If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice and last Monday, it was clear the people of Trinidad responded to our leaders by not speaking.
The family of murdered Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal will not be collecting her Chaconia Medal (Gold) at the National Awards function at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, this evening. Seetahal was posthumously awarded the nation’s second highest award along with four others—Prof Brinsley Samaroo, Brig Gen Joseph Theodore (posthumously), businessman Issa Nicholas and social worker Rasheeda Ibrahim.
The nation’s highest award, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT), was not given this year. Former prime ministers Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, who were offered that honour, both declined. Seetahal’s sister Susan Francois, who heads the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), told the Sunday Guardian: “The family will not be attending the awards.”
Francois said Seetahal had risked her life seeking justice for T&T and should have been awarded the ORTT. She said she was shocked that Seetahal was not given that award. “While I appreciate all the positive feedback on my sister’s life and contribution, when it comes to official national recognition from her country, anything less than the nation’s highest award is shocking,” Francois said.
“She knowingly risked her life and paid the ultimate price for her contribution and service to country. She fought for order and justice in this country. She knew the risks involved and she continued to make her contribution despite that.” Seetahal is being given the national award more than three months after she was assassinated on her way home just after midnight on May 3. Her murder remains unsolved.
On August 20, David “Junior” Baker, 28, was killed in a shoot-out with police. Senior police officers directly involved in Seetahal’s murder probe said Baker was one of the key suspects involved in Seetahal’s well-planned assassination.
At the time of her death, Seetahal was the lead prosecutor in a high-profile case—the murder trial of Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. She had only recently taken pro bono the case of two young girls who were sent to the adult women’s prison because the State could not find accommodation for them in any other facility.
Seetahal, born on July 8, 1954, was first appointed to Parliament in April 2002 as an Independent senator. She was again appointed an Independent senator in October 2002 and December 2007. Her first contribution in the Senate was The Appropriation Bill, 2003, which she introduced on October 28, 2002. In January 2006, she was made Senior Counsel.
In 2008, Seetahal opened her own private law practice, El Dorado Chambers, in Port-of-Spain. Before being appointed as an Independent senator, Seetahal served as a state prosecutor, assistant solicitor general and magistrate. Her first book, The Commonwealth Caribbean on Criminal Procedure, was popular with law students.
NATIONAL AWARDS 2014
Chaconia Medal (Gold)
Prof Brinsley Samaroo—Lecturer—Education/Public Service
Brig Gen Joseph Theodore—Retired chief of defence staff—Military Service
Rasheeda Ibrahim—Voluntary Social Worker—Community Service
Chaconia Medal (Silver)
Rudolph Charles—Pan Tuner/Innovator-Culture/ Community Service
Michael Ronald Als—Trade Unionist/Community Activist—Community Service
Pastor Clive Dottin—Pastor—Religion/Education/Community-Service
Chaconia Medal (Bronze)
Pastor Winston Mansingh—Pastor—Religion/Community Service
Rt Rev Bishop Adlyn Williams—St Louis—Minister of Religion—Religion/Community Service
Humming Bird Medal (Gold)
Bolan Ramdass Amar—Businessman—Business
Azad Abass Ali—Businessman—Business
Gregorio Marchan—Retired engineer—Community Service
Humming Bird Medal (Silver)
The Trinidad and Tobago React Team 2496—Provider of two-way radio communication—Community Service
Humming Bird Medal (Bronze)
Subesh Ramjattan—Businessman—Community Service
Jowelle De Souza—Activist for animal welfare—Community Service
Pundit Nandram Dan Maharaj—Pundit—Community Service
Public Service Medal Of Merit (Gold)
Gordon Narayansingh—Medical practitioner—Medicine
Jennifer Boucaud-Blake—Retired permanent secretary—Public Service
John Pilgrim Rougier—Retired commissioner of prisons—Public Service
Dr Allan Irving Mc Kenzie—Retired principal—Education
Maj Fr Matthew Hugh Ahye—Priest/Defence Force chaplin—Religion/Public Service
Rev Daniel Teelucksingh—Former independent senator—Religion/Community Service
Public Service Medal Of Merit (Silver)
Dr Brader Adaleine Brathwaite—Retired senior lecturer—Education
Clyde Sylvester Forde—Retired public servant—Sport
Public Service Medal Of Merit (Bronze)
Harold Nemai—Retired public servant—Public & Community Service
Earl Skeete—Retired police officer—Sport
Irving Hoosainie—Retired principal—Public Service
Medal For The Development Of Women (Gold)
Helen Tara Persad-Maharaj—Attorney-at-Law—Community Service
Dr Daphne Phillips—Retired educator and former minister of government—Public Service & Education
Mary Care Centre—Organisation—Community Service
Debrah Lewis—Midwife—Community Service & Midwifery
Sister Hemlata Sanghi—President of Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre—Community Service
Women in Action for the Needy and Destitute—Organisation—Community Service