Dana Seetahal’s casket being carried out of the Aramalaya Presbyterian church in Tunapuna, Trinidad, following her funeral service on Thursday. Photo: Marcia Braveboy
By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
TUNAPUNA, Trinidad -- Senior counsel Dana Seetahal, who was brutally murdered the previous weekend, was laid to rest on Thursday after a funeral service held at the Aramalaya Presbyterian church in Tunapuna, Trinidad.
Reverend Daniel Teelucksingh told the packed church, those taking in the service from outside the church’s walls and on national television which broadcast her funeral live, that the blood of the slain is crying out from the ground.
Seetahal was mercilessly gunned down at 12:05 am on Sunday, May 4, when a car pulled in front of her, causing her to stop, and a panel van pulled up alongside her, from where a gunman opened a door and opened fire on the senior counsel. She died on the spot.
Reverend Teelucksingh said that the evening of her funeral was a miserable and disturbing one for Trinidad and Tobago. The large audience that flowed along the roadway gathered to bid farewell to one of the country’s “treasured citizens” he said.
In his sermon, Teelucksingh warned that all of society cannot turn a blind eye to the bloodshed that is taking place as “evil has gone wild”.
In addressing the mourners, which included President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the security services and the legal fraternity, the minister said, “We hear the mournful voices of splattered blood on the ground crying out from the ground for justice.”
Teeluckingh said that Seetahal belonged to the order of the brave and the society of the courageous. She was an intellectual spiritual force that was snatched from us, the minister noted. But he believes she cannot be contained in the casket.
Eulogies delivered by family and friends underscored that Seetahal was one who maximized the moment and lived a full life.
She even provided much needed services to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) “at peppercorn rates, which should make some (in her profession) blush when they submit their invoices today,” Seetahal’s sister Susan Francois said on behalf of former DPP and International Criminal Court judge, Geoffrey Henderson.
Francois, who is the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), was presenting Henderson’s tribute to his long time friend.
Francois said they will live because Dana lived.
Seetahal’s nieces and nephews spoke about how much their aunt cared for them all.
As one of twelve siblings, Francois said Seetahal was the matriarch of their family.
Seetahal’s close friend from university school days in the 70s spoke of Seetahal’s devotion to everything she did, including studying when it was time for that and liming when it was time for fun.
Attorney-at-law Merlyn Boyce revealed Seetahal’s interest in forming linkages throughout the Caribbean when she disclosed that through the United Student’s body at the time, Seetahal played a huge role in the group “forming bonds with students from other Caribbean countries, especially Jamaica”.
Boyce remembered how her “friend Dana” loved to jog and was also good at karate and was particular concerned about how her body looked. She said Seetahal’s end was reminiscent of incidents that occurred in the movies.
Seetahal was a well known independent senator who the nation came to know and respect for her contributions and well thought out arguments on national issues. She was also seen as a defence attorney to be reckoned with; an outstanding state prosecutor; matriarch to her family and a solid friend to many.
The former state prosecutor was celebrated on Thursday by heads of government, lawyers, judges, media personnel, family and friends, her neighbours and people from the community she hailed from in Eldorado, Tunapuna, and other dignitaries and citizens from throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
A weeping Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar read a scripture in Seetahal’s honour while President of the Republic Anthony Aquinas Carmona said Seetahal’s killing remained a shock to him.
“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,” he said.
“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 insisted.
Soca star Machel Montano, who was represented by Seetahal recently in a court matter, said he had known her for seven years and she was like the matriarch in his family. He asked: “Who will take care of us now?” He sang a song in her honour simply saying: “I love you.”
Justice of appeal Mark Mohammed and others who paid tribute to Seetahal said, while she walked with kings, “She never lost the common touch”.
Her friend and former government minister under the People’s National Movement, Christine Sahadeo, said Seetahal encouraged her to study law and she decided to do it all the way to the end. Sahadeo said she was still wishing Seetahal’s killing was bad dream she will wake up from.
Attorney Larry Lalla, who worked out of the same chambers with Seetahal before she started her own chambers, remembers her robust arguments with attorney Israel Khan – the owner of the chambers Seetahal previously worked at. He said she was loud and you will know when she entered the office.
“When Dana was in chambers you knew by her haughty laugh and loud voice,” he said.
In his closing goodbye message to the senior counsel, Reverend Teelucksingh said, “Well done, well done, good and faithful servant, enter the blessedness and joy of your Lord”.
Seetahal was born 8 July 1955 and died 4 May 2014. She was 58 when she was murdered; two months shy of her 59th birthday.
Pictures from Dana Seetahal’s funeral by Marcia Braveboy