Liberia: Indian Ambassador Admits Bali Island City Project in Limbo
MONROVIA – The outgoing Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast, Mr. Y. K. Sailas Thangal, has outlined reasons responsible for the delay in the commencement of the construction of a multipurpose conference hall, including a city on the Bali Island in Monrovia, Liberia.
It can be recalled that on Monday, March 26, 2018, President George Manneh Weah led an array of government officials and the ex-Honorary Indian Consul General to Liberia, Dr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, on a tour of the Bali Island, which is situated in the middle of the Mesurado River in the capital.
According to an Executive Mansion release issued, the Liberian leader intends to transform Bali Island into the New Monrovia commencing with the construction of a state-of-the-art International Conference Center and other standardized structures to be funded by the Indian government.
Several months after the tour, the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), announced in August 2019 that the Government of India pledged to provide the amount of US$144 towards the construction of the 4,000 seated multi-purpose conference hall on the Bali Island.
The hall is expected to be named in honor of iconic former India leader Mahatma Gandhi.
The project also includes the construction of skyscrapers, office space, shopping malls, banks, insurance companies and night clubs, among others.
Since the pronouncement, nothing has been heard from the Liberian government concerning the commencement of the project.
But addressing a news conference in Monrovia on Thursday, June 3, Ambassador Thangal admitted that the commencement of the project has been delayed, but “certain works” have been done.
He, however, fell short of stating the actual works that have so far been done on the project.
But FrontPageAfrica has gathered that feasibility study, including sample of the soil on the Bali Island was taken to India for further analysis.
“Certainly, the Bali Island project is one of the projects between the Government of India and Liberia. But it has been delayed to be frank. Certain works have been done. I can’t really say with any conformity as to when it (project) will start on the ground or complete,” Ambassador Thangal said.
According to him, the project which is a grant from his government to the government and people of Liberia has been basically delayed because of the pandemic.
He added that the delay has also been occasioned because “right now, India is also in a very difficult position”.
Speaking further, Ambassador Thangal further disclosed that the Government of India has taken decision to open a new Embassy in Liberia.
He noted that though the decision has been reached during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, it was done in keeping with the significance his country attaches to the bilateral relations with Liberia.
He pointed out that as part of the move, the Indian government will appoint a new Ambassador to Liberia, an action that will definitely mark the end of his tenure in the country.
Ambassador Thangal further pointed out that as part of enhancing the diplomatic relations between Liberia and India, he has held discussions with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and State for Presidential Affairs, Dee Maxwell Kemayah and Nathaniel McGill, respectively, in a bid to tighten bilateral ties subsisting between the two countries.
At the meeting, he disclosed that, he encouraged the two senior officials of the Liberian government to continue to support and extend their cooperation to the new incoming Indian Ambassador.
Ambassador Thangal added that though he cannot preempt the exact date the new Indian Ambassador will arrive to present his letters of credence to authorities of the Liberian government, he remains optimistic that his country will fully open its Embassy with a new Ambassador in Liberia later this June.
He added that about three officials are already in Monrovia making arrangements for the arrival of the new Indian Ambassador to Liberia.
Ambassador Thangal recalled that since he ascended to the post over two years ago, the governments of India and Liberia have enhanced it ties in various areas including agriculture, education, among others.
He pointed out that during his tenure a grant of US$2 million was given to Liberia for the construction of the 14th Military Hospital.
He indicated that his government remains excited to see the facility being used as a treatment center to combat against the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia even before the full completion of the project.
Ambassador Thangal added that the Indian government also worked along with the Liberian government to make available about 45 buses to boost public transportation service for Liberians along with three containers of spare parts.
“Government of India also gave five fire trucks along with one container of spare parts and provided a consignment of life saving herbs last year when we were going through the peak of fighting Coronavirus even in Liberia or around the world”.
“Now we are going to have a new Resident Ambassador of India only to the Republic of Liberia. And I am sure that with the new Ambassador here the activities and cooperation between Liberia and India will get stronger”.
He, however, observed that Liberia did not achieve more because as Resident Ambassador of Ivory Coast and Guinea also, separate focuses were placed on those countries apart from Liberia.
Ambassador Thangal, however, expressed the hope that with the opening of the first India Embassy in the country and the appointment of a new Ambassador, Liberia and its citizens will benefit from multiple frameworks or cooperation from his government in various areas.
Investment in agriculture
He named investment in the agriculture sector of Liberia as one of the significant ways to help move the country and its citizens forward.
He made specific reference to his country-India-which sees agriculture as a vital way to feed citizens of one of the most populated countries in the world, noting that India continues to export its produce and food to Liberia and other nations across the globe.
Ambassador Thangal named education, health care, information and technology, trade and investment, among others as areas of cooperation that can be further strengthened and enhanced between the two nations.
Ambassador Thangal further used the occasion to commend former Indian Honorary Counsel General to Liberia, Dr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, for his immense contributions towards combating against hunger and poverty in Liberia.
Dr. Sachdeva, who is commonly known as ‘Jeety’ in Liberia, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Jeety Trading Corporation-the premier dealer of home hardware and construction materials.
Since 2017, he has been providing plates of hot cooked home meal to thousands of less fortunate Liberians including the visually impaired, old folks, disabled, hospitalized, mentally derailed, disadvantaged youths commonly known as “zogos” in Liberia, among others on a daily basis.
Ambassador Thangal clarified that the initiative being carried out by “Jeety” is not being sponsored by the Indian government.
“I know that there has been a lot of appreciation of the former Honorary Consul General of India Singh Sachdeva or Jeety for doing his philanthropic works; he is doing it on his own. No government of India had paid him any money for that; he is doing it on his own and he can stop if he wants to”.
“It is a very good thing and I am very, very happy as an Ambassador of India that a fellow citizen of India is doing such a noble job willingly for brothers and sisters of Liberia especially the less fortunate people”.
According to him, the first basic need of every human is food, and as such, the initiative of ‘Jeety’ worth commendation.
Ambassador Thangal further rubbished speculations that Dr. Sachdeva is being investigated by the Government of India for allegedly diverting US$5M intended for Indians residing in Liberia to his personal use.
He pointed out that the Indian government does not give huge sum of money intended for developmental initiatives to an individual, but rather to governments instead of the personal bank accounts of an Honorary Consul General or Ambassador.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Thangal has cautioned Liberian journalists to always be professional and ethical in the discharge of their noble duties.
According to him, journalists should always counter check their stories before publication to ensure that all sides are fully captured.