Dana Seetahal nominated for nation’s highest award

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, former independent senator Dana Seetahal SC makes her contribution during a sitting of the Senate in 2006. –

Eight years after the shocking assassination of Dana Seetahal, SC, a former independent senator, prosecutor and magistrate, a call is being made for her to be bestowed this country’s highest honour – the Order of TT (ORTT).

President of the Criminal Bar Association Israel Khan, SC, in a letter to Attorney General Reginald Armour SC, dated August 5, said Seetahal is being nominated to get the top award as this country celebrates the 60th anniversary of independence.

The ORTT may be awarded to any person (citizen as well as non-citizen) who has rendered distinguished and outstanding service to TT. It may be awarded posthumously.

Seetahal, 59, was shot dead along Hamilton Holder Street, Woodbrook on May 4, 2014, moments after she left Ma Pau casino on Tragarete Road en route to her One Woodbrook apartment by an organised gang.

To date, the 10 men accused of her murder are yet to face a judge and jury.

Commenting on the recommendation, Seetahal’s younger sister, Susan Francois, the former head of the Financial Intelligence Unit and Registrar General, said the family is grateful and appreciative of the recommendation by the Criminal Bar Association.

“We look forward to some positive feedback on it.”

The association has also recommended posthumous awards Hummingbird (Gold) medals for Allan Alexander, SC, Desmond Allum, SC, and Theodore Guerra, SC.

In addition, it has recommended that judicial hubs be renamed in honour of former chief justice and president of the Caribbean Court of Justice Michael de la Bastide, QC, former attorney general Karl Hudson Phillips, QC, Frank Solomon, SC, and Seetahal in keeping with the government’s plan to rename streets, parks and other public spaces.

Francois said any acknowledgement of her sister’s efforts to improve the criminal justice system will be appreciated.

Seetahal was awarded the Hummingbird (gold) medal posthumously in 2014 but Francois said her sister was deserving of the nation’s highest award and no one showed up to collect the award as the country’s celebrated its 52nd anniversary of independence.

The association said while Seetahal was awarded the Hummingbird (gold) medal in 2014 “we believe that she paid the ultimate price in pursuit of her work and as such worthy of being posthumously granted the ORTT.”

There are five categories of national awards with the ORTT (formerly the Trinity Cross Medal of the Order of the Trinity) in gold being the highest.

Followed by the Chaconia Medal (gold), (silver) and (bronze); the Hummingbird medal (gold,) (silver) and (bronze); the Public Service Medal of Merit (gold), (silver) and (bronze) and the Medal for the Development of Women (gold), (silver) and (bronze).

According to the Office of the President, every citizen, on being awarded a national award, becomes a member of the distinguished society of TT of which the President is chancellor. Every non-citizen, on being awarded a national award, becomes an honorary member of the distinguished society.

Only citizens of TT are eligible for the award of the Public Service Medal of Merit. Non-citizens are eligible for all other awards.

All national awards may be awarded posthumously, but a deceased recipient does not become a member of the distinguished society.

The National Awards Committee, headed by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, oversees the nomination process and investigates the nominees before making its recommendations to the Prime Minister. Any person or organisation may submit a nomination to the committee, of a citizen for a national award.

The President confers the awards, “on the advice of the Prime Minister given after consideration of the recommendation of the advisory committee.” The awards are made “by instrument signed by the President and sealed with the seal of the Order.” The President hosts the National Awards Ceremony annually on Republic Day, September 24, according to the Office of the President. It was previously held on Independence Day, August 31.