By Phillip Edward Alexander
To sit in that standing room only church that spilled into twice the number outside than the Fire Services should have reasonably allowed inside and listen to the snapshots of friends and family, co-workers and colleagues, one got the sense that the person who left us, this Dana Seetahal, was so much more than the legal luminary and attorney extraordinaire one believed her to be.
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
The outpouring of love that made up the bulk of that almost four-hour experience for most seemed to barely touch the idea of Dana, as one nephew so aptly described it, this phenomena of a diminutive individual so much larger than life whose loss left many traumatized and grasping for words even as they gasped for air.
His Excellency the President seemed to be in an almost fighting mood, his passionate plea that we not fail her memory brought a perfect close to an evening of moving contributions, none more so than a weeping prime minister, who herself appeared almost shaken by the whole experience, and I asked myself how could this have been allowed to happen?
There were more ministers and public officials present in that humble church than have gathered for world leaders, comfortably squeezed among average Joe mourners and everyone content for their space among the tears, happy at least to be present to say goodbye to someone who was described as the most learned of jurists and practitioners of her craft, someone humble enough to terrorize an entire generation of up and coming professionals into aspiring to be the best, to change the world, as Dana dared to even as she stormed the ramparts of the courts in zealous defence or prosecution, so enamoured was she with the administration of justice if the testimonies of so many in that profession were to be believed and, again I ask, what have we truly lost?
Media workers with tears streaming down their faces covering the funeral of a 'name' is no ordinary sight, law enforcement officers directing traffic while simultaneously squeezing the hands in knowing camaraderie of those who greeted while walking by told me this was no simple loss, this death seemed to have ripped the very fabric of this land in that it snuffed out a life that so effortlessly walked with kings but never lost the common touch and that it was reverberating from the stateroom to the board room, from the halls of justice to the very streets. Machel Montano wrote and performed an impassioned love song for her and asked the question, who would look after us now?
For my own part, my experience of Dana Seetahal came through her niece, my producer on our weekly radio programme where Dana would text to say when she thought that we were going off topic or that she was bored with us now, enough of an admonition to get us to adjust our direction and approach to our prosecution of the week's topic until she finally gave the rare compliment that the show wasn't all that bad and that she grudgingly listened to the end.
I became tethered to this my thinking guide, who on the rare occasion would even pick up her phone and dial in with a message for us and I think, like Machel, who is to guide us now? I was not fortunate enough, as many were, to have a long or close working relationship with 'Senior' even though I have long been a follower of her diverse and ranging contributions, and even when I disagreed with her it was with a respect for her approach if not her position.
Dana Seetahal touched all of our lives. Like many when I heard the news that Dana was 'gunned down' I thought, “Madness!” This HAD to be a joke in poor taste, the work of idle and juvenile minds. The confirming call from law enforcement that 'yes, the rumour was true' winded me and left me befuddled for a minute; how was this nation going to react?
The outpouring of grief and anger has been constant and strangely unifying, adding a new dimension to the loss. We, all of us, seem not to appreciate that we are tied to each other through others, but the death of Dana brought that home with a forceful blow and sitting there in that tightly packed mini-cathedral I looked from face to face and did not see stations in society but a people gathered to mourn a death most tragic, to rail against a murder most foul.
To all who had a part in committing this unspeakable act I wish you all that the hand of Karma has in store for you. To say what I really feel seems disrespectful to the memory of Dana, and to call for the mob rule and public and painful execution that my base self longs for seems to contradict the idea of her, the final lesson of the life of Dana Seetahal, that even these, those who plotted and set upon her, who conspired and in the darkness visited her with the violence that killed her, even these were deserving of their day in court.
Rest in peace, sage and fighting warrior, rest in well deserved and perfect peace, Amen.