FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Members of the planning committee to bring Aung San Suu Kyi to Fort Wayne, along with the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and the mayor’s office, held a news conference to provide some details of her visit.
Suu Kyi, who will be in Fort Wayne Tuesday, September 25 from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, is expected to address close to 10,000 people. Half of the 10,000 attendees are expected to be members of the Burmese community from Fort Wayne and other Midwestern cities. Approximately 2,000 of the remaining 5,000 attendees are expected to be students.
Prior to Suu Kyi’s speech, guests will hear from Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry (D), IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein and local Burmese activist Tun Oo. Children of Burmese community members, as part of Burmese culture, will present Suu Kyi with flowers prior to her speech as well. Suu Kyi’s speech will be made entirely in Burmese, and the coliseum will provide an English translation on its scoreboard.
Coliseum Executive Vice President and General Manager Randy Brown says doors will open for the event at 7:30 a.m. Brown says heavy security will be on hand for Suu Kyi’s visit. While security specifics could not be released, the public is asked to leave any bags or bulky coats outside the coliseum. Cameras will be permitted. Brown says the coliseum will designate an area outside the coliseum for flowers and gifts intended for Suu Kyi.
“If there are members of the Burmese community who do want to bring flowers and gifts, we will designate an area outside where they will be able to place them prior to coming in the rotunda doors. We will have signage, multi-language signage, on parking lot booths and on our front rotunda doors so that we will be able to communicate with everyone so they’ll know what the restricted items are. We will place these items in a location where our special guest will have a chance to see them.”
The local PBS affiliate, WFWA-TV, channel 39, will provide a live broadcast of the event.
The costs associated with putting on the event total between $8,000 and $10,000 and are covered by the event’s sponsors. IPFW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs George McClellan says the coliseum is not benefitting financially from the event and is providing the use of its space and facilities at the lowest cost available. The coliseum figures to break even.
McClellan says Suu Kyi’s visit should carry as much weight for all citizens of the Northeast Indiana area as it does for the Burmese.
“We believe that this visit, while obviously very important to the members of the Burmese community, is important to all of us in the region. Aung San Suu Kyi is a living example of the fight for democracy, a fight for the voice of the people, a life of dedication and service. We think she serves as a wonderful example and so we’re proud to have her come and visit Fort Wayne, we’re proud to showcase Fort Wayne and our university.”
Tun Oo’s daughter, May Ayar Oo, who is part of the planning committee and part of a Facebook campaign to inform the public about Suu Kyi’s visit, says she hopes to hear from Suu Kyi that she and her family will one day be able to visit their homeland.
“We'd like this opportunity to be another opportunity to step forward for us to be able to go back and visit our home, home country. Fort Wayne is my new home now, but I also would like to get that opportunity to go back to Burma.”
May Ayar Oo says her father, Tun Oo, was a representative in Burmese government in the 1990 general election and says their family left soon after the election. Leaving at the age of 4, she says she can recall hearing Suu Kyi’s name as a child. Now, she will have the opportunity to meet Suu Kyi.
“We left Burma and we went to Thailand and we heard of her name, Aung San Suu Kyi, my entire life. I had no idea. I never met her in person and to get that opportunity, it's such a great opportunity.”
Tun Oo, who has worked closely with Tom Lewandowksi, president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, says workers at unionized shops are being given time off to attend Suu Kyi’s visit. Tun Oo has also requested that all area employers allow Burmese employees time off on the basis that it is reasonable to each establishment.
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