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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, November 5) – One million Fiji dollars [US$592,000] has been set aside for next year to build the official residence of the Prime Minister.

This will be the beginning of a construction project taken on by the Government to renovate existing residences of senior government officials like judges, the Chief Justice and the Vice President.

Chief Executive Officer in the Prime Minister's Office Jioji Kotobalavu said six acres of crown land on Queen Elizabeth Drive close to the Muanikau Police Post had been identified.

"There is no official residence of the Prime Minister," he said. "The one that the current Prime Minister lives in at Richards Road is not the official residence, it's a government quarters and is in a bad state. It leaks when it rains."

Mr Kotobalavu said government decided in all fairness to the position of Prime Minister that an official residence should be built.

Like Government House, the new residence will be divided into two one would be the private living quarters of the Prime Minister and his family and the other would be the public area where the PM could host dignitaries and guests.

It will also have an office for the PM.

"This will start next year," Mr Kotobalavu said.

"The Ministry of Works will take charge of the architecture and technical aspects of the project.

"This is why we'll need six areas of land because it'll be a whole complex with plenty of public reception area."

Mr Kotobalavu said whoever held the position of Prime Minister was entitled to a fully furnished, fully equipped and fully secure official residence. He said the proposed complex would also house support staff, their families and security.

"This is part of the bigger plan to improve residences of key state and government office holders like the Chief Justice, the Vice President and judges of the High Court.

"So it's starting with the PM because the government quarters he's staying in is not suitable and leaks when it rains and the PM can't hold official receptions there.

"This is why there is a provision next year for this," he said.

The current official residence of the Vice President on Ratu Sukuna Road was originally built to house the Prime Minister.

When Sitiveni Rabuka and his party lost in the 1999 general elections to the Labour Coalition, PM Mahendra Chaudhry offered it to then Vice President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Mr Chaudhry opted to remain at his private residence at Suva Point, which he later renovated using government funds.

When Laisenia Qarase became PM, he stayed at rented quarters in Muanikau until moving to government quarters on Richards Road.

Mr Kotobalavu was unable to say what the complex would contain but added that a local competition would be held among architects.

The Ministry of Works will call for tenders on the design.

"I can confirm that the Ministry of Works will invite a competition among the local architects. They should have the idea that the design should take into account the local culture and traditions," he said.

The $1m is expected to cover construction, security and finishing costs.

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