated.