POPULAR Concerns Citizens group, the Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) has reminded Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo and NCRA government to honor its commitment towards the establishment of the 4th USP Campus at Doma.
The much talked about USP’s 4th campus at Doma, West Guadalcanal was boosted with a timely support by NCRA government last week.
In an effort to ensure the 4th campus project gets off the ground, PM Lilo last Thursday delivered a letter of commitment to USP to confirm his government’s commitment to meet half of the cost to clear the site of Unexploded Ordinances (UXO).
PM Lilo delivered the letter of his government’s commitment to Dr. Giulio Masasso Paunga, the Vice President and Properties and Faculties, at the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
PM Lilo said the commitment is a demonstration of his government’s desire to see the Doma campus project starts as soon as possible.
It is understood that the project is delayed because of lack of clearance of UXO from the proposed site. The unexploded ordinances were used by Japanese and Allied Forces during the Second World War on Guadalcanal.
Tevita Banuve of Marketing and Development Office at Laucala Campus who is supervising the project said, USP is fully committed to developing the new campus at Doma, west Guadalcanal.
He said construction should begin after USP and SIG identified consultants and specialists to undertake specific technical project preparatory works at the site including topographical survey, preliminary technical designs for the new campus site, financial and economic analysis, environment impact assessment and other safeguard assessments.
Mr Banuve added the delay of the project is because of the need to undertake Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) survey and clearance of WWII battle remnants at the Doma site prior to proceeding with any of the above mentioned surveys and assessments and, definitely, before any civil works development.
“In the past nine months, USP have held discussions with experts and specialists in this area of work and had contacted an Australian firm last December to undertake preliminary UXO assessment and survey of the Doma site,” he said.
“The full cost of undertaking 100% UXO clearance of the entire 90 hectares site is fairly substantial and discussions are on-going with SIG to explore how the cost of full clearance of the site can be jointly met by USP and SIG,” he added.
John Usuramo, USP Solomon Islands Campus Director said, the UXO survey and extraction is a costly exercise which could cost millions of dollars that are not budgeted for under the current plan and so need extra funds to do the exercise.
Chief executive officer (CEO), Benjamin Afuga however reminded PM Lilo and NCRA to ensure this commitment is materialized, although its term of reign is at the 11th hour.
Afuga said the commitment shown by the PM came as good news to Solomon Islands as more and more young Solomon Islanders will have the opportunity to attend tertiary education.
“The clearance of the unexploded ordinances (UXO) is a prerequisite to kick starting the much talked about project.
“I fully support this project because it will give a chance for many marginalized Solomon Islands citizens the opportunity to attend higher education,” Afuga said.
He called on all leaders and citizens to support this project for the betterment of our citizens and our country.
“Education is the way forward for nation building; we cannot compromise this truth. Educated citizens are needed to develop and move this country forward”, he added.
But many FSII members reacted negatively to the commitment demonstrated by the PM, some saying the commitment is made at the 11th hour and are sceptical the project will get off the ground. Others say this is just another of Lilo’s empty promises.
A regular commentator asked: why people are so sceptical about this project? The 4th USP campus is certainly what we need, if NCRA Government dissolves, can’t they just hand over the project to the next Government to accomplish the project, after all this is one of the best decision the Solomon Islands government has made.
In 1999 the USP School of Marine was already built in Aruligo, West Guadalcanal, just about 3 kms from the earmarked 4th Campus but abandoned during ethnic uprising 2000. Today, the skeletons of the buildings are still visible.
Reliable sources confirmed that once the 4th USP campus at Doma is completed, Doma will eventually become the second largest campus behind Laucala in Suva, Fiji.
“Furthermore there will be a drastic reduction of Solomon Islands students attending USP campuses. Currently there are more than 3,000 Solomon Islands Government students studying in USP campuses in Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa.
And once it happens there will apparently some loss for Fiji in terms of revenue; therefore I only hope Fiji’s politics will not delay the project in anyway,” Afuga said.
Meanwhile FSII commends the landowners of Doma and the provincial Government for continuous and overwhelming support this regional project.
Afuga thanked Doma landowners and Guadalcanal province, especially Premier Anthony Veke’s immeasurable support to ensure the 4th USP campus is hosted on Guadalcanal.
“Thumbs up Premier Veke for this visionary decision,” Afuga said.
Afuga finally reminded PM Lilo and the NCRA government to commit itself on capital developments that the government needs to construct in order for the 4th Campus infrastructures to begin; they include roads, power lines and telecommunications lines.
“These capital developments must be factored in the 2015 National budget, so the onus is now on PM Lilo and NCRA to ensure they leave office with the establishment of two Universities in this country,” the FSII boss concluded.
By FSII News