Guyana’s first president Arthur Chung dies

Guyana’s first president, Raymond Arthur Chung, OE, died at his Bel Air Springs home yesterday at 12.45 pm from multiple medical complications, his wife Mrs Doreen Chung said. He was 90 years old.

Arthur ChungThe former president, who was the country’s first Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Services, had been in and out of hospital over the past two months. He returned home from the hospital last Friday.

Mrs Chung told Stabroek News that two medical doctors and the nurse, who were caring for him over the past year, were with him at the time of his death.

Shortly before he died, she said, he was preparing to have a meal of soup and she had teasingly told him not to give the nurse a hard time. He said nothing but looked at her. “I wasn’t even thinking about death. I left to take a shower,” she said adding that was the last time she saw him alive because by the time she returned he had died. “I felt that he purposely did not want me with him when he died,” she said.
They had been married for 54 years, she said.

Contacted for a comment on his death, both PNCR Leader Robert Corbin and PPP/C General Secretary Donald Ramotar expressed their parties’ condolences to his family members, relatives and friends.

Arthur Chung (right) with PPP/C General Secretary Donald Ramotar (centre) and PNC General Secretary Oscar Clarke (left) at a function in January 2003.Corbin said Chung had been a beacon of hope having been Guyana’s first President at a time when much healing was necessary coming after the struggle for independence which was mixed with ethnic tensions.

He would be remembered in the annals of the country’s history.

Ramotar said Chung made his mark on Guyana and had the great distinction of being the country’s first Guyanese Head of State, which was basically a ceremonial position since the real power was in the hands of the Head of Government, who at the time was Forbes Burnham.

It is expected that, the Office of the President, would be making preparations for the funeral which is expected to be arranged once key family members would have arrived.

Arthur Chung (centre) with his wife Doreen (right) and Janet Jagan (left) at a function in 1997 when Mrs Jagan was president. (Stabroek News file photo)The former president leaves to mourn his wife, two children – Diane Pamela and Raymond Arthur (Jnr) who live in England and are expected to be home shortly. He is also survived by five grandchildren.

Chung was born in January 1916 at Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara and had his early education at Windsor Forest and Blankenburg and his secondary education at Modern High School.

He began his working career as an apprentice surveyor and was later a sworn land surveyor. In the early 1940s he entered the Middle Temple of London, England and qualified in 1947. He returned to Guyana in 1948. In 1953, he was appointed an acting magistrate. In 1954, he was appointed a magistrate and in 1960, he became a senior magistrate. He subsequently served as Registrar of Deeds and of the Supreme Court, then a puisne judge and finally a judge in the Appeal Court in 1963.

From left: The late Martin Carter, Doreen Chung, Phyllis Carter and Arthur Chung at a National Awards ceremony. (Stabroek News file photo) It is on record that he once broke a 78-year-old practice by ruling that the Director of Public Prosecutions had no jurisdiction to compel a magistrate to convict a person.

In another case, he ruled in favour of the Attorney General against one Cecile Nobrega, but the Full Court of Appeal reversed the decision on an appeal by Nobrega. However, the Attorney General took the case to the Privy Council, which upheld Chung’s original decision.

His last case dealt with the murder trial which arose from the attempted secession in the Rupununi in January, 1969. Three of the accused were ordered to stand trial for murder and seven others were set free.

Arthur Chung (left) sharing a light moment with Prime Minister Sam Hinds at a Canada Day reception in July 1999. (Stabroek News file photo) He became Guyana first President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on March 17, 1970 and was President until October 6, 1980.

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