GUYANA: Madhia Fire: Letter to the Editor from Eusi Kwayana

Dear Editor:

The first thing I want to do is to give condolences from my narrow circle and myself to the relatives and communities who have suffered as a result of the dormitory fire at the Mahdia secondary school.

The unspeakable situation at Mahdia is a challenge and an indictment to all the groups that call themselves citizens. This is a call to all alert citizens, especially to the Guyana Bar Association, and Guyana Human Rights Organization, and civil society groups to see to it that the laws of Guyana are no further evaded in the investigation of this tragedy. 

And in the first place, unlike what has been done with previous fires, guidelines for such investigations should be placed forward, and agreed on a multi-party basis. What I wish to make clear is that our society has laws on the books for investigation of fires, and in my experience, they are repeatedly ignored. I should be the first to say that the existing laws about inquiry into fire are inadequate and need to be upgraded to suit a society aiming at democracy. However, the haphazard investigations and explanations applied to fires in recent decades only tend to conceal deep flaws in administration and have not led to assurance of greater public safety.

Public organizations and associations must kindly see to it that under the rules of this inquiry, including grievance and complaint, no voice is silenced. Each voice should be recorded and archived so the public can call on them for reflection in time of need.

This unspeakable tragedy at Mahdia helps us to understand and test our best intentions. While this is not a time of partisan clashes across the political divide, it is also a time for the nation to make an effort to restore the true meaning of power – responsibility, humanity, and accountability. I hope this chance will not be wasted in statecraft and manipulation. The responsibility of these burdens falls fully in the lap of all Guyanese. It should not be placed in the hands of selected individual politicians but should be placed in the wide counsel of observers.

I have avoided partisan comments in the hope that in its approach to this strategy the executive will seize the chance to promote free consultation and include the opinions of all groups, interests, and especially those reflecting ethnicity, occupation, labor, gender, class, age and social status. To blunder on these matters and principles will only worsen this terrible tragedy.


Eusi Kwayana

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