The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Jean Paul Sofia

Owen Bonnici Friday, 1 March 2024, 08:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

The cruel accident which led to Jean Paul Sofia’s demise touched the hearts of a whole nation.

The entire family, particularly Isabel and John, Jean Paul’s mother and father, had to face unimaginable sorrow resulting from this heart-wrenching tragedy. Once again, I would like to express my deepest sympathies towards this family, as well as an apology for all those moments leading up to the holding of the public inquiry during which we – myself included - came across as being insensitive and unfeeling.

This week, the Jean Paul Sofia report resulting from the public inquiry presided over by Mr Justice Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, was concluded and, subsequently, presented to Prime Minister Robert Abela. The Prime Minister, on his part, immediately published the whole report straightaway and took decisive steps to address the issues which were highlighted. More importantly, a Cabinet subcommittee was set up tasked with overseeing the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations, demonstrating the government’s commitment to action. The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Glenn Micallef – one of the most efficient persons I have had the pleasure to work with throughout my career in public life – was appointed to Chair this Inter-Ministerial committee.

Prime Minister Robert Abela also went to Parliament at the very first opportunity to discuss the report and its recommendations, delivering a very clear speech which explained how, what and when things will be done in order the see a better regulation of the construction sector. This commitment underscores the government’s determination to address the concerns raised by the public inquiry. Truth is that subsequent Labour and Nationalist Governments had never grabbed the bulls by its horns in so far as this important sector is concerned and this is going to change.

In response to the inquiry’s findings, Prime Minister Robert Abela has announced five immediate initiatives aimed at driving forward more reforms with regards to the construction sector. These initiatives signify a proactive approach to rectifying systemic and legacy issues and improving standards.

The first initiative focuses on enhancing citizens’ ability to seek redress for non-compliance issues. Recognizing the need for effective channels, the government will provide professional assistance, through experts, to citizens facing challenges within the construction sector. This move aims to empower citizens and ensure that their concerns are efficiently addressed. Also the mandate of the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman will be increased in order to cover issues related to construction.

The second initiative involves intensifying enforcement through the creation of a centralized unit responsible for overseeing compliance in the sector. Additionally, a dedicated helpline will be established to facilitate reporting and resolution of issues related to noncompliance. This step reflects a commitment to robust enforcement measures and streamlined reporting mechanisms.

The third initiative, slated for implementation before this summer, revolves around the introduction of a new legislation regulating the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA). This new law will aim to reform health and safety aspects within the construction sector, demonstrating a commitment to ensuring the well-being of workers and the general public.

The government’s fourth initiative aims to eliminate any distinction between stand-alone and other buildings. This legislative change is expected to bring about more coherent regulations within the construction sector. During the last days announcements have already been made in this regard .

Despite the fact that the inquiry asserted no direct link between the allocation of land and the cruel accident itself in Kordin, the government acknowledges the criticism levelled with regards to the allocation process. In response, an audit of the process concerning land allocation will be commissioned to address any shortcomings and ensure more transparency going forward.

These initiatives underscore the government’s dedication to bringing about meaningful change within the field of regulation of the construction sector. Prime Minister Robert Abela emphasized that these changes are not merely for the sake of change but are part of a broader commitment to raising industry standards and fostering an environment of respect for both citizens and workers.

As a Government we believe that citizens are right in demanding better standards from the construction industry’s operators and that meaningful reforms are necessary to rebuild trust.

The government’s swift and decisive response to the public inquiry signals a commitment to accountability, transparency, and the wellbeing of citizens. Implementing these initiatives is a crucial step forward in the stride towards the rebuilding of trust and better standards. By prioritizing safety and satisfaction for both citizens and workers, these efforts aim to reshape the industry’s image, fostering a culture of responsibility and reliability. This proactive approach seeks to address concerns and pave the way for a more transparent and accountable construction landscape.

Acquiring Band Clubs risking eviction

This week we gave an update with regards to the exercise we are undertaking in order to save Band Clubs from eviction due to pre1995 rent laws. In fact, three premises utilised by three different Band Clubs have been acquired in the past weeks, effectively saving another three Band Clubs .

The three beneficiaries of this government intervention are the Stella Levantina Band Club in Attard, the Circolo San Giuseppe Philharmonic Society Sagra Familja in Kalkara, and the Santa Liena Band Duke of Connaught’s Own Society in Birkirkara.

The interventions were executed through three separate contracts published at various intervals throughout the current year, signifying the government’s commitment to safeguarding these cultural hubs. They join another two Band Clubs which have been bought last year – Stella Maris of Sliema (in this case the acquisition was a sui generis one due to the nature of the real rights involved) and the Antoine de Paule Band Club of Paola.

I would like to thank the teams at Arts Council Malta and my Ministry for the hard work they put in.

The Stella Levantina Musical Band Club in Attard, obtained through an investment of €1,100,000, now stands as a testament to the government’s dedication to preserving cultural heritage. Likewise, the Circolo San Giuseppe Philharmonic Society Sagra Familja in Kalkara secured its Band Club through an investment of €750,000. The Santa Liena Band Duke of Connaught’s Own Society in Birkirkara, with a total investment of €4.5 million (including payment resulting from pre-liquidation of damages deemed to be due and legal expenses), underscores the government’s commitment to securing the future of these cultural institutions.

Moreover, the Arts Council has a promise of sale agreement with regards to another six properties of another six Band Clubs. In all when all these promises of sale mature into contracts, the total investment will be that of €16 million. At the same time negotiations with other owners of premises utilised by Band Clubs are ongoing and may result in other promises of sale and eventually contracts. This comprehensive approach demonstrates the government’s foresight in proactively addressing potential threats to Malta’s rich cultural tapestry.

The significance of these initiatives extends beyond the immediate preservation of Band clubs. I would like to emphasize that these societies serve as vital contributors to Maltese festivals. By securing their premises and ensuring new fair rental terms, the government aims to guarantee that these Band Clubs remain integral to their respective communities.

The government’s commitment to cultural preservation aligns with UNESCO’s recent recognition of the Maltese festival as Intangible Cultural Heritage. This acknowledgment underscores the global importance of Malta’s cultural practices, making it imperative to safeguard the very institutions that contribute to the vibrancy of these traditions.

I would like also to applaud these initiatives as integral part to the ongoing efforts to strengthen Malta’s national heritage. I would like to also, emphasize that these endeavors are crucial for maintaining the cultural and traditional characteristics that are cherished by many Maltese and Gozitans.

The government’s strategic intervention to save threatened Band Clubs projects reflects a commitment to preserving Malta’s cultural identity. By securing the future of these societies, as a Government we ensure that they continue to play a central role in the country’s festivals, contributing to the preservation and celebration of Malta’s rich cultural heritage for generations to come.

 

 

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