'I just want to see way less construction fatalities' - Isabelle Bonnici's quest for justice

Jean Paul Sofia's mother feels that those who say that the Opposition is pushing the family's campaign, insult her intelligence and question her love for her son

Isabelle Bonnici
Isabelle Bonnici

Justice for Jean Paul Sofia’s mother would mean that the number of fatalities at construction sites at the end of the year would be close to zero.

Seven months after Jean Paul Sofia tragically lost his life at a construction site in Corradino, his mother Isabelle Bonnici spoke to Andrew Azzopardi on Radio 103 and shared the special memories of her son and the grief she is going through.

“Jean Paul was super sweet, he had a good heart and he loved animals, especially his father’s cats. He was into cars and music, and he enjoyed life. Jean Paul was such a loving person, and he always hugged and teased me - he was the joy in my life,” Bonnici said.

She explained that she never managed to sit through the whole video of the collapse of the building and that she did not have the courage to see her son’s coffin.

“Your life changes. There is you before the death of your son and you after the death of your son […] I miss the free-spiritedness I had. There are moments where someone could make me laugh for a second, and then I feel guilty about it, as I feel myself that I shouldn’t be laughing,” Bonnici said.

“Seven months later, I am still carrying this burden but have learnt how powerful a mother’s love can be.”

Azzopardi asked Bonnici why the death of her son caused so much uproar in the country when so many others lost their lives in the construction industry.

Bonnici quoted the statistics that show that in between 2018 and 2022, 29 people lost their lives in construction, in comparison to the 10 that had died in the four years prior.

“This is not about political colours and people are now understanding that the laws and the system need to change. The Maltese are now fed up of empty words and of the same results – this is a great opportunity for people to unite,” Bonnici said.

She added that she has no other children and that she is not fighting for herself but because she doesn’t want to see anyone else to go through the same ordeal.

“I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain,” Bonnici said.

Asked by Azzopardi whether she and her family were being pushed by third parties to pursue this campaign for justice, Bonnici said that no mother would stand idle in such a situation.

“Such words insult my intelligence, and it feels that they are doubting my love for Jean Paul,” Isabelle Bonnici said. 

Why insist on a public inquiry?

Azzopardi asked Isabelle Bonnici why the family is insisting on a public inquiry into her son’s death. She stated that they do not want a public inquiry to interfere and derail the magisterial inquiry process.

“A public inquiry investigates the system and the current state of affair. We want to learn about what is not working and learn of the mistakes that are occurring […] Don’t we all have a right to know which buildings are dangerous as well?” Bonnici asked.

Earlier in the week, Parliament rejected an Opposition motion calling for a public inquiry into the death of Sofia, as all Labour MPs voted against it.

She said that the fact that no public inquiry had been carried out following Miriam Pace’s death (another construction fatality) does not mean that the same mistake should be repeated.

“Every person is important, and every death brings grief and darkness,” Bonnici said.

Asked about the Labour MPs’ vote, Jean Paul's mother said that it was a vote “against transparency and accountability.” Bonnici also revealed that when she phoned several Labour MPs before the vote, some told her that she was right but that they had to vote as a group.

“They did not look into our eyes and held their heads down. Their body language said much more. I was disappointed as they did not stand for what they believe in,” Bonnici said.

About the interview that Prime Minister Robert Abela gave to MaltaToday earlier in the week, Sofia’s mother said that he tried to “save his own skin” as he realised that the public was enraged.

Abela vowed to publish the magisterial inquiry once it’s concluded

Bonnici vehemently denied that she was being pressured by the Nationalist Party to pursue the campaign and reiterated that whoever said so was insulting her intelligence.

Azzopardi asked Bonnici what it would take for her and the family to feel that justice would have been done.

“The justice I would like to see is for the construction fatalities statistics at the end of the year to be way less. I would like to see enforcement in the industry so that no one else dies at their place of work. I would like it to be zero, for Jean Paul and all the Maltese,” Bonnici said in an emotional plea.

Monday’s vigil

A mass gathering in memory of Jean Paul Sofia will be held in front of Parliament on Monday at 8:00pm.

“The vigil’s them is love. We want the Maltese to unite and send a message in favour of the workers. I would like to see everyone bring a candle with them,” Bonnici said.

She thanked the public for the support it showed to her and her family.