Where has the pride gone over Seabed Authority Headquarters?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

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WE will take Foreign Affairs Minister AJ Nicholson at his word that the long-standing infrastructure issues at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) building in downtown Kingston will be addressed by the Jamaican Government.

But, even as we do so, we acknowledge that the Administration is strapped for cash, given the tight fiscal policies it is forced to maintain under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

However, we can't ignore the reality of the deterioration that has been allowed to fester at the ISA building.

A July 25, 2014 story in this newspaper referenced ISA Secretary General Nii Odunton's report to the ISA Assembly two days earlier pointing to poor air-conditioning units, inconsistent water supply, faulty windows, increased fees for a parking garage that should have been renovated but which has not yet been improved, and persistent problems with the audio equipment used for interpretation.

According to Mr Odunton, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which manages the building, increased the annual fee charged to the ISA on the basis that the money would be used on renovation of the parking garage.

But, as Mr Odunton told the Assembly, "no renovation has yet been undertaken and the issues of poor lighting and flooding of the parking garage during heavy rain have not been resolved".

To Jamaica's shame, these are not new complaints. We recall that, in 2007, reports surfaced that several sections of the conference centre building were in desperate need of repairs.

At the time, this newspaper and other media reported that, over three weeks, janitorial staff was forced to place garbage bins in sections of the lobby because the roof was leaking.

Conference Room One, the largest in the building and where the inquest into the death of Pakistan cricket coach Mr Bob Woolmer was being conducted, also had a leaking roof.

Now we have the current problems plaguing a facility for which Jamaica lobbied hard in the 1980s.

We recall that, as a part of that lobby, the Jamaica Conference Centre -- a wonderful building -- was constructed in record time to host ISA meetings. Such was the importance that the country attached to having the International Seabed Authority here.

We remember the pride we felt as a nation when the building was officially opened, and the expectations we had that the facility would place Jamaica, and Kingston in particular, at the centre of Law of the Sea discussions.

Add to that the heavy tourism potential of having the ISA headquarters here and you will appreciate why the Government at the time placed so much effort into having the facility here.

Given the state of the building and its facilities now, it is obvious that the State is either unable to, or simply doesn't care much about managing the infrastructure.

Secretary General Odunton has said that the ISA meetings "have been adversely affected by persistent problems with the audio systems used for interpretation".

And, even though he has said that some improvements have been made, he reported that interruptions continued to be experienced even
this year.

The question that the Government, and its agency, the UDC, need to answer is why did they allow this facility to deteriorate to the point that it is now an embarrassment to Jamaica.




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