Government yet to finalise venue for 18th Saarc summit

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

May 12, 2014-

The government’s preparation to hold the 18th Saarc  Summit is likely to hit a snag as the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala-led main preparatory committee is yet to finalise the venue for the regional jamboree to be held in the second week of November this year.

The high-level Rapid Appraisal Team (RAT) had  submitted its report to PM Koirala suggesting five possible venues for the 18th Saarc Summit to be held in Nepal almost three weeks ago.

Furthermore, the government’s ongoing preparations have suffered further setback due to inordinate delays in procurement of logistics.

The alternative venues for the Saarc summit suggested by the high-level team headed by Prakash Subedi, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are — Gallery Hall inside Singha Durbar (old parliament building), City Hall (Pradarsani Marg), National Academy Hall in Kamaladi, Nepal Army Officers Club inside Nepal Army headquarters and Pokhara (Fulbari Resort).

Officials said that the most-preferred venue for the summit was International Convention Center (ICC) where the Constituent Assembly (CA) is currently housed.  

However, they also say that it will take anywhere between three to six months to renovate ICC completely and make it ready for one of the most important regional gatherings.

 Plus, the fact that the ICC needs to be completely evacuated to carry out the renovations and that too for considerable period of time would also mean that that the constitution drafting process would be greatly hampered. This has prompted the officials to abandon their plan to host the summit at ICC.  

“Majority of the senior government officials appear to be unanimous about hosting the summit at Gallery Hall, the erstwhile parliament building inside Singha Durbar owing to security reasons,” said a senior government official, adding that the ambience of Gallery Hall venue, which is known for aged-old Rana era architecture, is also fitting.

CA Spokesperson Mukunda Poudel informed that top ministers, senior government and security officials and a team of architects recently inspected Gallery Hall to see whether it is a fit venue for the Saarc summit.

The prime minister , however, is still pitching for Pokhara as the venue for the upcoming Saarc summit, although RAT has already dismissed such a possibility citing the city’s poor infrastructure, pitiable road condition and lack of international airport.

“Instead, we have proposed Pokhara as a retreat for the participants,” said a RAT member.

Nevertheless, Koirala’s foreign relations adviser, Dinesh Bhattarai said Pokhara can still be considered as one of the alternative venue for the summit.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Development Prakash Man Singh proposed the City Hall in Kathmandu as one of the possible venues for the summit. However, officials rejected Minister Singh’s choice outright.

Similarly, an official informed that the choice of Academy Hall as well as Army Officers’ Club as venues for the Saarc was also rejected because these places don’t meet international standard and hence not appropriate to hold such an important regional gathering.

In the meantime, opinions seem to be in favour of Gallery Hall and it is likely that this Rana era building that formerly housed the country’s parliament will be chosen as the venue for the next Saarc summit, said officials.

Apart from the delay in finalising the venue, the government side is yet to purchase high-end bullet proof cars to escort the high-level dignitaries who will be participating in the summit and other luxury cars.

Published: 13-05-2014 08:42

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