The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Grech says three ministers must resign, PM must shoulder responsibility over Sofia public inquiry

Albert Galea Wednesday, 28 February 2024, 19:09 Last update: about 3 months ago

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has said that three government ministers should resign and that the Prime Minister Robert Abela should shoulder responsibility in connection with the findings of the public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia.

Grech said that Ministers Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, Miriam Dalli, and Silvio Schembri should resign and that Prime Minister Robert Abela must also shoulder responsibility based on the conclusions of the inquiry.

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“While I appreciate and recognise the apologies that the Prime Minister made – it’s not the time for apologies; it’s the time for action and for responsibility.  Who is going to shoulder responsibility for the lack of action in 2019 [when three buildings collapsed in as many months] or when Miriam Pace died and we asked for a public inquiry which the government insisted against?,” Grech said.

“The report today says that if action had been take before, we might have avoided Jean Paul Sofia’s death.  That is why this is the time for responsibility,” Grech added.

He said that the inquiry report referred to a classic “comedy of errors”: “This isn’t a comedy, it’s a tragedy.  A tragedy born out of the continuous and persistent mistakes of several people in a climate of impunity and a culture of xejn m’hu xejn.

“You feel that you have the right to appoint incompetent people who, as long as they are loyal, get positions of trust, that you can keep covering up for and voting against what needs to be done for this country to change,” he said of the government.

He referred to the inquiry board’s report, which observed that Sofia died in a construction site which was not regulated by any authority.  “It’s like the Wild West, where everyone can do as they please and there’s nobody to control them.”

“I would understand this if there were no authorities. Had you not opened 10,000 authorities filled with your people who have salaries of 80,000 or 90,000 – I’d understand it.  But that you have used public funds for so many authorities and yet there was no authority to protect Jean Paul Sofia and his colleagues when they go to work…. Who is responsible?”

He said that the board had attributed responsibility to the State – ergo to the government, and that this is why – written black on white – the Prime Minister for many months did not want the public inquiry to happen.

Grech referred to the Prime Minister’s statement earlier in the day – that he was expecting the resignations of various CEOs and directors who were named in the board’s report – saying that Abela was expecting people which they appointed themselves to resign and then acting as if that exonerated the government.

“What do you mean that you think you can rid yourselves of this condemnation? When you wrote it yourselves? How is Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi still here?  Minister Miriam Dalli? Minister Silvio Schembri?  Who will shoulder responsibility?” 

“What do you mean someone dies and you want to hide the truth, you didn’t want the inquiry to be done, and you expect that the people will let you put the blame on someone you appointed at a lower level?,” Grech said.

“This country cannot heal if we keep being led like this.” 

Referring to Abela directly, Grech said that if he had to bring himself to accept that he had no political responsibility for what happened before Sofia’s death, afterwards he was “the biggest actor to make sure that the truth doesn’t come out.”

He reproduced quotes from the Prime Minister as he continued to insist against the appointment of a public inquiry last year.

“I don’t want to fall for the populism that the Opposition is trying to do” was one, with Grech noting that Abela’s idea of populism seemed to be the PN fighting to safeguard people’s lives and the safety of workers.

“If by the strength of populism we got to here, I will do it again a hundred times over so the country can move forward,” Grech said.

He said that Abela never wanted the search for justice to continue, but said that one can see what the search for justice had borne, as he held up the inquiry.

“The search for justice means that you have a responsibility which you must now shoulder.  If you do not, it means that you have understood nothing,” Grech said.

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