Opposition questions Mahdia School fire settlement in absence of completed Commission of Inquiry

Opposition questions Mahdia School fire settlement in absence of completed Commission of Inquiry

The Opposition is questioning the move by the Government to offer a $5 million settlement to the families of the victims of the Mahdia School dorm fire, even before a Commission of Inquiry is held.

The Opposition believes the payout should not be accepted at this stage. Twenty children lost their lives in the fire, while several others were injured.

In a release this morning, Opposition Member of Parliament, Roysdale Forde said while no amount of money can bring back the lives that were lost, and the trauma faced by those who survived, the government ought not move in such a reckless manner to offer a payout to the family without the outcome of a credible inquiry.

The Government has long promised a Commission of Inquiry, with the President declaring last week that moves have been made to identify the Commissioners to sit on that inquiry.

“The miserly sum announced cannot compensate for the years those children lived, the potential value for the investment in those years, and the potential value of each life.  Government must therefore make public what formula they used to price the grief, because it appears as though they just plucked a number from the sky.The sum offered reeks of Government manipulation to circumvent the arms of justice from holding the Government accountable for their failure to provide safe and secure dwelling for the nation’s children held in their protection”, Mr. Forde said this morning.

Forde, who is also the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, said the parents of victims should not accept the payment from the government, calling it an “undervaluing of their children’s priceless lives”.

He said the agreement, which constitutes a settlement of all claims and actions and all potential liability in relation to the deadly fire at the Government facility, is unacceptable.

 “We need to address our minds to whether these persons were coerced to sign without full understanding of the ramifications. I am inclined to believe the manner in which the Ali-Government sought to sequester and isolate the families, immediately after the tragedy, was guided not by care nor compassion but sinister motive, now made clear by a document families signed absolving the government for any future potential claims for liability and injury.  This must be rejected,” Mr. Forde noted.

Meanwhile, another Opposition MP, Amanza Walton-Desir said the agreement as presented to the families, effectively ties the hands of those families from making future claims, even if a Commission of Inquiry were to find the state liable.

“This agreement seems to suggesting that they are precluding from claiming anything legally and that whatever they get will be dependent on the larges of this government and that is completely unacceptable. The decent way, the right way for this matter to be dealt with was for a Commission of Inquiry empaneled in the shortest possible time because we need to get to the root cause of the systems failure,” Desir noted.

The Opposition MPs said the manner in which the Government continues to address the matter and deal with the family in the aftermath of the tragic fire, brings to light its treatment of indigenous communities.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has defended the Government’s decision to offer the settlement, explaining that independent legal advice was provided to the families ahead of them signing on to the agreement.

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