Trinidad may seek outside help in search for assailants who gunned down prominent lawyer

Colleagues of Dana Seetahal express their grief during her funeral service Thursday at Aramalaya Presbyterian Church in Tunapuna, Trinidad.
Colleagues of Dana Seetahal express their grief during her funeral service Thursday at Aramalaya Presbyterian Church in Tunapuna, Trinidad.
Curtis Chase / Trinidad Express

Special to the Miami Herald

A prominent attorney involved in several high-profile cases was buried Thursday, four days after an execution-style murder that has left the twin-island nation reeling in shock and outrage.

The Trinidad and Tobago government immediately announced after Dana Seetahal’s murder early Sunday that it would offer a $600000 reward for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of those involved in the murder. The country is among the top 10 in the world for murders per capita and has recorded more than 150 murders so far for the year.

Minister of National Security Gary Griffith told the Miami Herald that the government considers Seetahal’s murder “extremely serious.” It is also considering seeking international help in solving the crime.

“She was a state prosecutor and involved in key cases in the courts for the State. The victim here represents an institution of pristine professionalism and standards,” he said. “She was a prominent citizen who set the right example…displaying integrity, soundness of mind and judgment.”

Seetahal was on her way home early Sunday after a relaxing evening at the Ma Pau casino — where she often went for a meal and recreation — when her vehicle was ambushed by another vehicle, according to news reports.

Those in the second vehicle opened fire, killing her. The reports said she was hit five times.

Griffith said that he was optimistic that the murder would be solved.

“This investigation is being given the fullest and undivided attention and support of the government,” he said.

Griffith added that “the National Operations Center, the main platform on the island for coordination, information sharing and intelligence fusion has aligned its resources and technology behind the TTPS (police service) in this investigation.”

At the time of her murder, Seetahal was working on the murder case of wealthy business woman Vindra Naipaul Coolman, who was killed in 2006. Authorities have not said whether there was a connection between her murder and the case.

Seetahal, 59, was an attorney in private practice, well-known for her courage and tenacity. She worked as both defense attorney and state prosecutor on various high-profile cases, including the State’s case against the 1990 coup leaders, the Jamaat al-Muslimeen, in which the State sought compensation for the losses incurred when the Muslimeen staged their unsuccessful coup attempt.

Seetahal was also a lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School and formerly served as a senator. She was unmarried and had no children.

Dennis McComie, spokesman for the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, told the Miami Herald that “not only her family and friends, but the entire society is outraged that she could be gunned down in this manner … It is just so sad that a human being who has contributed so much to society was taken in the prime of her life.”

He recalled that there have been executions of other high-profile citizens in Trinidad over the years, including former Attorney General Selwyn Richardson, who was gunned down in 1995 while trying to enter his house. The crime has never been solved.

In a news release, the country’s judicial branch said no clear motive have been identified for Seetahal’s murder.

Authorities also announced that they were reviewing security measures for attorneys and members of the judiciary.

“Hopefully good will come out of this, because this is definitely a wake-up call for good people to get up and do something, or the bad people will continue to do what they do with impunity,” McComie said.

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