IF you are from Western Province and have been to Western Provincial capital Gizo, standing beside Gizo Wharf is the iconic MSG Complex.
The MSG Complex was built in 2003 prior to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Summit hosted by the Solomon Islands Government at that time.
The MSG member countries are Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia’s FLNKS pro-independence movement.
The August 2003 summit was to be hosted in Gizo but just before the meeting the PNG Government requested Solomon Islands Government to shift the summit venue from Gizo back to Honiara.
This was because the PNG government had security concerns about the meeting venue in Gizo, Western Province which borders the PNG province of Bougainville.
Thus, the meeting was held in Honiara and all the MSG leaders traveled to Gizo for their retreat.
Since then the structure remains until today.
Over the years there have been plans to redevelop the complex to host shops and other facilities.
However, successive governments have decided to live the complex as it is because of the important role it had offered to the public especially those passing through Gizo each week.
Since then it had been used as a public space to host some of the important gatherings like agriculture shows, teachers’ day, international youth day, international children’s day and concerts.
The complex has a stage at its eastern end which is normally used for speeches and entertainment.
But when it is not being use for the public events, it becomes a spot where people spend the night to wait for boats or to rest when they come to Gizo from the islands to sell their produces at Gizo Market.
This is because accessing accommodation while transiting Gizo is a challenge and costly.
Successive provincial governments have realised the importance of this complex and the benefit it offered as a temporary space for the public to host events.
Each week, people passed through Gizo to catch the inter-island passenger boats to Honiara and back.
And in most times those traveling in from the nearby islands such as Choiseul, Ranoggah, Simbo, Vella and Kolombangara and even those from communities around Gizo, would use the complex as a shelter to wait for the boats before boarding.
Even those traveling down to Gizo from Honiara, would use the MSG Complex to rest if the boat arrives in the night.
During bad weather, the MSG complex offers a place where the public would seek shelter.
And it still does to this day.
“This complex had played an important role in offering free shelter to the public,” Fulton Golton a long time resident of Gizo said.
Mr Golton who acts as a berthing agent for Fairwest Shipping in Gizo said, when MV Fair Lady and MV Fair Glory arrive during the night or day passengers arriving from Honiara would often use the MSG Complex as a temporary shelter.
“Most of the incoming passengers would spend the night at the MSG Complex before catching their next transport to the nearby islands. So this complex is very helpful,” he said.
During the peak traveling season in December and January, hundreds of passengers who passed through Gizo from the nearby islands and Honiara have taken shelter at MSG Complex.
Early this week on Monday when heavy rain showered Gizo during the morning the MSG Complex was there to provide much needed shelter for passengers and their luggage.
Apart from traveling passengers, there are market vendors traveling in from the nearby islands who normally spend their nights at the MSG Complex.
Some of them would spend two to five days depending on how fast they sell their market produce before they can return to their villages.
And most of them have acknowledged the MSG for being a life saver.
A market vendor June Mamikera from Ombobulu on Ranoggah also uses the MSG Complex at times to spend the night.
This is because the Gizo Market normally closes at 6pm each day and opens again at 6am.
And she is very thankful for the free accommodation being offered to many of the market vendors especially mothers who use the complex to rest at night.
“The MSG Complex is very helpful for us the market vendors who travelled in from the nearby islands to sell our produce.
“Because that’s the only shelter we have to spend our night to sell our market produce the next day,” she said.
Western Provincial Government (WPG) has also realised the importance of the MSG Complex to its people and had requested the CAUSE project to construct a new ablution block.
The ablution block had been constructed and is yet to be fully operational.
The block is equipped with showers and toilets for both male and female.
There will be fees charged to use it.
In the past weeks, there was renovation work done to the MSG Complex. This included repainting and placing of timber rails.
There are further plans to develop the complex.
However, the new Western Provincial Government under the Billy Veo regime will decide on that.
Apart from the usual people using the shelter, a number of persons who are mentally ill are also using the complex to sleep during the nights.
Given the importance of the MSG Complex, both Mr Golton and Mamikera agreed to the notion that the current structure should be left as it is because it would benefit the public passing through Gizo.
By MOFFAT MAMU
Gizo News Bureau