Commission of Inquiry into deadly Mahdia fire- Ali

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 May 2023, 23:38 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Thursday night announced that a Commission of Inquiry would be held into last Sunday night’s fire at the dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School that killed 18 schoolgirls and one boy.

Addressing a night of remembrance in Lethem,  the southern Guyanese town near the border with Brazil, to mark Guyana’s 57th Independence anniversary and mourn the loss of the children, he said the probe would determine the next step. “We are also committed to establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the causes and circumstances of the fire which destroyed the dormitory and to enquire into related issues ,” he said.

Dr Ali did not name the members of the commission of inquiry or a give a time-frame for the work of the investigative panel, but said the results of the probe would determine the way forward. “The findings of that inquiry will inform the way forward,” he said.

He urged Guyanese to learn from the circumstances and evaluate the consequences as well as determine ways to avoid a reoccurrence. Earlier Thursday, he indicated that government would favourably consider compensating surviving relatives after meeting individual families.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton earlier this week called for an in-depth probe into the incident. “we demand a thorough investigation into this horrific incident that has resulted in the loss of innocent young lives.”

In clear reference to criticisms by the organised political opposition and some members of the public, the Guyanese leader appealed for unity. “This is not a time for division. This is a time for our people to come together and to support the victims, their families and communities,” he said.

Dr Ali urged Guyanese to use the tragedy as an opportunity for unity, compassion and strength.  “Those that perished were the heart traps and pride of their parents who had great hopes for them. The children’s own dreams have been so tragically snuffed out,” he said.

Police have not said whether the Director of Public Prosecutions has provided advice on how to proceed with one of the schoolgirls who burnt down the dormitory after the house mother and a teacher took away a cellphone from her because she was using that device to communicate with a man.

One of the two students has sustained about 40 percent burns and plans were being to fly her to the United States to an advanced burn care and treatment centre.