The event, the highlight of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the July 22 Revolution, brought together the entire cabinet, members of the National Assembly, diplomats and temporal and spititual lords. Also in attendance was the President of Guinea Bissau.
The structure which was described by the Gambian Minister of Works, Ousman Badjie, as “an architectural marvel” was started and completed on schedule by a 149-year old ace Indian company, Shapoorji Pallonji and Co Ltd. The company which is active in West Africa built among other things the Presidential Palace in Ghana, a five-star hotel in Sierra Leone, the new port of Liberia and the Mahatma Ghandi IT Park in Cote d’Ivoire.
According to the Gambian head of state who laid the foundation stone of the complex in 2010 and inaugurated it this Sunday, the magnificent edifice which has changed the face of the capital city’s approaches, was the first-ever purposefully built National Assembly in The Gambia’s 450-year recent political history.
A total 145 Indian expatriates including managers, engineers, planners, highly skilled artisans and local workforce of 350 Gambians comprising engineers, officers, technicians, carpenters, masons, painters and others toiled for four years with great enthusiasm and in harmony to ensure the successful completion of the 26 million US dollar project.
Speaking in a Standard exclusive, Mr Santosh Kumar Singh, the general manager of West Africa Operations for Shapoorji Pallonji, said the complex is very eco-friendly, fitted with appropriate air-conditioning systems with most of the rooms and offices optimising natural lighting.
He said for the next one year, his company will offer warranty for any defects but said he was confident that there will be no defects. “In addition, we have already trained local Gambian engineers and technicians to look after the structure in the years to come. We are grateful for the enthusiastic learning and upgrading their skills. We feel proud in announcing that now there are trained artisans generated as well as upgraded from this project in the country who can contribute substantially in the development of local construction industry,” Mr Singh said.
The Shapoorji Pallonji West Africa chief commended President Jammeh for his “great vision and drive” and said it inspired them “in the right direction” He said without the vision and blessings of President Jammeh, the project would not have been possible. He thanked the Gambian ministries of Work and Infrastructure and Finance, the Indian government and Exim Bank and the representatives of India in Dakar and Banjul, the national utilities company Nawec, the mayor of Banjul and others for their “consistent support throughout the execution of the noble project”.
In his keynote speech at the inauguration of the complex, President Yahya Jammeh, stated: “I want to thank the government of India… I want to thank the former president and prime minister of India and current president and prime minister of India, the government and people of India for standing by us in realising a long time dream. This is personal crusade to ensure that the representatives of the people are housed in an edifice that depicts our vision 2020 and beyond… This is the first National Assembly to be built by any government of The Gambia, starting from the British… Whatever I do, I do it out of conviction and I do not do it to please or fool people. I believe the representatives of the people deserve to be housed in a conducive environment where they can deliberate and work peacefully. I want them to enjoy the same facilities as members of the cabinet enjoy in their offices. The National Assembly is the custodian of the people’s empowerment as enshrined in the constitution because this is a place all views positive or negative are shared…”
The new state-of-the-art National Assembly was built through the US$26 million soft loan provided by the Government of India. It will be paid over a 25 year period after a moratorium of five years at 1.75 per cent per annum.]]>