Jun 30, 2008 News Comments Off on State Funeral today for Guyana’s 1st President
Guyanese of every class, colour, creed and political affiliation yesterday turned up at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) to get a glimpse of the body of the late former President of Guyana, the Honorable Raymond Arthur Chung O.E., before he is accorded a state funeral today.
The atmosphere was a sombre one as throngs of persons paid their respects and tendered their sympathies to the family members of the late President, which included the former First Lady, Mrs. Doreen Chung, son Raymond Arthur Chung Jr. and daughter Diane Belshaw.
President Chung was accorded full military privileges as his coffin was at all times surrounded by ranks of the Guyana Defence and Police Forces, decked in ceremonial attire, and his national award, the Order of Excellence, which was presented to him in 1980, was also on display.
There were also two books of condolence available for signature and remarks, which were utilised by several politicians and members of the Diplomatic Corps, among others.
Guyana’s first President, His Excellency Mr. Arthur Chung, died on Monday last at the age of 90.
Chung, who served as President from March 17, 1970 to October 6, 1980, succumbed peacefully at home in his bed.
He leaves to mourn his wife, children, and five grandchildren.
Chung was born on January 10, 1918 at Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara, and was the first ethnic Chinese (Hakka) president in a non-Asian country.
Arthur Chung attended Windsor Forest and Blankenburg Primary Schools before he went to J. I. Ramphal’s Modern High School. In 1938, after graduating from the school, he joined the staff of the Lands and Mines Department as an apprentice surveyor.
In 1940, he qualified as a Sworn Land Surveyor, after which he joined the staff of the Public Works Department, where he stayed for six months.
He was then recalled by the Lands and Mines Department to work as an Assistant Hydrographic Surveyor with the Demerara River Navigation Development Project, which was at the time involved in dredging the Demerara River.
In May 1945, he left British Guiana after the Second World War to enter the Middle Temple of London.
In 1947, Chung qualified as a barrister and then worked as Assistant Legal Examiner with the British Civil Service. He later joined the chambers of British lawyer Maurice Shear. He returned home in October 1948, when he was admitted to the local bar, and practiced as a lawyer until his appointment as acting magistrate in 1953. He was confirmed in the position one year later.
In 1960, he was designated a senior magistrate, and the following year he was designated Registrar of Deeds and of the Supreme Court.
In 1962, he was appointed a Puisne Judge, after which he became an Appellate Judge the following year.
Chung had been ill for the past two years, and was admitted to the hospital for treatment in May last.
The late President was found dead by his doctors, who would frequent the home from time to time to make periodic checks.
Following his death, Leader of the main opposition party, the PNCR, Robert Corbin, said that Chung would be remembered for the level of dignity and stature that he brought to the post, especially at the time when Guyana was crossing the hurdle from Monarchial status to that of Republican State.
He also said that Chung brought to the country a sense of stability at a time in Guyana’s history when the country was plagued with ethnic conflicts, among other things.
“He brought to bear a balance and welded the social fabric of our embryonic nation.”
In conveying sympathies to the Chung family, Corbin said that Chung has been a beacon in Guyana at the time when Guyana was embarking on a new journey.
“I am confident that he will be recorded in the annals of Guyana’s history books as one of those who made a significant contribution towards shaping the Republic of Guyana”
The Alliance For Change (AFC), through its leader Raphael Trotman, also expressed its sympathies and condolences to the nation and family of the late President.
Trotman said that Chung will always be remembered for his integrity and dignity in office, and for his contributions to Guyana in the transition phase from colonial rule to self rule.
The Office of the President also released a statement adding its heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathies to the widow, family and friends of the late Raymond Arthur Chung, O.E., Guyana’s first President. The statement noted that Chung was a selfless individual who demonstrated his willingness and commitment to serve the State and people of Guyana from March 17, 1970 to October 6, 1980.
During his tenure, President Chung served with distinction in the period of the greatest post-independence transformation of Guyana, its society and economy, “His Presidency also enriched the history of Guyana as the first ethnic Chinese President.” The OP statement added that, while it was known that he was ailing for some time, the suddenness of the news of his passing is of great sadness for the people of Guyana, who have definitely lost an outstanding son of the soil.
“While for many years he was not in the limelight, he remained, to his dying day, someone deeply devoted to his country, who chose to live out his remaining years here in the land of his birth…As we mourn his passing, let us take comfort in the former President’s exemplary lifestyle as a person of great wisdom, warmth and integrity, particularly committed to Guyana…His leadership, conviction and courage earned him the love and admiration of the Guyanese people.”
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