Prime Minister announces public inquiry into Jean Paul Sofia death

Robert Abela apologises to Jean Paul Sofia family, succumbing to their demands after months of calls for a public inquiry into his death

Robert Abela exiting Castille with Jean Paul Sofia's parents, Isabelle Bonnici and John Sofia (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Robert Abela exiting Castille with Jean Paul Sofia's parents, Isabelle Bonnici and John Sofia (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Prime Minister Robert Abela has announced a public inquiry into the death of construction site victim Jean Paul Sofia.

“Government will no longer be held hostage to the judiciary,” Abela told the press at Castille on Monday evening.

The U-turn came today after the magistrate investigating the Sofia death extended the inquiry by another 60 days, a move that angered the Prime Minister, who has been pressuring the magistrate to conclude her job.

Abela met Isabelle Bonnici and John Sofia in Castille to inform them of the new development. 

The public inquiry board will be led by Ombudsman Joseph Zammit McKeon, who will be supported by Auditor General Charles Deguara and court expert Mario Cassar.

The PM insisted he still believes the magisterial inquiry is the best way to attain justice for the victim’s family.

Abela said the country is at a “sensitive cross roads”, and can no longer wait.

“People are expecting answers, and I understand them. People want peace of mind. As a Prime Minister and a Maltese citizen, I am no longer comfortable with the waiting time. Our appeal for efficiency has been ignored,” Abela said.

He also apologised to the Sofia family for not showing “fatherly and human emotions”.

Terms of reference

The Prime Minister said the three key principles of the inquiry will be:

1. complete transparency throughout the inquiry

2. scrutiny of authorities and institutions involved in the land allocation

3. investigation into the health and safety of construction sites

Questioned whether the inquiry will be looking into the relationship between political parties and the construction industry, Abela said it will be investigating it.

Abela had so far resisted calls for a public inquiry, insisting the magisterial inquiry will bring about justice and has unfettered power to delve into any aspect.

Sofia's relatives and friends are holding a vigil in Valletta at 8pm for which there has been wide support. The vigil will go ahead regardless.

In another significant development earlier this afternoon the General Workers’ Union, which is traditionally aligned to the PL, came out in favour of a public inquiry and announced it will also be participating in the vigil. The UHM also said it will be attending the vigil.

On Sunday, MaltaToday reported that Labour MPs faced an angry backlash from voters, including PL grassroots, after they voted against an Opposition motion last week calling for a public inquiry.