Mahdia CoI rejects lawyer’s request to halt proceedings

…secretary assures rights of minors remain paramount

The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) probing the Mahdia tragedy has made it clear that they will continue with their work, rejecting a request from the lawyer representing the accused in the matter for the proceedings to be halted until the court case concludes.
It was reported that on Sunday, Attorney-at-Law Dexter Todd on behalf of his client, the 15-year-old teen accused of setting the blaze that claimed the lives of 20 and destroyed the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory, wrote to the CoI to request that they halt the proceedings until the trial is completed.

Attorney Dexter Todd

In his letter, Todd had argued that the CoI’s work, given the publicity that would surround it, could negatively impact his client’s case. But according to the CoI’s Secretary, Javeed Shadick, himself a lawyer, a letter has since been dispatched rejecting the request.
In an interview with this publication, Shadick explained that based on Section 9 the Commission of Inquiry Act, the CoI is fully autonomous. Moreover, he noted that the CoI is already cognisant of its responsibility to ensure the protection of the rights of minors.
“We will continue our work… in that Act, there’s Section 9 which basically governs our work. And in that section, it says we can manage and make rules accordingly. So, from the inception, I had held a meeting and told everyone that this CoI will be different to the last one.”
“We know that children are involved and have to be protected. So, the rules governing this CoI, the Chairman and other members of the inquiry have sat down and made decisions. And we’re fully aware they have to protect children’s rights,” Shadick said.

Mahdia CoI Secretary
Javeed Shadick
Mahdia CoI Secretary
Javeed Shadick

On May 21, a fire allegedly set by the 15-year-old student resulted in the deaths of 19 female students from the Mahdia school dorm and a five-year-old boy. The facility housed about 59 students from the communities of Karisparu, El Paso, Micobie and Chenapau. Information from the Guyana Fire Service indicated that 14 youths died at the scene of the fire, while six died at Mahdia District Hospital.
Initial reports indicated that the teenage accused threatened to set the place on fire after her cell phone was confiscated and more so after she was previously suspended for engaging in activities contrary to the rules of the institution.
The girls who perished in the fire are Subrina John, Belnisa Evans, Loreen Evans, Bibi Rita Fiona Jeffrey, Lisa Roberts, Tracil Thomas, Delecia Edwards, Lorita Williams, Natalie Bellarmine, Arianna Edwards, Cleoma Simon, Martha Dandrade, Mary Dandrade, Omerfia Edwin, Nickleen Robinson, Sherlyn Bellarmine, Eulander Carter, Andrea Roberts and Sherana Daniels. Adanye Jerome, the five-year-old son of the dorm mother, was also among those who passed.
In the wake of the tragedy, a CoI has been established comprising of the Chairman, retired Major General Joe Singh. Also on the CoI are Attorney-at-Law Dr Kim Kyte-Thomas and National Toshaos Council Chairman Derrick John. The CoI has already commenced its work but public hearings are yet to begin.
At the swearing-in ceremony, President Dr Irfaan Ali had noted that the CoI represents a crucial step towards understanding and healing from this horrific incident. The President had explained that the Terms of Reference give the CoI the opportunity to look into the circumstances of the May 21 event, examine the responses that followed and consider recommendations to ensure safety across institutions.
While the Commission’s investigation is set to run for two months, the President had clarified that if an extension is needed, it will be granted. He had further noted that the CoI was sworn in at this time to allow for a more conducive environment, given the immediate mental toll the event had taken on community members. (G3)