The Jean Paul Sofia magisterial inquiry makes the following observation:
“This in genere inquiry did not and could not have had the direct objective of examining whether administrative and or legislative failures came into play. The evidence gathered by the undersigned indicates institutional, systemic, and legislative failures. This also emerged from the report by the expert Perit Professor Alex Torpiano. That however is secondary to the objectives of the in genere inquiry which is part of the criminal investigation. If anything, these failures would be part of other investigations by the competent authorities set up by law.”
That paragraph is not the one Robert Abela wants us to read. He wants us to be angry at the architect and the developer and the builder who did such a shoddy job in Kordin that they must be prosecuted for causing the death of Jean Paul Sofia. Of course, we’re very angry at them. We have every right to be. We license architects and builders because if I were to try to build something in concrete it will be certain to fall and hurt or kill someone. I don’t have the competence to do it, so I’m told to trust the people who are certified to do it.
It was exquisitely painful to read how the architect ostensibly supervising the construction of the building never actually visited the site. I don’t know if it is now an accepted work practice for architects to supervise and certify construction over WhatsApp. I rather suspect that though perhaps far from universal, not every building built this way is doomed to immediately collapse. It’s the rest of us who are doomed to live with unsafe building sites and unsightly construction projects.
That’s the stuff Robert Abela wants us talking about because from his point of view what would be worse is having us talk about the fact that the criminal inquiry has gathered evidence that indicates institutional, systemic, and legislative failures. The criminal inquiry says that it could not assess whether these failures had a role in the death of Jean Paul Sofia. But that’s the opposite of ruling out that they did. What the magistrate did there is to suggest that the failures may very well have come into play and if the matter is limited to a criminal inquiry we’ll never really know.
I’m generally queasy about this very public reading of the inquiry’s findings while prosecutions have barely started. It feels like an open invitation for the accused to claim that the state has convicted them in a court of public opinion before they’ve ever faced a judge.
What is even more revolting is that the state is taking the risk of facing the accusation of denying these people the right to a fair hearing because that, from the point of view of Robert Abela, is not as high a price as a debate about the failures he is responsible for, and which may have been part of the cause of the death of Jean Paul Sofia.
And, of course, the cause of all the deaths of people falling like flies on construction sites would be the same institutional, systemic, and legislative failures which this inquiry noticed in the Jean Paul Sofia case, but which must surely be relevant in the many other incidents.
For that is the nature of a systemic failure, right? It’s the system which is broken. And the system is broken in the case of every construction site, whether someone has died there or not. If the institutions, the ones Robert Abela asked us to trust so many times, are not working, they’re failing everyone, even those who are not failed to the extent that their life is lost.
That paragraph there about the institutional failures could be the very reason Robert Abela made a U-turn over the space of five days and after fighting in Parliament to ensure a public inquiry is not convened because a magisterial inquiry would, once complete, finish the job of securing justice, decided to convene a public inquiry a mere hours before the magisterial inquiry was completed.
I struggle to believe Robert Abela was innocent of the knowledge that the magisterial inquiry was nearly ready when he complained it would take an age and he had given up on resisting having a public inquiry. I rather think that as he was applying pressure for the magisterial inquiry to be published for discourse to be diverted to the responsibility of the architect, and the developer, and the builder, Robert Abela was told that he needed to be careful what he wished for.
My guess is Robert Abela was told that once he would keep his promise of publishing the inquiry – a promise mouthed blindly in the desperate wish for a diversion of the blaming game – the public would learn that the magisterial inquiry would pronounce a judgement he might not like on his claim that a magisterial inquiry alone would establish all the facts.
If Robert Abela kept up his categorical resistance against a public inquiry on the back of his claim that a magisterial inquiry would be enough, the publication of that paragraph I cited in the beginning of this post would have been devastating to him.
As it happened Robert Abela’s stubborn resistance is now a thing of the past. We’ve had a heat wave and serious power cuts since then and while we contemplate this week’s catastrophic failure of the government, Robert Abela can be relieved in knowing that last week’s catastrophic failures are well and truly forgiven.
They really get away with anything.
Does the fact that a public inquiry has been called to examine the institutional, systemic, and legislative failures give you hope that change is in the future? That’s because you forget that the findings of the last public inquiry that did that – the one that examined and found the state responsible for the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia – have been entirely ignored by Robert Abela’s government.
Can we ever be forgiven for this?