Deadly Mahdia fire:  Chairman says ‘Commission will work diligently, transparently’

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The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the deadly fire at the Mahdia dormitory began public hearings Friday and its Chairman, Major General (Ret’d) Joe Singh, has assured that proceedings will be held “diligently and “transparently” while ensuring that the rights of those involved are protected.

“I wish to assure that the Commission will work diligently, transparently, and with sensitivity in order to accomplish the task as prescribed in the Terms of Reference,” Singh said in his opening address.

In the execution of their responsibilities, Singh said the Commission also intends to conduct the inquiry efficiency and sensitivity.

“It is our duty to act in the best interests of all minors affected by this tragedy and to ensure that references to the deceased are dealt with a dignified manner,” he said.

In doing so, Singh said the Commission will be guided by provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2018, best practices and international standards to ensure the interests of all minors involved are protected.

He made specific reference to the young student who is accused of setting the fire. She has been charged with 20 murders.

“The Commission has a responsibility to ensure that nothing in these proceedings prejudices this minor’s rights to a fair trial before the law,” Singh said.

A total of 15 witnesses including Ministers, survivors and first responders are expected to give evidence before the inquiry.

There will be no live streaming and all hearings involving minors and relatives of the deceased and those injured will be done in camera.

Public hearings are expected to wrap up within one month.

According to Singh, upon completion of this the Commission will provide a “balanced, impartial, and thorough” report to President Irfaan Ali.

Two witnesses took the stand on Friday.

In May, 19 girls and a five-year-old boy lost their lives in the fire that destroyed the building.

Several others were injured.

Attorney Keoma Griffith is leading evidence into the inquiry. Other members of the Commission are Chairman of the National Toshaos Council Derrick John and attorney Dr Kim Kyte- Thomas.

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