COI team to visit Mahdia on Wednesday, public hearings to commence in Sept

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the fire at the Mahdia dormitory which claimed the lives of 20 children will commence public hearings in September.

But with the Commissioners already sworn in and the Terms of Reference gazetted, Secretary of the Commission Javed Shadick told members of the media at a press briefing on Tuesday that the Commission has already commenced its work.

On Wednesday, the Commission which is chaired by Major General (Ret’d), Joe Singh will be heading to Mahdia for a familiarisation visit.

“…there will be a site visit to Mahdia where the tragedy would have taken place and there would be a visit to some of the connecting communities such as Micobie and Karasabai. But the visit is just to allow the Commissioners to have an understanding of how traveling is done in those areas and so forth,” Shadick said.

He added, “It’s to address one of the references, looking into the economic parts, social parts, and cultural parts”.

At the moment, is unclear how many witnesses are expected to give evidence in the Commission of Inquiry.

And while logistics are still being sorted, Shadick pointed out that the hearing will be “different” since some of the witnesses are children and will require in-camera hearings.

“This inquiry is a little different from the last one and we have to be very careful of how we deal with it because children are being looked at and we have to protect the rights of the child at all times,” Shadick told a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Even though it is a public inquiry and the public has a right to know, there are safeguards against what can be done and what cannot be done,” he said.

Attorney Keoma Griffith will be leading evidence into the inquiry.

Other members of the Commission include the Chairman of the National Toshaos Council, Derrick John, and attorney Dr Kim Kyte- Thomas.

“This Commission is supposed to be as impartial as possible so the majority of work will be done from scratch…This inquiry is impartial, it has to be fair and it has to do its own work, basically,” Shadick noted.

In May, 19 girls and a five-year-old boy lost their lives in the fire that destroyed the building.

Several others including a 13-year-old girl were injured.

It was reported that the fire was started by a young student who has since been charged with 20 counts of murder.

According to the Terms of Reference, the Commission of Inquiry 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.