We never quite thought the time would come –– any time soon –– when the suggestion would be that we scurry around and drastically up the public security of Barbados’ judicial officers. But we understand fully Director of Public Prosecutions Charles Leacock’s anxiety and dread.
To say we ourselves did not suffer the jitters –– and consequent angst –– over the seemingly calculated and blatantly brutal and savage slaying of prominent Trinidadian Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal would be to submit to an untruth. That the execution of a high-profile judicial officer can be with such precision and speedy finality is blood-chilling –– even for a place where the count of murders to date has exceeded the number of days so far in the year.
When a country takes to assassinating its judicial officers, it debases itself; and sooner rather than later its people, without bona fide justice, are given
to anarchy and desolation.
And as prosecutor Mr Leacock, QC, points out, if this hit on Ms Seetahal can occur in a jurisdiction that provides high-level judicial protection, what defence against such barbarity have our court officers in Barbados, where such security has never before had to be contemplated?
Actually, the manner of Ms Seetahal’s demise, on her way home in the wee hours of last Sunday, ought to be of grave concern to all of the Caribbean region and its leaders, for any failure to bring this shooting to closure will augur not well for us all.
Former Barbados Bar Association president and defence lawyer Andrew Pilgrim has described the shocking execution of Ms Seetahal as a “real tragedy on every score” that merits Caribbean 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,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that the incident should not be treated lightly, nor should it be dismissed as merely another killing among the 160 or so in Trinidad and Tobago to date.
“Our Caribbean people function in systems that are very similar; we all note that trends of crime that happen in one island affect us in other islands sooner or later,” Mr Pilgrim noted.
Police investigation has suggested that the hit on Ms Seetahal, who was shot five times — twice to the right side of her head, once to her chest, and twice to the right arm, originated from an order by an inmate of the Port Of Spain Prison.
If this is so, as Mr Pilgrim has said, it strikes at the very heart of our justice system, putting us all in peril.
If our judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, court clerks, police are so intimidated that they are unable to carry out their duties without fear for life and limb, how and from where shall we secure fairness, our rights, our personal and lawful protection?
Imagine the heightened trauma being now suffered by the family of slain businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman at whose current murder trial
Ms Seetahal was the prosecutor!
But Ms Seetahal was not merely a person seeking to make proven offenders pay for their crimes. Outside the courts the legal luminary was a friend and colleague to many, as well as teacher and counsellor and role model.
The snatching of her life by criminal elements ought to shake us from our slumber; stir us from this laissez-faire attitude we have developed of late
in the Caribbean in dealing with the professional lawless.
Commenting on the Dana Seetahal execution in the No. 2 Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Randall Worrell had some blunt advice to give.
“When anarchy and greed and undiluted love for material possessions grab hold of a society and gain the upper hand,” Justice Worrell warned, “all of us in the society will be the losers.
“Not only Trinidad and Tobago, but the entire Caribbean, one of the last places in the world still regarded as stable . . . . When we should be promoting it, we seem to be fighting among ourselves . . . .”
No doubt about it, the fighting we ought to be doing is that against crime wherever it pops up in our region. As attorney-at-law Mr Pilgrim advises, collectively, we need to ask ourselves about the causes of this rising crime wave, and what we are actually doing as a people to prevent individuals from becoming professional criminals –– for Dana Seetahal’s execution was not a crime of passion, nor a killing by amateurs.
We cannot to take this tragic death lightly. Justice, more than ever, must be done –– and so seen.