By Alfred Sasako
AS the countdown begins for the 2023 Pacific Games, which could cost Solomon Islands as much as $4 billion to host, help has come from an unlikely source: Indonesia.
Once regarded as the thorn-in-the-side by advocates of human rights abuses in West Papua, Indonesia has stepped in, offering support in a number of areas including the cost of relocating Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) Offices at King George Sixth School.
Those with inside knowledge said the new home for SIFF Offices is likely to be at Lungga or at Tenaru on the outskirts of east Honiara. Officials are negotiating with landowners for a new site for SIFF Offices.
Built with Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) funding, the SIFF Offices are being relocated to make way for a new National Stadium, which Taiwan has reportedly offered to build.
Insiders said the Solomon Islands Government has received designs for the new stadium from two Taiwanese companies bidding for the multi-million dollar project.
However, they confirmed to Island Sun yesterday no agreements have been signed between Taipei and Honiara for funding the new stadium.
One government study has put the estimate on the cost of the Games Village alone at $2 billion. Officials believe the entire event could cost as much as $4 billion.
Because of the cost, the unspecified offer by Jakarta is being seen by the cash-strapped government of Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela as a breath of fresh air. It is understood the deal on the funding offer and other support were discussed when Prime Minister Houenipwela met with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby more than a week ago.
No details of the outcome of the meeting between the two leaders have been disclosed.
It is understood however that the government has accepted Jakarta’s offers, which include scholarships for Solomon Islands’ students to take up studies at universities in Indonesia.
Indonesia has also offered visa free entry to Solomon Islands’ citizens traveling on ordinary passports.