It is with deep sorrow that I have learnt of the passing of Ashton Chase. He was a friend, mentor and colleague against whom I appeared in many court cases and with whom I served in many bodies, the main one being the Guyana Bar Association as assistant secretary and secretary on the several occasions that he was president in the turbulent times of the Bar Association’s fight for free and fair elections, democracy and the rule of law. He was a leading figure in the struggle for democracy in Guyana from 1946 to 1992.
Ashton Chase’S first emerged as secretary of the British Guina Labour Union under Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, the father of trade unionism in Guyana, and it was in this role that he joined Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan and Jocelyn Hubbard to form the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) IN 1946, which my father joined later that year and served as Chairman of the Kitty branch. when it was decided by the PAC in 1949 to establish the PPP, Ashtonwas designated as the first chair. However, on the recommendation of the Jamaican-British activist, Billy Strachan, Ashtonwillingly stood down in favour of Forbes Burnham, a newly qualified lawyer and Guyana scholar who was just about to return to Guyana from London. After the PPP’S victory at the 1953 elections Ashtonwas named Minister of Labour. Upon the suspension of the constitution in1953, Ashton left for England where he pursued studies in law.
Upon his return from England he began to build a law practice, SPECIALISING in labour law. In 1961 he was appointed President of the Senate by the PPP government and later served as a PPP member of parliament. He was, for many years the President of the National Association Of Allied Commercial And Industrial Employees (NAACIE) which itself played an important role in the struggle for trade union and electoral democracy. He was a leading member of the GUARD (Guyana Action For Reform And Democracy) Movement which had emerged in the later 1980s to join the fight for free and fair elections. He served in many bodies, including as Chair of Guyana Legal Aid.
Ashton Chase has made a major contribution to legal learning by a number of cases he fought in Guyana’s Court of Appeal including the Teemal and Mohamed Ali cases, forcing the Court of Appeal to take a side against the government in its acts of discrimination and violations of the constitution. These cases have made legal and constitutional history. He was the author of several texts on labour law.
He acted as host on numerous occasions over decades at his home for his numerous friends among whom myself and wife, Janet, had the honour of counting ourselves.
Ashton Chase was a Senior Counsel, a distinction that he and others were denied for many years by the Burnham administration as acts of political discrimination. He was the holder of the Order Of Excellence.
Janet and I extend our condolences to his wife, Debbie, three children, grand children, other family members and relatives.