Mahdia fire CoI: President assures balanced, impartial investigation as commissioners sworn-in
Members of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) investigating the tragic fire at the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory in Region Eight, which claimed the lives of 20 children, were sworn in on Thursday.
Acting Chief Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus administered the Oath of Office to the commissioners in the presence of President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali during a simple ceremony at the Office of the President, Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, Georgetown.
Major General (Ret’d) Joseph Singh (Chairman) was sworn in alongside Attorney-at- Law, Joycelin Kim Kyte-Thomas and Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Derrick John. Attorney- at- Law, Javed Shadick will serve as the Secretary of the CoI.
During his address, President Ali noted that the CoI represents a crucial step towards ‘understanding and healing,’ deriving lessons to improve safety, and ensuring such a tragedy never recurs.
He emphasised that the intention is to ensure a, ‘balanced, impartial, and thorough examination of the fire and related issues.”
President Ali noted that the weight of the loss due to the fire extends beyond personal boundaries and resonates with the entire nation.
He recognised that rushing into an inquiry could potentially ‘aggravate’ the immediate trauma being felt by those affected.
The head of state expressed confidence that the commission is now well-positioned to carry out its work in a more conducive environment.
“I’m sure, with your experience, your confidence, your professionalism, your ability to be human, that you will be able to conduct yourself and to conduct this inquiry with diligence, experience, impartiality and integrity,” he told the commissioners.
The president has urged persons to cooperate and support the work of the CoI.
Following the ceremony, President Ali informed reporters that the commissioners are scheduled to visit Region Eight as a part of the inquiry.
A traditional Patamona ceremony will take place at the site of the tragedy before the commission commences its work.
Further, President Ali said the commission’s work is anticipated to last approximately two months, with a willingness to extend this timeframe if circumstances warrant.
At the time of the fire on May 23, 2023, the dormitory housed 57 female students from the Karisparu, El Paso, Micobie, and Chenapau communities.
Tragically, the initial blaze claimed the lives of 18 girls residing in the dorm, as well as a five-year-old boy who was the Dorm Mother’s son.
In the subsequent days, another student who had sustained injuries during the fire succumbed, elevating the total number of fatalities to 20.
The government launched immediate relief measures to aid the affected families and communities. These measures encompass psychosocial assistance and financial support, as requested by the families.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand was also in attendance.