Mahdia COI: Evidence from 29 witnesses being compiled

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Evidence gathered from a total of 29 witnesses, including survivors and public officials, is currently being compiled as the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Mahdia dormitory fire is wrapping up its work.

During a telephone interview with the News Room on Tuesday, Secretary of the Commission Javed Shadick said the Commission, after reviewing the evidence, will determine whether they need to call any other witnesses.

“We are checking to see whether they (the Commission) have covered, whether they got enough information for all the Terms of Reference…In some instances, we would have had persons (witnesses) who would have mentioned other persons, so they are checking to see if they need those persons to come and give their part (evidence),” Shadick said.

He added, “Based on the Terms of Reference, we targeted parents of injured, parents of the deceased and we targeted some of the survivors…By the weekend, we should know if they want to hear anyone else.”

Once this process is completed, attorney Keoma Griffith will summarize and present the evidence. The Commission also intends to revisit Mahdia in the company of some of the witnesses.

The Commission has until mid-November to wrap up its work after which a report will be complied with the findings and submitted to President Dr Irfaan Ali.

Public hearings into the inquiry commenced on September 15. Since then, a number of witnesses, including officials from the Guyana Fire Service, first responders, the deputy headmistress of the Mahdia secondary school, the Chief Education Officer and officials from the region have given evidence before the Commission.

The dorm mother, as well as, the dorm father also testified.

The Commission has so far heard that there were a number of deficiencies at the Mahdia fire station and a lack of firefighting equipment that delayed the response of firefighters.

And though an inspection was conducted at the school dormitory just months before the fire and officials were informed of the defects, little to no action was taken.

The fire on May 21 this year in the Region Eight community claimed the lives of 20 children.

According to the Terms of Reference, the CoI will inquire into and report on everything leading up to the dormitory fire as well as the cause of the fire.

They will also investigate and report on what actions were taken to provide care, medical attention, and support to the injured and deceased and their relatives, in a timely manner.

Recommendations are also expected from the commission, which will include necessary measures to prevent a reoccurrence of such tragedies.

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