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New House eludes state

- Meghalaya yet to get ‘suitable land’ for Assembly

Shillong, Jan. 8: The stately 125-year-old structure that housed the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly at Khyndailad here was reduced to ashes in an inferno on January 9, 2001. On the eve of 13th anniversary of the devastating fire, memories of the historic structure, constructed of pinewood in 1874, live on.

The last Speaker who had the privilege of presiding over the proceedings in the picturesque and historic House was Elstone D. Marak. The leader of the House then was late E.K. Mawlong while the incumbent Meghalaya PCC president D.D. Lapang was the leader of the Opposition.

Even after 13 years, the legislators are still without a “permanent” legislature as search for a “suitable land” to construct the new House continues.

“We are yet to finalise land for construction of a permanent Assembly,” Speaker Abu Taher Mondal told The Telegraph this evening. Mondal was one of those who had the privilege of being part of that historic Assembly site, having been elected for the 1998-2003 term.

Like Mondal, social welfare minister Deborah C. Marak could not help but recollect memories of the old House. “It was one of the heritage sites of the state and it was from there that I was initiated into the realm of law-making,” Marak said. The minister wants a “replica” of the picturesque House to be constructed.

Opposition leader Donkupar Roy, who also graced the sanctum sanctorum of the old House, rued that whenever a new government is formed, the decision to construct a new Assembly changes site — from Upper Shillong to New Shillong Township and Tara Ghar to the existing site of the old Assembly.

“Not a single citizen would be happy with the fact that Meghalaya is yet to have an Assembly building of its own,” Roy said.

He said the last decision that was taken was to construct the new Assembly building at New Shillong Township. This, however, is also yet to be finalised, Roy added.

From March 2001, Assembly sessions have been convened on the premises of State Central Library and Art and Culture building.

In the present House, at least 19 of the 60 legislators, including chief minister Mukul Sangma, home minister Roshan Warjri, transport minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh, Congress leader Salseng Marak, among others, had taken part in the proceedings which were held in the old Assembly building.

On April 10 last year, the Meghalaya Assembly resolved to empower a high-poweredcommittee constituted by it to select a site for construction of the new Assembly building and decide on its construction.

Mondal, however, is optimistic that land for construction of a new Assembly building will be finalised this year.