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$3 million project to provide offices for lawmakers

By Alfred Sasako

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 7, 2008) - Taiwan will fund the second stage of Parliament House, its ambassador George Chan confirmed this week.

Officials on both sides are finalizing details of the SB$23 million [US$3 million] project, Ambassador Chan said in an exclusive interview.

Discussions are centered on a number of issues, including the question of who will build it, whether the project should be put on public tender and so on.

"From our side we are committed to it. It is a project both the last president and our current president have agreed in principle," he said.

Ambassador Chan said the project is tied in with Solomon Islands’ commitment to host the Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit next year.

The new addition will, among other amenities, have 36 individual offices for Members of Parliament who are not ministers as well as conference rooms.

Work is expected to start soon as Taiwan wants to hand over the building at the time of the summit.

"At this stage we are planning to have the building completed by October-November next year. That’s when the summit takes place," Ambassador Chan said.

Funding for stage one of the National Parliament House on Vavaya Ridge was provided by the United States of America.

Stage One houses the Parliament Chamber, a public gallery, the Speaker’s Office, the Clerk’s Office as well as three conference rooms.

Repeated approaches to donors over the years, including the United States to complete the project had fallen on deaf ears.

It is understood former Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, now Opposition Leader, first raised the project with the former president of Taiwan during the last Taiwan-Pacific Allies’ Summit last year.

This was followed up by Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua when he visited Taiwan shortly after taking office.

The cost of the project will be additional to Taiwan’s ongoing aid commitment to Solomon Islands, which stands at around SB$99 million [US$14 million] a year.

Apart from injecting SB$50 million [US$7 million] a year into the controversial Rural Constituency Development Fund, the Special Micro Project scheme and Millennium Fund, Taiwan also funded the construction of the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.

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