By JUNIOR UKAHA
THE Lands Department has refuted claims the land on which the iconic First House of Assembly building stands has been sold to a foreign developer, The National reports.
Lands acting secretary Romily Kila Pat said the report in The National yesterday was misleading “as the land in question was never sold, but leased, to the Lamana Development Group by the state to build a replica of the historical first House of Assembly”.
Details of the lease agreement remained unclear but Pat said the place would be turned into a “tourist attraction and not a hotel” as claimed by David Western Construction manager David Kini.
How much the project was worth remained unclear as well.
Pat said the developer was allowed to develop the area under a “special public-private partnership arrangement”.
He said the government had no money to improve the place and decided to relinquish it to the Lamana Development Group to develop on its behalf.
Pat said the land on which the first House of Assembly stood consisted of two separate plots, hence, under the arrangement, the developer would develop the site using its own resources and, after completion of the job, would take as its reward a portion of the land in the block.
Pat said the arrangement with the developer was made a couple of years ago and the then governor-general (Sir Paulias Matane) was fully informed of and approved the deal.
National Museum and Arts Gallery acting director Dr Andrew Moutu, whose organisation was the custodian of the property before its acquisition by the developer, said yesterday The National report was “partly true and partly incorrect”.
He would not elaborate, saying many factors were involved.
A planned interview with him failed as his phone was switched off.
Attempts to get comments from the developer yesterday were unsuccessful.