March 12 2022: REVEALED: THE SECRET DEAL FOR FIJI TO PAY FOR THE UNITED NATIONS TO BE IN FIJI.
The leaked internal UN document that reveals the secret arrangement between the Fijian Government and the United Nations for Fiji to fund a dedicated headquarters in Suva for the 18 UN agencies operating in Fiji.
As Grubsheet reported in our last posting, the plan is evidently for the FNPF to fund the construction of the building in High Street, Toorak, Suva, and for the Fijian Government to continue the arrangement that began in 2019 for the Fijian taxpayer to pay the rent of UN offices in the building.
The design of the complex is said to be at an advanced stage, with documents showing the design concept for “One UN House is a ‘fit for purpose’ one complex/roof or ‘Banana leaf umbrella’. One internal source says the inspiration is the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea. One of the design documents refers to reflecting the “strong values of ownership by the user group agencies”. But this is the UN – which is meant to be in Fiji assisting a developing country – expecting to have ownership of a building paid for by the Fijian people.
According to UN sources, the UN Resident Coordinator, Sanaka Samarasinha, hopes to have the project well underway before he leaves Fiji later in the year and for it to be his crowning achievement. He will have secured a deal which his predecessor, Osnat Lubrani, failed to achieve and it will burnish his reputation at UN headquarters in New York. But this project MUST BE HALTED. There has been no parliamentary scrutiny of the plan and no community consultation about whether this is an appropriate allocation of the nation’s scarce resources during arguably the greatest economic challenge in the country’s history.
Now to the plan itself, detailed in an email sent to UN staff in Fiji on February 21 explaining details of the proposal:
“As many are aware, the UN has been in communication with the Government of Fiji on a potential UN House for a number of years. Since 2019 the Government of Fiji has been paying the rent of all UN premises in Suva. The UN House initiative is not only part of the UN Secretary-General’s goal to have common UN premises around the world, but also the Government’s wish to consolidate and increase its support to the UN presence in the region. Many sites have been requested from our side (including the Old Parliament) over the years and for a multitude of reasons they have not been made available to us.
In late 2020 the UN Country Team signed a Letter to the Government of Fiji requesting for support to build a UN House. In this letter we presented our collective requirements for the building including space numbers, security requirements, the number of expected staff, parking lots and so on. The Government’s budget announcement in 2021 included building a UN House enabled us to gain traction on this project and exemplified the Government’s commitment to build a state of the art UN House for the Pacific rather than continue to pay rent to different owners in 13 locations across the city.
Following this announcement, we were presented with 6 sites (4 from the Government and 2 from Private Sector). Each site option was reviewed by our Common Premises Taskforce of the Operations management Team and Security Advisors and presented to the UN Country Team. It was concluded that the Toorak Site on High Street was the only option that would meet our requirements. In consultation with respective Agency Headquarters, the decision at the UN Country Team was to move ahead with the Toorak site for our purpose-built Government building.”
“Purpose-built Government building”? Does this mean a building constructed by the Government of Fiji for the use of the UN? The Fijian people deserve an explanation from Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum about the sweetheart deal he has done with his friend, the UN Resident Coordinator, and until that explanation has been given, all work on this folly must come to an end.
The opposition parties owe it to the Fijian people to make this an important election issue. Because as Grubsheet wrote yesterday, it goes to the heart of the AG’s contempt for due process and proper parliamentary and community consultation.