Noble: The battering of Lady Justice—the controversial backdrop to Dana’s assassination

Last week, we marked the tenth anniversary of Dana Seetahal’s murder. Justifiably, her family bemoaned the slow pace of events. Legal luminaries piped in with their observations, primarily focused on the trial. Some were performative in content.

We forgot the chilling words of the US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, responsible for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

A Woodbrook tribute to murdered Trinidad and Tobago attorney Dana Seetahal SC.
Seetahal was gunned down in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.

He described the assassination as a “well-planned and orchestrated hit” by an “international criminal organisation”.

He added: “This was quite clearly not a crime of passion; this was not a crime of opportunity. People did not just happen by and believe that they could steal her pocketbook and then find that they had to open fire to accomplish this.

“[…] This was a carefully planned operation, and there is only one kind of entity that does contract murders of this sort of degree of sensitivity, and that is organised crime.

Dana Seetahal SC was gunned down in Woodbrook in the wee hours of Sunday 4 May 2014.

“[…] It was a criminal organisation that clearly had a presence in Trinidad and Tobago which decided to perform this repulsive and repugnant act.”

Dana Seetahal’s last column queried why the 30 August 2013 letter, written by then Solicitor-General Mrs Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, was sent to Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, over the head of the then Attorney-General Anand Ramlogan.

That letter dealt with the issue of professional ethics and detailed intriguing both sides playing by some lawyers.

Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan.

The then Solicitor-General cited, among other things, “…the retainer of attorneys at law previously engaged on a large-scale basis in prison litigation against the State to instead represent the State in defending certain civil law claims while continuing to act against the State in prison matters”.

She says “in at least one such matter”, where such an attorney acted against the state, lawyers from the Civil Law Department brought to her attention evidence of “cut and paste”—in using the same set of alleged injuries for different alleged victims.

When this was brought to the attention of the court by the state attorney, the lawyer concerned wrote a letter to the AG threatening to report the state lawyer to the Law Association.

Former UNC Attorney General Anand Ramlogan (centre) and Senator Gerald Ramdeen (far left).

On 2 May 2014, then-Express columnist Sunity Maharaj wrote: “… beneath the concerns about legal ethics, the litigation controversy is, at heart, a procurement issue involving the use of state funds in contracting legal services and settling cases.

“[…] It damages not only the Treasury but Lady Justice herself. The possible involvement of key office-holders in facilitating such dealings raises the issue of executive management at the Office of the Attorney General.”

She added: “For a man endowed with such X-ray vision that he could see treason and subversion of the State in the leaking of the PCA report, surely the AG has the capacity for seeing himself among the key office-holders referenced in Mrs Donaldson-Honeywell’s letter.”

Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan speaks in Parliament during the tenure of the People’s Partnership Government.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post Examiner)

The referenced Police Complaints Authority report and that of the Police Service both confirmed the Flying Squad operated without authorisation in 2013 and that the head of the National Security Operations Centre, Garvin Heerah, was instrumental in facilitating its operation.

Ramlogan believed the PCA report had been leaked to Faris Al Rawi. Ramlogan repeatedly called for a probe into the leak, which he described as “tantamount to treason and a subversion of the State”. This episode took place in April 2014.

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj opined that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s statements on the leaking of the Flying Squad report were an attempt to usurp the functions of the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police.

Former Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.

In his opinion, Ramlogan acted improperly and unbecoming of his office since he had no authority or jurisdiction in police investigations and criminal prosecutions in Trinidad and Tobago:

“It must be emphasised that the Constitution and the laws of Trinidad and Tobago do not permit any officer to take any directions from a minister to investigate anyone.

“If a police officer does that, the minister and police officer are committing a criminal offence of misconduct in public office.”

Photo: Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.
(Courtesy Digiplanet)

Martin Daly contributed to the Prison litigation issue: “It must be strongly emphasised that the concerns […] have emerged from sources additional to the Solicitor General’s correspondence.

“Other principal sources are the judgment of Master (Patricia) Sobion-Awai, containing the grave finding that there were cut-and-paste claims, as well as the assertions of the Prison Officers’ Association.

“From the aggregate of these sources, these questions arise: Is there one or more external counsel chosen for briefs by the State in civil law matters who also act in prisoner damages claims against the State? Who chooses the external counsel?”

A prisoner behind bars.

Raffique Shah, in his 4 May 2014 column, connected the Section 34 debacle and the prison litigation problem:

“I recall that in the euphoria of the 50th anniversary of Independence, on August 31, 2012, some powerful person had that section of the Administration of Justice Act surreptitiously proclaimed, thereby opening a gateway to immunity (well, almost) for persons charged with corruption in the Piarco Airport matter.

“It was the only section of a much wider piece of legislation that was proclaimed.”

Former Justice Minister Herbert Volney.

He tempered the national expectations:

“Jump high or low, shout from the rooftops or the gutter; the Attorney General will neither step aside nor resign. The Prime Minister will not fire him, even if there is a hint of suspicion over his actions or inaction.

“Because if she gets rid of him, her government falls—it’s that simple. [Ramlogan] is a serious piece of work that the PM appointed to one of the highest offices in the country.”

Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
(Courtesy HeritageRadioTT)

On 28 March 2014, the Express reported on the Jamal Sambury case, which was at the root of the furore.

Mr Sambury claimed to be assaulted by police officers at the Princes Town Magistrates’ Court. He sued the Office of the Attorney General for damages, citing his injuries. The State accepted liability with damages to be assessed.

However, Master Sobion-Awai objected: “To my mind, it was implausible that two persons could experience separate events involving different persons in such an identical manner.

Photo: A statute of lady justice.

“[…] The only reasonable conclusion was that the claimant copied and presented, as his own, sizable portions of the witness statement of Jamal Fortune.”

The Appeal Court agreed with her. The Express noted that within ten years, over $10 million in compensation has been paid to prison inmates and members of the public.

What we did not know then was the 2013 Presidential pardoning of two Antiguan drug dealers serving life sentences in exchange for an alleged bribe of US$2.2 million.

The lighter side of legal fees.

Remember Vincent Nelson’s notarised allegations about illicit payments between lawyers? The timing was approximately the same: 2013 to 14. But we did not know this at the time of Dana’s killing.

On 4 May 2014, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC noted, ethical considerations aside, he was: “of the unflinching view that there is more than sufficient material contained therein to warrant an investigation into the commission of several offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and conspiracy to defraud the State of Trinidad and Tobago.

DPP Roger Gaspard.

“[…] I have decided to advise the Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to commence an investigation forthwith.”

Two days earlier, Newsday reported that High Court Registrar Marissa Robertson referred the matter to the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association.

Gerald Ramdeen, the lead lawyer in the Sambury case, volunteered: “I have nothing to hide and would vigorously defend my good name against allegations, both public and private.”

Controversial attorney and former UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen was criticised by Sir Anthony Colman for his job during the CLICO Commission of Enquiry.
Photo: CNC3

Wayne Sturge, his colleague, described the cut and paste process as “normal”.

What happened? No outcome could be found in newspaper archives.

There was a court report where the representatives for Varun Debideen, one of the implicated attorneys, told the court that Debideen wished to submit a statement to the court admitting to the cutting and pasting of evidence. (Express, 1 October 2014).

Photo: UNC Senator and attorney Wayne Sturge.
(Copyright Newsday)

Sobion-Awai dismissed the unargued application.

“Our politics is carrying us deeper […] into the clutches of the powerful underworld where deals bordering on extortion are struck […] for the opportunity for a few.”

Sunity Maharaj

Apart from Dana, nobody got killed. Is it that crime that is without violence is acceptable? Should we continue down this path?

Dana Seetahal SC, the former president of the local Law Association, was gunned down in Woodbrook.
Photo: i95.5fm

No cavalry is coming to rescue us. We have to be wise and mind our business.

More from Wired868
Noble: What auditor general impasse says about the quality of our leaders

The ongoing saga of the auditor general and the understatement of the country’s revenue reveal the quality of our leaders. Read more

Noble: Lack of integrity scares me—does Mr Harford think crooks wouldn’t jook him?

“Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even Read more

Noble: What’s going on, with open season on Office of the DPP?

These days I feel like Marvin Gaye, the singer of the 1971 Billboard hit “What’s going on?” Confronted by the Read more

Noble: When will we hold accountable those “honourable” members who lead?

“When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.” Ecclesiastes 8: 11 Last week’s Read more

Noble: Money! Money! Money! How our descent into corruption got normalised

“I would like to be able to love my country, fully loving justice. I don’t want just any greatness for Read more

Dear Editor: Martin Daly SC should explain finer points of Vincent Nelson’s indemnity deal

“[…] I would also like Mr [Martin] Daly SC to explain, in his column, why he thinks that the DPP Read more

Check Also

Noble: What auditor general impasse says about the quality of our leaders

The ongoing saga of the auditor general and the understatement of the country’s revenue reveal …

One comment

  1. I suppose there are other dots to be joined but I couldn’t imagine a better start.
    Who have eye to see must see and who have ears to hear must hear and who have power to take action…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.