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Government to seek Diaspora funding for Parliament building

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness signs the unveiled poster of the Houses of Parliament design competition. Looking on is Minister of National Security Horace Chang (left) at the official launch of the competition held at the National Heroes Circle in Kingston on Thursday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday indicated that he would be turning to the Diaspora to help finance the construction of a new Parliament building at National Heroes Circle in Kingston.

Holness, who was addressing the official launch of the Houses of Parliament Design Competition in Kingston yesterday, said that tapping into the Diaspora could be an appropriate way to bring overseas Jamaicans into the "creation of the sovereign building".

"When we think about Jamaica now, we must think about Jamaicans living everywhere. We have to find a way to finance it (new Parliament building), and I believe that is a way in which we could incorporate the Diaspora," said Holness.

Renowned Jamaican-born architect Gordon Gill was selected as patron for the competition to design the new Parliament building. Gill heads an architecture and design firm in Chicago, Illinois, and is responsible for the design of a number of breathtaking buildings, including the FKI Tower in Seoul, South Korea; the Beijing Waldorf Astoria in China; and the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia.

Holness called the development "historic and transformational", noting that discussions about a new Parliament building had been on the table for more than 50 years and reasoned that "this is the farthest we have pushed the needle in 60 years".

"There is no doubt that this Houses of Parliament Design Competition will stir national pride among the architects who will be entering the competition. I am also sure that the competition will give upcoming architects the impetus to be the best, whether currently studying or looking to start the journey," said Holness.

"Let me take this opportunity to give you an even better context and perspective. Jamaica has not had a purpose-built,

designed Parliament building in the 52 years of its political independence," the PM said.

Giving a historical context to his statement, Holness said that at the time of Independence in 1962, the country's legislators moved out of the Headquarters house, which was then the Legislative Assembly building, located on Duke Street, and into the newly constructed Gordon House, which was adjacent.

"But Gordon House was designed and built for meetings of the Municipal Council... . So, actually, Jamaica's Parliament is resident in the parish council building. Let that sink in," he said.

According to Holness, the idea of constructing government offices at Heroes Circle belonged to Norman Manley, who was Jamaica's Premier in the 1950s. Manley outlined plans in the King George VI Memorial Park Act, which states in Clause 7 (1) that "the Minister, after consultation with the Council of Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, may by order published in the Gazette declare any land in the Park to be vested in the Commissioner of Lands, to be used for the construction of parliament buildings and such administrative and other buildings as the Minister may consider necessary, and such land shall vest in the commissioner of lands by virtue of this section and the provisions of the order and without further assurance".


Spirited discussion


Speaking at yesterday's ceremony, Suzette Adams Rickards, the Urban Development Corporation's (UDC) project architect, said that she had been inspired by the possibility of a project of this calibre and nature despite the spirited discussion surrounding it.

"In the end, Jamaica will have its own Houses of Parliament, conceived, designed, and built by Jamaicans. This should be a proud and defining moment in any architect's career," she said.

The design competition will have two phases. Stage one is the launch and invitation to architects. At the end of this phase, the top five submissions will move on to the second phase, pocketing $2 million each.

The architect selected to be the winner of the second phase will receive an additional $5 million, with second-place winner taking home $4 million. The architect selected in third place will receive $3 million.

The Houses of Parliament Design Competition and the development of the Govern-ment oval project is being implemented by the UDC.