Former president of the Barbados Bar Association, defence attorney Andrew Pilgrim, has described the shocking execution of prominent Trinidadian Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal as a “real tragedy on every score”, which merits regional outrage.
“The circumstances in which she was killed are such that we would obviously as right-thinking members of the Caribbean community be extremely upset by the circumstances,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that the incident should not be treated lightly, nor should it be dismissed as merely another killing in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Our Caribbean people function in systems that are very similar; we all note that trends of crime that happen in one island affects us in other islands sooner or later. This woman was a titan, this woman was a colossus in terms of her contribution to the legal system. Her contribution was not limited to Trinidad,” he noted.
Just after midnight on Sunday, Seetahal was shot and killed after gunmen in two vehicles blocked her Volkswagen sports utility vehicle (SUV) in Woodbrook, just on the outskirts of the capital Port of Spain.
Media reports said one of the vehicles blocked the road while another with the gunmen inside pulled alongside, with the occupants firing upon her vehicle.
An autopsy has revealed that Seetahal was shot five times — twice to the right side of her head, once to her chest, and twice to the right arm.
Pilgrim raised concern that the killing, which appeared to be a professional hit, strikes at the very heart of the justice system and must therefore be of grave concern.
“Because it means that persons who have an extremely important duty to carry out in terms of prosecution may not feel safe.
“All of us have an interest in justice being done whether you are a defence lawyer like me or you are a person working in a supermarket or working in the Press. We all have an interest in justice being done. It is very difficult for justice to be done if people who work within the system, whether they are judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers or clerks of the court or police, don’t feel safe doing their work,” Pilgrim stressed.
He added that it was difficult not to be shaken by the unexpected crime.
“We all want to be brave and courageous but these things frighten us because we are all just human beings; we can all be made afraid by this type of activity.”
Paying glowing tribute to Seetahal, whom he described as a friend and a colleague, Pilgrim noted that the legal luminary made a tremendous contribution to the profession.
“At a personal level, it is really saddening and unfortunate. Dana Seetahal struck me as an extremely humble, hardworking, academic and professional lawyer.
“This is a woman who has made a contribution to the Caribbean as a member of the Caribbean Council of Legal Education with the education of lawyers and the provision of education for lawyers in the region, as an independent senator not as somebody’s yard fowl or as somebody’s backyard politician. This is an independent senator, one that is making a contribution in terms of journalism: someone that is writing and educating people about legal issues and cases every week, the former president of the law association, she just made a contribution at so many levels. It’s just really unfortunate.”
Pilgrim stressed that incident also begged authorities to implement measures to better protect workers in the justice system.
“The only thing we can ask is that people in law enforcement be extremely cognizant and aware of the possible threats in circumstances like these and identify persons who could be targeted and take the steps to protect them.
“But of course at the most basic level we just need to ask ourselves about crime and the causes of crime and what are we doing to prevent persons from becoming professional criminals because these are obviously professional criminals that are carrying out these type of attacks. It’s not something that we can take lightly,” Pilgrim stressed.