Guyana: COI Into Deadly School Fire Gets One Month Extension

(CMC) – President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali has extended by one month, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragic fire at the female dormitory of the Mahdia Secondary School in Region Eight that claimed the lives of 20 children in May.

The extension is intended to facilitate the completion of the probe. Initially granted a two-month timeline, the COI was set to conclude in October.

“The President had given a timeline of two months. The chairman of the Commission of Inquiry has requested that the timeline be extended for one more month, which will now conclude in mid-November… The President has since granted that wish,” said the Secretary of the Commission, Javed Shaddick.

He told reporters that 29 individuals have testified before the Commission that is currently reviewing the evidence to determine if additional testimonies are necessary.

Additionally, Shaddick said the Commission has commenced the preparation of its report, which is slated for submission to Ali at the conclusion of the extended timeframe. As part of the ongoing investigative process, the Commission is scheduled to visit Mahdia on Wednesday for a site inspection.

“The commissioners and chairman have decided to return to Mahdia to have a site visit of the fire station, the dormitory, the hospital, and the Regional Democratic Office (RDC),” he said, adding that the Commission will also examine an alternative water source mentioned by a fire officer during testimony.

Those who played a role in saving the children’s lives, including the dorm mother, will be present during the visit and may be questioned further if deemed necessary, Shaddick said adding that attorney Keoma Griffith, who is leading the evidence in the inquiry, has indicated that his final report submission to the Commission will occur either on Friday or Monday,

The Commission is led retired Major General Joe Singh and includes attorney Kim Kyte-Thomas and Chair of the National Toshaos Council, Derrick John.

On May, 21, the authorities said 19 girls and a five-year-old boy lost their lives in the fire that destroyed the building. It was reported that the fire was started by a young student who has since been charged with 20 counts of murder. She has been on remand since May.

Her attorney, Dexter Todd, had written to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), requesting that the proceedings of the COI to be stayed until all criminal proceedings against his 15-year-old client are completed.