Updated 2.45pm with FAA's reaction
Miriam Pace’s family have said they are “baffled” over the prime minister’s decision not to publish a report he had ordered in the wake of the building collapse that claimed her life last March.
Robert Abela had appointed a four-person panel to review building laws and use it as a springboard to reform the construction industry.
“The family is baffled and disappointed,” lawyer David Bonello said when asked for the Pace family’s reaction to Abela’s decision to keep the report under wraps. He declined further comment.
On Tuesday, Abela told journalists that the report’s recommendations were being discussed in parliament as legal amendments, eliminating the need for its publication.
Pace was buried in the rubble of her own home last March as construction works took place on a site next door.
Four people involved in the development have been charged over the incident.
The report, commissioned in the wake of the tragedy, was part of Abela’s promise to reform the industry after public outrage was expressed at yet another house collapse adjacent to a construction site.
Janet Walker, whose own house collapsed in Gwardamangia last year, said “everything is being swept underneath the carpet to the detriment of the victims, while those who tore apart a family are still reigning supreme”.
“If you are hungry and you stole a can of tuna, you’re arraigned immediately. If you end up thrown out of your own home due to the negligence of other people, the court suddenly does not care as much,” Walker said.
All reports of this kind should be published, not just Miriam’s, she insisted.
“People have a right to know, especially those who were worst hit,” she said.
The knowledge, she added, should be shared to avoid the same mistakes being made.
Another house collapse victim, Anthea Brincat, voiced anger and disappointment at Abela’s decision.
“Is this the same committee that [Justice Minister Edward] Zammit Lewis mentioned in March when he said that it’s only going to take a few weeks for the reform? If so, may I ask how many more deaths must occur for this reform to be finalised?” Brincat asked.
She said none of the cases were deemed to merit a public inquiry.
Report was part of Robert Abela’s promise to reform the industry
“Instead, victims are being silenced, as if we are exaggerating what happened.”
The issue was not being treated with the absolute seriousness it deserved.
“When you feel like you are existing to fight for your rights and you are facing problems because of an accident which you are still dealing with two years later, when you are still chasing the same people who caused you so much damage, then no, justice has not been served.”
Disappointment at failing to receive a copy of the report was expressed by the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers.
“We would like to know if the report identified additional issues over and above the ones identified in our proposal document, so we can work on addressing them, too,” the chamber said.
Leftist organisation Moviment Graffitti labelled Abela’s reluctance to publish the report as “incomprehensible”.
“Even if all the recommendations are being discussed in parliament, this still does not diminish the importance of the report being published,” it said.
“We cannot know what its recommendations really are and to what extent they are being implemented. Instead, we have to rely on the statements of a government that has repeatedly succumbed to the pressures of the developers’ lobby, prioritising the profits of the few over the common good.
“There will only be justice for Miriam Pace once the systemic failures that led to her death have been fully addressed,” Graffiti said.
It echoed the sentiments of the chamber of architects, pointing out that it has published an extensive document containing over a hundred proposals for reform.
Civil society movement Repubblika on Thursday blasted Abela’s decision as “shocking and irresponsible”.
“We have already submitted a freedom of information request for this document and to date we have had no answer. We shall challenge a negative reply from the prime minister’s office,” a spokesperson for Repubblika said.
“The refusal is shocking as this is a matter that deals with safety in our own homes. Human lives are at stake,” the NGO added.
Repubblika also challenged Abela to openly declare what recommendations were being discussed in parliament.
“Abela also said he is discussing proposals with stakeholders; he should know that residents and citizens are stakeholders too, and not just people within the construction industry,” the spokesperson said.
“Or does he consider the construction industry as more valuable than the residents’ lives because it pumps more money into the party’s coffers?” the spokesperson asked.
Repubblika reminded the prime minister of his own claim that the report would be ready by September and that it was to be presented to parliament by October.
“Nothing happened; the framework that led to Miriam Pace’s death is still in place,” it said.
'Government defending cowboy developers'
In a statement on Friday, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) said the report was "long overdue" and "strongly condemned" the decision not to publish it.
"Claiming that discussing the legal amendments in parliament eliminates the need for its publication, is an arrogant assertion that undermines and disrespects the public, the several NGOs and professional associations that have submitted extensive reports and recommendations, not to mention the very victims who have a right to have a say," the NGO said.
FAA claimed it repeatedly "intervenes" in cases of dangerous development that put residents' lives at risk.
This was especially worrying in the case of elderly residents who are being systematically bullied, undermining their health and quality of life, as well as placing their lives at risk as developers pressure them to sell their properties for redevelopment, FAA said.
"The PM's decision to withhold this report and hide its contents is yet another example of this Government's ongoing policy to defend cowboy developers at all costs, even at the cost of human lives," it added.