November 28, 2016 will mark one year since the tragic fire took place at the Youth Hostel resulting in the deaths of three young women. It is a case that enraged the communities and families as it had turned out to be an avoidable situation and one where systems were breached and as such the girls died in the fire. The media has been following this story for almost a year now and there has been no real closure to the matter. Today, we spoke to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development, Judith Alpuche who says that the Government will compensate and that the Coroner’s inquest is pending submission.
“There is a coroner’s inquest that is I think it completed by now; we are waiting for the results and that will determine whether or not there was anybody who will be held criminal liable and that is something that we welcome because as I said from the beginning it’s something that we want in the clear light of day. With regards to our own internal investigation we don’t have control over disciplinary issues; what control we had we already exercised and who could have been fired from the ministry who was in our purview we did that already. The AG’s ministry, the Solicitor General’s chambers is working with the families in terms of compensation and I think that is welcomed as well from very early on the Ministry advocated for there to be a settlement and I’m glad that that is progressing because I think that brings closure to a certain extent for the families as well to a certain extent because those wounds will take time. That is as best as I can answer the whole issue of closure.”
While the families will continue missing their loved ones and the Government continues talks for compensation, CEO Alpuche says there have been reforms put in place at the institution that seeks to ensure the safety of the residents as well as improved rehabilitation.
“From the perspective of the institution we continue with the reforms. One of the things coming out of the internal review and reporting that we did was validating the changes that were on the way already and making more recommendations and we continue to follow that and continue to focus, as you see we first focused on the infrastructure because you need proper infrastructure to be able to change programs, sometimes you can’t run the kinds of programs that you want to run because of the structures that you have so we’ve done that successfully and it’s really now working to ensure that the changes stick in terms of attitudes and new policies and procedures and it is a work in progress it’s really changing the thinking sometimes of people of how they see these young people, of how they interact with these young people to see them not as bad boys or girls but kids, young people who are in need of guidance; that we have a responsibility to ensure their rehabilitation and ensure that they are set back on the right path and given the tools that they need and just shifting that attitude and mentality takes constant grind so we continue, we continue doing the work there and as I said we welcome the coroner’s inquest so that from a criminal perspective that is dealt with very objectively.”
The three young women who perished in the fire are 14-year-old, Elizabeth Mckoy, 16-year-old, Shadisha Arnold and 16-year-old, Anna Carlos.