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Fiji Government Seizes Historic Hotel

SUVA (Pacnews) --- The Fiji Government has seized the ruined Grand Pacific Hotel on Suva's prime waterfront from the Nauru Government, reports Pacnews.

The 86-year old hotel in its heyday accommodated guests such as writers, Somerset Maughan, James Michener and Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

"We have taken possession of the hotel. It is part of our national heritage. We cannot allow it to go to ruin and be a blight on our foreshore, " Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said.

A Fiji Times report said Nauru's agent in Suva has not seen the seizure notice and could not comment but the move is likely to outrage Nauru and create interest in at least two other Pacific states where Nauru owns developed prime real estate properties.

The Fiji Government's action follows several years of negotiations with the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust Fund, during which it kept threatening to re-enter if the fund failed to get the hotel renovated and reopened.

The government controlled trust was set up to invest earnings made from Nauru's phosphate mining. It's investments, which include properties in Australia, Britain, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Philippines and Samoa were originally intended to give Nauru's over 10,000 people an income after the phosphate deposits run out.

Chaudhry, whose government has been threatening to repossess the hotel and land since it took office last year, said the notice was posted at the hotel last week. They were acting on the grounds that the Nauru Phosphate Trust Fund had breached an undertaking to redevelop the land.

Price Waterhouse Coopers, which looks after the trusts' interests in Fiji said it, was not aware of the Fiji Government's move. "I haven't seen the notice," said Jenny Seeto, a partner in the accounting firm.

Seeto said the Nauru Trust Fund has been trying to redevelop the site but all the four equity partners it approached over the years have pulled out.

The hotel has been sitting idle on Suva's waterfront for a number of years now after the Nauru Government bought the property.

Nauru has been embroiled in similar problems elsewhere. It purchased a large hotel on the Samoan capital, Apia's waterfront, knocked it down and has been left with a vacant lot of land for the past decade. In the Marshall Islands, Nauru constructed the Eastern Pacific Hotel and until today, the hotel has not registered any guests.

The Suva-based Nauru High Commission said it was not aware of the takeover and would not comment...PNS (ENDS)

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