By Vishani Ragobeer in Lethem
In what he described as a departure from a traditional Independence anniversary address, President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Thursday night reflected on the deaths of the 19 children who perished in the recent fire at the female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School in Region Eight (Potaro- Siparuni).
And in reflecting on the lives lost and the other children harmed, the President confirmed that a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the devastating fire will be established “soonest.”
“The government which I lead has committed to doing everything that is possible to assist those affected; this support will be ongoing.
“We are also committed to establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the causes and circumstances of the fire which destroyed the dormitory, and to inquire into related issues,” the President said as he addressed the nation from Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo).
It was reported that the fire was started by a young student, but safety concerns about the dormitory have been raised.
Consequently, the President said the findings of the CoI will “inform the way forward.”
Though the country is mourning at a time when it usually celebrates the end of colonial rule, the President expressed hope that Guyanese could be more united. He believes this unity will help to heal the nation at a time when the country’s “sorrow is indescribable.”
It is for this reason he rejected attempts to exploit the tragedy for political mileage.
“Sadly and disgustingly, there are isolated and discredited elements within our midst that are determined to use this tragedy to foment further division and to stir instability.
“But I am confident that the good people of Guyana will not be distracted by the rabble-rousers and antagonists. I am confident that their nefarious aims will not find much traction in our society.
“This is not the time for division. This is a time for our people to come together and to support the victims, their families, and communities,” he declared.