The first three of fifteen witnesses are scheduled to give evidence to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into last May’s deadly fire at the Mahdia dormitory when public hearings commence on Friday.
This announcement was made by Secretary of the Commission Javed Shadick, who told members of the media at a press briefing on Wednesday that the proceedings will not be live streamed and some of the hearings will not be open to the public.
Among the witnesses expected to testify before the inquiry are ministers, members of the joint services, survivors, pilots and first responders.
But Shadick urged caution in what the Commission is expected to assess.
“If you look at the Terms of Reference, there is no term of reference that asks to point a blame.
“…the Commission of Inquiry is not, it never was intended, to investigate or cast, pointing finger on anyone,” Shadick said.
He added: “There is no intention for this inquiry to go proving anything. So the inquiry is actually going to be focusing on speaking to persons who would have more on site knowledge”
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, including necessary measures to prevent a reoccurrence of such tragedies.
Shadick said a decision has not yet been taken as to whether the young student who is accused of setting the fire will testify. She has been charged with 20 murders.
“…The COI can ask anyone to come before it. However, at this point in time, taken into consideration the circumstances of this tragedy and who are involved, there has been no decision whether or not they need to see that young lady,” Shadick told the media.
However, he noted that special arrangements will be put in place when minors are testifying.
“Some of the caution that we will be practicing is to ensure that where children will be interviewed, we will be having parents, social workers, interpreter to ensure that all the rightd of the child are completely protected at all times,” Shadick told the media.
According to Shadick, the hearings are expected to wrap up within one month after which a report with the findings will be prepared and presented to President Dr Irfaan Ali.
In May, 19 girls and a five-year-old boy lost their lives in the fire that destroyed the building.
Several others were injured.
The Commission is chaired by Major General (Ret’d), Joe Singh.Attorney Keoma Griffith will be leading evidence into the inquiry. Other members of the Commission are Chairman of the National Toshaos Council Derrick John and attorney Dr Kim Kyte- Thomas.
Public hearings will be held at Middle Street, Georgetown.