By Raffique Shah
May 03, 2015
One year ago, in this space, I wrote a column headlined “Dana’s Death in Vain”. It was written exactly one week after the popular, respected senior counsel Dana Seetahal was shot to death in what everyone who had his or her say, described as a “well-executed assassination”.
As the anniversary of her death passes without anyone being arrested or charged for her murder, I re-read that column.
It’s almost uncanny, what I wrote then, and what has, or has not, happened since.
As we look back in frustration at that one murder out of hundreds last year, I thought I should share with readers some of my anger, fears and prognostications.
I wrote, “The politicians shed buckets of tears and scream: her death must not be in vain! The police vow to leave no stone unturned in their quest to bring her killers to justice. The preachers say she was an exemplar, her colleagues-in-law deem her irreplaceable, her friends say only good things about her, and her extended family mourns in a dignified manner.
“For all the hoopla that surrounds this murder most foul, my gut feeling is that in another week or two Dana Seetahal will be just another statistic. She will be no different to other victims of the rampage of killers, distinguished only because of savagery (cold execution or decapitation), age (very old or very young), gender (women always win more sympathy than men), or station in life.
“One week after her killers snuffed out her life, the police have yet to make an arrest. Amidst much speculation about motives for her murder—she had information on the drugs mafia or money laundering, it might be connected to some matter she was pursuing—there were reports that the police had a good idea who the assassins were, and arrests were imminent.
“How often have we heard similar claims after high-profile crimes? Following the big cocaine find in the USA a few months ago, and with similar speculation running rife, I warned people not to be too hopeful. In spite of claims by senior officials here that that find came about because of collaboration between local intelligence and the US authorities, no one has been held thus far.
“Now, if local intelligence alerted US authorities, they must have known (1) that cocaine was secreted in the tins of juice, and (2) who shipped the illicit drugs. So, why no arrests? They knew nothing, they were talking crock!
“In Dana’s murder, if they have so much information on the killer or killers, why have they not arrested him or them? Why appeal to the public to come forward with information? Why offer the biggest reward ever for information?
“It just does not make sense. Which is why I have this feeling of déjà vu, that we have been there a thousand times before and have seen the results—zilch, zero, nothing.”
And nothing it turned out to be. Like clones of the comical movie character Inspector Clouseau, our detectives are still hard at work, vowing that the investigations are “at a critical stage” (they always are), that arrests are “imminent”.
I am not for a moment suggesting that solving Dana’s murder, or any of the others that took place last year, is easy.
New policing, which some clown coined as a response to endemic crime that, for all the technology available to them, and for all the boasting about significant reductions in serious crimes, the public feel no safer than we did ten years ago.
Reality is that Dana’s murderers are living among us, walking free like phantoms, no doubt taking other, similar contracts, and more than likely living in relative luxury from the hefty sums they are paid by those who commission such “hits”.
They, and those who hire them, may be shopping in the supermarkets next to you (well, they must eat!), pulling up at gas pumps alongside you, flying off on vacations seated in aircraft with you, chatting with you…
Frightening, but true: such people hardly live in isolation.
If I may play the numbers game a bit, between 2010 and 2014, there were 2,032 recorded murders. Between 2001 and 2015 (to date), there were 5,180. Since arrests were few, certainly no more than 20 per cent, and averaging two killers per murder (often, more are involved), there must be at least 10,000 murderers walking freely among us—and these are of recent vintage, meaning persons who have snuffed out the lives of others since the year 2001.
How many murder trials have there been over the same period? Too few to even remember them. And how many convictions were there? Even judges may have difficulties remembering when last they sentenced a murderer to death.
So while the focus remains on Dana’s death, the bigger murder-picture in this country is a horror story of immense proportions. In fact, I would classify it as unimaginable. Because if the average citizen imagines the murderer-next-to-me scenario I painted here, he or she would become chronically paranoid.
We would all be afraid, very afraid, in this land where killers live like kings and the law-abiding live in fear.