The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has made an impassioned plea for the charges to be dropped against the 15-year-old child accused of setting fire to the Mahdia school dorm that killed 19 of her colleagues and a boy.

“GTUC not only sees these charges as misguided, geared more to public relations, giving the nation false hope, not getting to the bottom of the issue, holding those responsible accountable, but also a violation of the child’s right,” the body said on Thursday.

It added, “The arrest and so-called confession of the 15-year raises many questions, such as: Was the right of this child protected? Was she coerced/traumatized into speaking? Did she have legal representation during questioning? Was she medically evaluated for her mental status? Where were her parents/guardians during the interrogation? Why charge her now when a Commission of Inquiry is yet to be established and persons, technical and otherwise, given the opportunity to be heard?”

GTUC says it wants the charges dropped, pending “a more deliberative approach to getting to the bottom of the matter”.

Establishment of the Commission of Inquiry

While the GTUC said it supports a Commission of Inquiry (COI), it calls on the Government to establish one that has the input of pertinent stakeholders and comprises Terms of Reference that would provide the nation assurance this is not a partisan political body, funded by taxpayers, to provide an outcome that absolves some from responsibility.

“We demand a proper inquiry and let the chips fall where they may. The COI must not only examine the cause(s) that led to the fire, identify the responsible institutions, policymakers and technicians for the safety and security of the building consistent with modern building codes, but also the conditions under which the staff and students work, learn and live.

Recommendations must include holding those responsible accountable and ensuring all dormitory facilities across the country are fitted with the requisite building standards to ensure a tragedy of this nature is not repeated,” the GTUC said.

The 15-year-old suspect was charged with 19 murders and was remanded to prison last week.


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