Editorial: The Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry aftermath

Last Updated on Thursday, 7 March, 2024 at 12:56 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry report was published last week and, as expected, it hit the headlines.

There followed a few resignations – not of politicians – and a government pledge to try to sort things out.

The political fall-out was huge, but whether it will affect the way the people think and, more importantly, how they will vote remains to be seen. Over the years the government suffered many blows to its credibility – the Panama Papers, the resignation of Joseph Muscat and the hospitals’ deal annulment, to mention a few – but it has always managed to survive. The Sofia report is added to this long list of government failures.

What is sure is that were it not for the perseverance of Sofia’s mother Isabel Bonnici we would not be where we are today.

Prime Minister Robert Abela did his utmost to avoid having a public inquiry, going as far as forcing his MPs to vote against an Opposition motion in the regard. Then, as pressure mounted and thousands were flocking to Valletta for a massive public protest, Abela changed his mind.

Now we know why Abela was so adamantly against the inquiry. The report that was compiled by the board, led by Ombudsman Joseph Zammit McKeon, exposed myriad deficiencies in the construction sector, apart from throwing a spotlight on the incident itself which, we must remember, caused the untimely death of a youngster.

The shortcomings that were listed in the recommendations put forward by the board should put the government to shame but, as we have come to accept in this blessed country of ours, politicians are always reluctant to accept any fault. They put the blame on others, and expect them to resign, but then the politicians themselves hang on to their seat of power without as much as an apology.

Barely two hours had passed since the report was presented to the Prime Minister and made public that the government came up with five ways via which it will attempt to rectify the situation. The haste by which the government reacted exposed the extent of the political consequences it was expecting from the outcome of the report, and it immediately embarked on a damage-control exercise.

The Prime Minister went as far as changing the portfolios of a number of ministers to make it seem that action was being taken. But a second Cabinet reshuffle in two months reveals a Prime Minister who has lost direction and is now frantically trying to put things in order.

Whether this reshuffle – and the five promises that Abela made soon after the Sofia public inquiry report was published – will lead to the desired result is something that will be known in the weeks and months to come.

The construction industry was allowed to run riot and to make hay while the sun was shining for too long without any attempt to rein it in within acceptable parameters. Add the “anything goes” mentality and “culture of impunity” and one has the perfect concoction.

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