Govt hosted Madhia vigil for victims, reflection not hype or managing image – CoI hears

The government hosted the national candlelight vigil which was held on May 23 for the victims who died in the Mahdia dormitory fire in Region Eight and not for the government’s hype or proliferating image.

This was clarified by the Chief Education Officer (CEO), Saddam Hussain, who testified on Tuesday before the ongoing Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the deadly fire tragedy on May 21.

Questioned whether it was the Ministry of Education’s plan to invite government ministers to the night of reflection held at the Umana Yana in Kingston, Georgetown, Hussain said, “The Ministry of Education is a ministry; the ministry cannot instruct a minister of government to be at a function.”

Hussain posited that ministers were drawn to the immense sadness of the tragedy.

He said that they too felt that it was their duty to find solace in celebrating the lives of the deceased children.

Moreover, responding to critiques of images shared of the children being vulnerable at the vigil, the education official explained, “I am a hundred per cent certain that no minister said to a photographer go and take out my picture with these students. That did not happen. Ministers are people and so they have a right to feel sad and comfort others who are also feeling the same way.”

Hussain said on numerous occasions during the incident they advised the media on how they should approach the situation and suggest ways in which they can report on the matter.

“We have been advising the media on how they should deal with children at different functions…At that function, we expected the media to have some sort of sympathy on how they did their work,” the CEO stressed.

The educator told Attorney-at-Law Keoma Griffith who was examining him, that the vigil was strictly for the public and the parents of the victims to reflect on the young lives that were lost.

Meanwhile, the education official was also asked if it was the ministry’s intention to invite the affected students who were at the time admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

“No, we did not. The vigil was for the entire tragedy itself to pay our respects to those who had unfortunately died. I was informed that students indicated that they wanted to be there to pay and show their respects to their colleagues, which is something totally understandable,” the CEO replied. Hussain acknowledged that at no time did the ministry ask for the children to be discharged from the medical facility.

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