Updated 7.38pm, adds details

The government has pushed back on an opposition call to appoint a public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia - by proposing an amendment that urges a speedier magisterial inquiry instead.

Parliament is currently discussing the Nationalist Party motion for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the death of the 20-year-old in a construction collapse in Corradino last December. 

His mother Isabelle Bonnici, father John Sofia and other family members were in parliament for the debate on Thursday. 

Nationalist MP Jerome Caruana Cilia opened the discussion by appealing to parents, particularly mothers who are members of the house, to support the PN’s motion for a public inquiry.

He said it should examine whether the authorities and institutions fulfilled their obligation to protect the young man's life, whether action was taken to prevent his death and what measures needed to be taken in the future.

The PN wants the inquiry to be appointed by a two-thirds majority in parliament and for its work to be both public and streamed live. It should have the necessary resources to carry out its task.

But the government amendment, put forward by government whip Andy Ellul, eliminates references to a public inquiry and calls on the investigating magistrate Marsanne Farrugia to conclude her inquiry as quickly as possible.  

Addressing the house, Prime Minster Robert Abela said he was dissatisfied that nobody has faced charges seven months after the construction collapse.

He said he has "unwavering" trust in the magisterial process and denied allegations that his government is trying to protect anyone. 

“I will never cover for anyone as long as I am in this position (prime minister),” he said.  

Abela has repeatedly refused to set up a public inquiry, insisting the ongoing magisterial inquiry should be enough to lead to those responsible being charged in court.

He accused the opposition of craving "a TV show” by calling for a public inquiry to be live-streamed.   

The comment was met with vociferous responses from the opposition.  

“Don't you dare repeat that,” opposition leader Bernard Grech said. 

Addressing the House, the Opposition leader said that a public inquiry might prevent similar future tragedies from happening.  

If there was a public inquiry into the death of Miriam Pace, Sofia might still be alive, Grech noted.

“We are making a mistake that will lead to more deaths,” Grech said.  

Grech said that he cannot understand what  Sofia's mother is going through. "I can hug my son in the evening, but Isabelle Bonnici cannot," he said.

“In voting against a public inquiry, you are saying no to the family and to the next construction victim and not to the to the Nationalist party," Grech insisted.

Nationalist MP Mark Anthony Sammut asked why was the prime minister against the holding of a public inquiry, something Sofia's family wanted.

“This would only make sense if the prime minister’s hard heart is hiding something... There is no other explanation. Who is the prime minister protecting,” Sammut asked. 

The land where Sofia died, he said, had been given to Kurt Buhagiar and Matthew Schembri by the government. And Buhagiar was arrested in 2009 over human trafficking, Sammut said. 

"The prime minister is determined to protect these people," Sammut said. 

Construction minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said the government is working to improve the construction industry through several reforms, including the revision of the licensing system for builders and reforming the Occupational Health and Safety Authority.

The government's amendment is likely to go to a vote on Parliament's last sitting before it rises for the summer recess. Should it be approved, the Opposition will propose an amendment to the government's amendment. The PN's amendment is expected to be almost identical to its original motion.

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