Jean Paul Sofia’s parents condemned Prime Minister Robert Abela’s opposition to a public inquiry into their son’s death, saying that full justice means an inquiry into whether “state authorities or representatives failed in their obligation to safeguard his life” in a statement to the press.
Abela has shot down requests for a public inquiry into the December 2022 death, stating that “a public inquiry hinders and does not help achieve justice” when answering questions from the press on Wednesday.
In their statement, the parents said that the current, less in-depth magistrate’s inquiry “is not capable of identifying State failure, administrative, regulatory and legislative gaps, and therefore cannot make recommendations for eliminating the risk to life and injury at construction sites”.
Sofia died in a building collapse while working in what was to be a timber factory constructed illegally on government property by Serbian contractors and Maltese developers with a criminal past and connections to the Lands Authority. Sofia was 20 years old.
They also said that Sofia’s death “was as much the result of inaction by state entities, and administrative, regulatory and legislative failure, as it was the result of actions of persons involved in the site’s development”.
Pointing out the prime minister’s responsibility to “initiate an objective inquiry into whether Jean Paul’s death was preventable had there been timely action by authorities, adequate regulation and legislation, and adequate and efficient processes and procedures in place” and that such an inquiry “can help save the lives of others”.
Several NGOs, public figures, and the opposition have joined the parents’ call for such a public inquiry. The opposition earlier this week filed a parliamentary motion for the public inquiry to be held. Law students’ organization GħSL and the opposition also joined Sofia’s parents in criticising Abela’s comments rushing the magisterial inquiry.
The parents said their son’s death was “not a partisan issue” and that his and others’ deaths linked to the construction industry “clearly shows systemic failures”.
Abela had also opposed calls for a public inquiry into Miriam Pace’s death, who died in another building collapse in 2020.
Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat made similar comments in opposition to a public inquiry into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. The eventual public inquiry concluded that the State was responsible and recommended reforms that are yet to be adequately implemented.
Law students association and opposition criticise PM’s rushing of magisterial inquiry
In their statement, Sofia’s parents countered comments made by Abela in parliament on Monday where he called for the magisterial inquiry to be concluded quickly. They stressed that such pressure would be “counterproductive”, “futile and capable of prejudicing the seriousness of the process”.
Their sentiments were echoed by law students’ association GħSL, who called the prime minister’s comments “deeply concerning”. The organization said that the comments sought to “shift public sentiment against the courts”. GħSL also pointed out that a public inquiry and magisterial inquiry “do not impact or prejudice each other”.
GħSL furthered that “Political convenience is no excuse to scapegoat and place undue pressure on the judiciary; the tenet of the separation of powers is greater than quick and cheap attempts to sway public attention”.
The prime minister’s comments were also criticized by the Nationalist Party in opposition, calling them “odious”, “irresponsible”, “unjustifiable” and aimed at “avoiding political responsibility for the death of [Jean Paul Sofia]”. It restated calls for improved funding, resources and a group of magistrates specifically dedicated to inquiries.
Bob the PM: ‘a public inquiry hinders and does not help
achieve justiceour mafia construction economy’.
In Maltese we say that Robert Abela couldn’t care less because Jean Paul was not his son.
Robert Abela must be loosing it.
Justice Must be seen being done.
Memory loss has become endemic in this government officials. Even Robert Abela has been infected.
Another one out of many examples by now, the life and wellbeing of normal citizens are of no concern to the PL in cases like this one and the others before that. The way the PL govt is dishing out excuses in order to avoid taking up responsibility has become a commonplace and meaningless. Fact is, they just don’t care.