Mahdia COI: One-month extension granted, Commissioners to visit Mahdia on Wednesday

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The Presidential Commissioner of Inquiry (CoI) into the Mahdia dormitory fire was granted a one-month extension and now has until the end of November to complete its work and submit a report to President Dr Irfaan Ali.

This revelation was made by Secretary of the Commission, Javed Shadick, who told a news conference on Monday that after the initial two-month timeline expired, a request was made to President Ali for an extension and it was granted.

According to Shadick, after reviewing evidence from a total of 29 witnesses, the Commission has taken a decision that there is no need to hear from additional witnesses.

The 20 victims of the Mahdia Secondary School dorm fire

“So far, we have had 29 persons who came before the Commission of Inquiry over the period. Of those persons, we have gotten information related to each of the Terms of Reference. The Commission has been looking into the evidence to determine whether or not they need more persons to come before them. As of today, they have decided that they do not need any more persons to come before them,” he explained.

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.

Before wrapping up their work, Shadick noted that the Commissioners will visit the site of the tragedy on Wednesday where 20 children lost their lives in the Region Eight community.

“They (Commissioners) have decided to return to Mahdia to have site visits of the fire station, the dormitory, the hospital, the RDC office and…an alternative water supply source mentioned by the Guyana Fire Service,” he said.

Some of the witnesses, including the dorm mother, will accompany the Commission, Shadick said.

Once this is done, Shadick said the evidence will be summarized and the findings will be handed over to President Ali.

“The Commission has started to prepare the report and have all intentions of submitting said report in the timeframe that was given,” Shadick assured reporters.

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.

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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