February 17, 2010

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

Peilapalap, Pohnpei, FSM - On Wednesday, February 10, 2010 hundreds of FSM and Chinese celebrants gathered together at 10:00 in the morning for a gala ceremony at the handing over of the new Pohnpei State Government building. Police blocked off the road more than an hour and a half before the ceremony was set to begin.

Government officials and the diplomatic corps were announced one by one and escorted to their seats starting with FSM President Mori and continuing with the seating of PRC Ambassador Zhang Weidong, FSM Congress Speaker Isaac V. Figir, FSM Secretary for Foreign Affairs Loren S. Robert, Pohnpei Speaker of the Legislature

Nelson Pelep, Pohnpei Chief Justice Benjamin Rodriguez, Pohnpei's Lt. Governor Churchill Edward, United States Ambassador Peter Prahar, Ambassador from Japan Shoji Sato, and the dean of the diplomatic corps, Australian Ambassador Susan Cox. Pohnpei's Governor John Ehsa was seated last.

Pohnpei's paramount chiefs, from each of the municipalities, the Mwoalen Wahu were individually announced and seated as well.

Former Pohnpei State Governor Johnny P. David under whose administration the new building was conceived and facilitated observed the proceedings from the front of the sidelines. Several of the speakers thanked his administration for what they had accomplished in seeing the planning of the building through.

The Pohnpei State Police color guard marched in to hoist the FSM flag, the flag of the People's Republic of China, and the Pohnpei State flag on the slightly less than vertical flag poles situated in a line perpendicular to the building. The flag of the PRC occupied the center pole on that day.

Pohnpei State Public Information Officer McGarry Miguel, dressed in traditional Pohnpei dress was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and welcomed the hundreds of people gathered for the culmination of the 22 month building process.

Each of the five speakers who addressed the crowd, beginning with Speaker Nelson Pelep gravitated toward the central themes of friendship, harmony, and unity between the people of the FSM and the People's Republic of China. President Manny Mori said that we "all share a sense of pride at what the new Pohnpei State Government building will bring to Pohnpei."

Ambassador Zhang said that the building, the largest in Pohnpei, covers an area of 21,000 square meters. The two story building, with a construction area of 3000 square meters, has 30 rooms and can hold up to 150 people to work inside. It was built by Chinese contractors mostly from the China Ningbo Construction Group Co. Ltd. Over 100 local laborers also were hired to help build the new government building.

He said that it is a modern building including many high tech facilities such as a security monitoring system, an automatic fire alarm system, central air conditioning, and the first elevator in Pohnpei. He said that it is an environmentally friendly building. Instead of concrete walls, the double layer vacuum glass curtain wall that was built is not only an aesthetic decoration but also saves an extensive amount of energy.

Governor Ehsa said that there is still much to do in terms of funding for landscaping, furnishings, security and maintenance for the $3.8 million building. For instance, the central court yard around which the building is situated has no landscaping of any kind and is currently filled with coral gravel. The Governor said that he would be approaching partner countries some of whom were represented by the diplomatic corps that morning for possibilities for assistance.

The symbolic key to the building was presented to Ambassador Zhang by the contractor. Zhang in turn presented it to President Mori who presented to Governor Ehsa. Afterwards, Loren S. Robert and Ambassador Zhang signed the official paperwork representing the actual turn over of the building to the FSM.

Governor Ehsa announced during his speech that the building also has a permanent place for the council of paramount leaders, the Mwoalen wahu. He turned the symbolic key over to the Nanmwarki of Madolenihmw, His Majesty Kerpet Ehpel. Doahkesa Dr. Berysin Salomon, the Nanmwarki of Wein Pingelap spoke in Pohnpeian and in English on behalf of the Mwoalen Wahu.

Several community church choirs and one outstanding soloist provided special music for the event.

At the conclusion of the ceremony which lasted nearly two hours, President Mori, Ambassador Zhang, Governor Ehsa and His Majesty Kerpet Ehpel cut the ceremonial ribbon and participants were allowed to tour the handicap accessible facility.

"As a Chinese saying goes, though born a thousand miles apart, two minds with but a single thought shall meet. China and the FSM are both developing countries. We, the developing countries in the world, had the similar experience in the past, share the same nation-building and common aspirations for peace and development today, and hope to have a better life and better world in the future. As friendly countries, we respect and trust each other. A friend in need is a friend in deed. Although China is not rich, we will continuously provide assistance to the FSM and other friendly Pacific island countries to seek common social and economic development in the years to come," said Ambassador Zhang during his speech.