Commissioner sworn-in to investigate Drop-in Centre fire; Parents yet to see sons’ remains

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Even as a commissioner is sworn-in to investigate the circumstances surrounding a fire at the Children’s Drop-in Centre on Hadfield Street, Georgetown where 6-year-old Antonio and 2-year-old Joshua George perished, the parents of the dead children is yet to see their remains.

The parents told News Room that they have not yet received the documents they requested and have not yet seen their sons’ remains.

Woman Colonel Windee Algernon was today sworn-in as the lone commissioner to complete the investigation and provide a preliminary report by July 22. The final report is expected on August 15.

Additionally, any compensation to be given to the family will have to await the completion of the Commission of Inquiry and be a recommendation contained in its’ report.

Following today’s swearing-in ceremony, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon was asked about compensation for the children’s family to which he noted that “we will ask the commissioner to make recommendations in that regard because as I said, any time a life in Guyana is lost it is something that will have to be inquired into…because the commission will determine what needs to be done. It is basically about two weeks or so and we can wait on that.”

Some of the things that are set to be investigated include “was the building safe? Was the wiring safe? Were people trained to respond to that type of emergency? And the second aspect is procedures were complied with, for the safe custody of those children.” These were outlined by President David Granger on this week’s edition of the Public Interest.

The children were taken into state care two days before the fire: a scenario which saw the government facing several criticisms and also raised questions in relation to the circumstances under which the children were taken from their home along with three other siblings.

To this, the Head of State said, “the general policy of the government is not to separate families. The best place for children is with their parents and separation ought to be last resort and it was only because a report was made and children were in difficult circumstances, a separation had to take place. The government doesn’t go around trying to separate children from their parents. They need the support and the love and care which can come from a family.”

He added that “on the face of, there does not seem to me, to be a belief that there were any irregularity in the circumstances under which the children ended up in that institution.”

President Granger said the important thing moving forward is to prevent a recurrence.

Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence previously stated that the government accepts full responsibility for the incident, however the Commissioner has been tasked specifically with determining whether there was a failure on the part of State officials to deal appropriately or adequately with matters that gave rise to the loss of lives and whether there were any unsafe or improper arrangements for the care, custody, and welfare of the children

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