On the 2nd of March 2020, Miriam Pace was dug out from under the rubble of her own house. What was supposed to be a place of safety and comfort became a tomb. Various court proceedings are still ongoing to determine the culpability of the persons involved. But what is certain is that, in the words of Archbishop Scicluna during her funeral, Miriam was a victim of injustice[1]. All too often, regulations and policies which are supposed to be in place to protect people as well as the natural environment, are either not properly enforced or interpreted in a way which always favours “economic development”. Citizens are expected to be on a 24 hour watch just in case a new “development” or policy needs to be objected to. This gives rise to a situation where we have an unlevel playing field between those who want to safeguard and promote a form of development which puts at its centre the quality of life of people and those who plan the latest mega-development or takeover of public land for purely economic reasons. Moreover, the latter not only have more access to politicians and policymakers but infinitely greater resources at their disposal.

It is now widely recognized – even from within the sector itself[2] – that when it comes to planning and construction something is seriously wrong. At stake are the lives not only of those who live in terror every time a construction site pops up next to their homes. But also, the fate of countless construction workers, who, because of negligence and poor enforcement, have in recent years suffered serious injuries or lost their lives. It is also an open secret that this sector is heavily dependent on migrant workers, many of whom are employed irregularly and heavily exploited. After all, is no coincidence that many of those injured or killed in recent years were migrants. In this sense, Lamin Jaiteh is but one of many[3].

Whilst we acknowledge that construction is an inherently hazardous job, more can surely be done to ensure that all safety procedures are in place and properly followed. A report drafted after the tragedy that claimed the life of Miriam Pace that in a bid to cut time and costs, certain practices going on in the construction centre, coupled with a chronic lack of proper enforcement, are “nothing short of playing Russian Roulette with the lives of third parties”[4].

“It’s a delusion to think
that we can stay healthy
in a world that is sick.”

Finally, it is also important to recognize that, on a wider scale, we all end up suffering the consequences of poor planning decisions based on a narrow and myopic understanding of development. When it comes to aesthetics for example “we are living in an environment where ugliness burdens the soul and makes the ordinariness of daily life that much more distressing”[5]. A lack of green open spaces – preferably untouched from development and not artificially created as some sort of compensation for destroying the natural environment – seriously affects our mental health.  In the words of Pope Francis, it’s a delusion to think that we can stay healthy in a world that is sick[6]. And God forbid we reach a state where public green spaces become so limited and public foreshore encroachment becomes so widespread that only those with considerable economic means will be able to continue enjoying – in Malta or abroad – the healing and life-giving relationship with nature.

[1] Cf. ‘Miriam is a victim of injustice’ – Archbishop Scicluna, (accessed 16/09/2021)  

[2] Cf. Good Governance absent from proposed construction reform – architects, (accessed 16/09/2021)  

[3] Cf. Migrant worker allegedly dumped on roadside after building site fall, (accessed 13/10/2021)

[4] Playing with lives – dangerous building and excavation practices, (accessed 15/10/2021)

[5] Archdiocese of Malta, One Church, One Journey. A process of ecclesial renewal, 59.

[6] Cf. Pope Francis, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer presided over by Pope, March 2020.