Georgetown, Guyana – (June 7, 2018) President David Granger, today, said that the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC) stands as a true testimony of the solid friendship between Guyana and China at the recommissioning ceremony and official handing over of the newly refurbished facility to the Government of Guyana. The Centre, which was built by the People’s Republic of China in 2006, was closed in December 2016 for 18 months of renovation works to the tune of US$7M.
Article II of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was signed in 2006 had stipulated that at the end of ten years, China will undertake renovation works at the facility. The costs for the renovation works were therefore borne by the Government of China. President Granger said that the commitment to fulfilling this obligation of the MoU has reinforced the unbroken bond forged 165 years ago when the first Chinese immigrants landed in West Demerara and which remains strong today.
“The naming of this splendid structure in honour President Arthur Chung pays tribute not only to an eminent citizen, patriot and public servant and the best-known and most outstanding Guyanese of Chinese origin but, also, to the enduring friendship between our two republics. China remains a constant friend of Guyana. China’s commitment to the development of our country – as evident in this magnificent structure – has been substantial. China’s assistance has covered the fields of culture, defence, the economy, public education, public health, public infrastructure, public security and public telecommunications. It has impacted positively on this country’s development. Guyana expresses its deep appreciation to the Government and people of China for its sustained support for our country’s development and looks forward to strengthening the excellent relations in the years ahead,” he said.
Noting that Guyana, this year, celebrates President Arthur Chung’s birth centenary, the Head of State said that it is significant too that the re-commissioning of the Conference Centre is taking place at this time. President Granger said that President Chung with his quiet and calm common touch helped to shape the country’s national identity amid the heady changes taking place within the local economy, society and growing international obligations during his time.
“Arthur Chung guided Guyana to assume its rightful place within the global community of nations. His tenure coincided with the Independence of many former colonies, which began to establish diplomatic relations with one another and with other countries of the world. Arthur Chung became President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana a mere four years after Guyana became an Independent state. It was a period of transformation. It was during his tenure that Guyana established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He paid an official visit to the People’s Republic of China, meeting President Hua Guofeng, helping to extend Guyana’s global outreach,” President Granger said.
Providing a brief biography of Guyana’s first President, the Head of State said that Arthur Chung, who was born at Windsor Forest, West Demerara was the son of Chinese immigrants, with his father being a foreman on a private rice estate. He attended the nearby Blankenburg and Windsor Forest Primary schools and the Modern High School in Georgetown before graduating in 1938.
He started working as an apprentice surveyor in the Lands and Mines Department and, later, as a sworn land surveyor, in the Public Works Department for a short stint before returning to the Lands and Mines Department as an Assistant Hydrographic surveyor with the Demerara River Navigation Development Project.
“He saved enough from his work to be able to pursue his legal studies in the United Kingdom, reading law at the Middle Temple, Inns of Court and qualifying as a barrister (attorney-at-law) in 1947. He worked for a short period in London as an assistant legal examiner with the British Civil Service and then returned to his homeland in October 1948 where he was admitted to the local bar and started his local, legal practice. Arthur Chung joined the judicial service, as a magistrate, registrar of the Supreme Court and puisne judge in the Supreme Court. His career on the bench required him to travel to various courts around the country and this experience made him more aware and deeply appreciative of the land of his birth and of the customs and mores of our peoples,” he said
The ACCC, the President said, will ensure that the contributions of Arthur Chung, Guyanese of Chinese origin and that of People’s Republic of China are remembered and sustained now and for generations to come.
Minister of Public Telecommunications, Ms. Cathy Hughes, who holds responsibility for the ACCC, in her remarks, said that on December 1, 2016, the Chinese contractors moved unto the premises and began their examination. Out of that examination, the decision was taken to redo the entire flooring and to raise the height by at least two feet. Among the other changes made to the Conference Centre are a refurbished main conference hall that is now equipped with new digital conference systems and interpretation booths that can accommodate three different languages spoken simultaneously, video-tracking capabilities, a superior public address system, a video matrix switcher system, LED screen and overhead projectors, video conference equipment and new Wi-Fi equipment that turns the ACCC into an internet hotspot.
“The centre now has three main meeting rooms, the main conference hall with a seating capacity of 500 persons, the eastern conference room with seating for 220 persons and the western conference room with seating for 120 persons. With the exception of the main conference hall, each conference room can be divided into a total of 5 smaller rooms that each can accommodate up to 60 persons. The ACCC now has a computer lab with 20 internet ready computers and this can be utilised for computer-literacy training, as an internet café and most importantly, as a media centre for conferences. Other facilities include a conference secretariat, a business centre, a dining hall and kitchen,” she said.
Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Cui Jianchun, in his brief remarks, said that this is just one of the many areas of cooperation between the two countries as he noted that the bilateral ties have been characterised by cooperation, cohesion and commitment. “I have hope and the expectation that after this handing over ceremony here today, that there will be increased cooperation and we promise that if there is something wrong, we will try to solve it. I am very, very happy that the President has paid respect to the Arthur Chung family and to history. I also thank you for showing your confidence in the Chinese community here in Guyana. We are proud that Chinese are one of the six peoples here in Guyana and reflects cohesion of six people here. We also have commitment to the relations between the two countries. We started in 1972 and I am working hard to make new achievements in the relationship. I do hope that we can achieve more under this relationship,” he said.
Ms. Leila Walker, niece of the late President Chung, in her brief remarks, said that despite the fact that the first Chinese President was born to immigrant parents, he served his country proudly and with distinction.
“As President of Guyana, he served with dignity and distinction. In 1980, he received the prestigious national award, the Order of Excellence. Guyana’s first President died at the age of 90 but he will be remembered for his contributions to Guyana in the transition period from colonial rule to independence. Anyone who reads about the Arthur Chung Convention Centre will be able to remember something of this son of the soil, Guyana’s first President,” she said.
The event was attended by Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo, members of the Chung family, Ministers of Government, members of the diplomatic corps and other special invitees.