The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Miriam Pace tragedy - One year on

Tuesday, 2 March 2021, 09:45 Last update: about 2 months ago

Today marks one year since the tragic death of Miriam Pace.

A wife, a mother, a daughter, she was an innocent, inside her home as her life was stolen away. We all like to think of our homes as a safe space, but that day changed so much for so many.

54-year-old Pace was tragically killed on 2 March when the house she lived in collapsed. The plot next door was a construction site. Her body was found in the rubble of her home, hours later.

ADVERTISEMENT

Her husband writes regularly about how much he misses his wife, cries when he visits her grave. His posts chronicled his time since that horrible day. ““Even when I am in the car alone, I speak to you about our children and the present situation in our country,” he wrote, just weeks after her death. “I am still seeing you near me everywhere, even still calling your name.”

In January, he spoke of how the country lit up with anger when the tragedy occurred ten months prior, but that fire was now dying down, “because it seems that many want this incident to be forgotten and swept under the carpet.”

Her tragedy will not be forgotten.

There were a number of incidents where buildings neighbouring construction sites collapsed prior to this one, and indeed Miriam Pace was not the first to die in such tragic circumstances, but the incident woke us all up.

Four people were taken to court over the incident and their cases are still ongoing. The four are the contractor who was overseeing the construction project neighbouring Pace’s house, a person who was working on the site, the Project Architect and the Site Technical Officer.

The government had appointed a committee to evaluate the construction sector as a whole and assess any possible reforms required to further improve it. It issued its report a few months ago which found, among other things, that a particular practice used within the industry is “nothing short of playing Russian roulette with the lives of third parties.”

Last December, a Bill was presented in Parliament that will see the creation of the Building and Construction Authority, to regulate the sector. The Bill is currently being debated.

Miriam Pace’s tragedy led to action. Hopefully this new authority, the new laws and regulations that will eventually be created in addition to it, will be effective. Hopefully they will result in peace of mind for neighbours of construction sites.

The constructions sector has seen too many cowboys over the years, while neighbours feel their homes vibrate due to excavation practices, a situation which creates fear. Too long have people with breathing problems had to breathe in too much dust coming out of such sites where near to nothing was done to mitigate this. The government should also at least attempt to address this situation.

In truth, the changes to the construction sector should have come years ago. The Nationalist Party is guilty of not doing enough, and equally guilty is the Labour Party. Both have failed in this respect. If action had been taken, if there was more regulation and enforcement, perhaps there would have been fewer construction site accidents.

We demand more from our politicians. We demand effective regulation. We demand laws that will keep contractors and developers in check, that will protect residents.

This sector can no longer be allowed to do whatever it wants. All infringements must be met with immediate action, through the issuing of harsh fines and other penalties. Contractors will soon be licensed and require mandatory registration. Repeat offenders should have their licences revoked and be blacklisted. Many more enforcement officers responsible for site inspections must be employed.

Self-regulation clearly will not work in this sector. Strict regulation is required. Safety must always be the priority.

 

  • don't miss