After almost 18 months of major repairs, Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), at Liliendaal, has been handed back to the Government of Guyana by China, complete with some new whistles and bells.
The repairs saw the flooring being ripped up and replaced. The facilities also now have state-of-the-art digital conferencing equipment.
Yesterday, during a handing over ceremony, which attracted several Ministers and members of the Diplomatic Corps, tribute was paid to Guyana’s first President, Arthur Chung, who died 10 years ago, but who fittingly would have celebrated his 100-birth anniversary this year.
A portrait was unveiled with Chung hailed by both China and Guyana as the first Chinese-descent president, in a non-Asian country, in this part of the hemisphere.
The Conference Centre was named after the former president in 2016 by Head of State, David Granger.
Yesterday, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, who holds responsibility for the ACCC, disclosed that on December 1, 2016, the Chinese contractors, China Railway 17 Bureau Group Co. Ltd, moved onto the premises and began their examination. This was after the facilities were ordered closed.
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 five smaller rooms that each can accommodate up to 60 persons. The ACCC now has a computer lab with 20 internet-ready computers.
“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.
According to President Granger, the ACCC stands as a true testimony of the solid friendship between Guyana and China.
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, all borne by the Chinese government.
Earlier, Minister Hughes stressed that Article II of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was signed in 2006 had stipulated that at the end of 10 years, China will undertake renovation works at the facility.
Arthur Chung’s legacy
According to Granger, “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.”
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 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.”
He later became a magistrate and then a judge.
Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Cui Jianchun, 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.”
Leila Walker, niece of the late President Chung, 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.
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