The Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana notes the passing of Ashton Chase OE, SC, on 10 July 2023 with deep regret.
Mr. Chase the Father of Labour and Industrial Relations Law in Guyana, was as a politician, a Barrister-at-Law, an Attorney-at-Law as well as a prolific author.
As the first Minister of Labour, Industry and Commerce appointed in 1953 at the age of 28, after universal adult suffrage was granted by the Colonial Government, Mr. Chase was responsible for piloting legislation permitting the recognition of trade unions on the basis of a majority vote among employees. The Bill was one of the reasons the colonial government decided to suspend the Constitution in 1953. This groundbreaking legislation was put on hold until 1997, bringing the freedom to choose their own representation to workers across Guyana.
During his long and distinguished career as an Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Chase wrote extensively on industrial relations, labour and employment law, publishing several books in the field, such as The Law of Workmen’s Compensation (1963), A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana (1966), Industrial Law (1974), Trade Union Law in the Caribbean (1976) and Industrial Relations (1981).
Mr. Chase appeared in dozens of cases which are now reported in the West Indian Reports, six of which were also reported in the Law Reports of the Commonwealth, and many more which are reported in the Law Reports of British Guiana and the Guyana Law Reports.
Among the notable cases in which Mr. Chase appeared during his career were Peter Persaud v. Pln Versailles (1970) in which the law of unjust enrichment was accepted twenty-one years before its acceptance in England; Albert Shanks v. Continental Biscuit Company (1977) the landmark case on wrongful dismissal coming out of Guyanese courts; Guyana Sugar Corporation v. Seeram Teemal (1983) on the inability of an employer to unilaterally vary the terms of a contract of employment; Sheik Mazahudin v. Guyana Sugar Corporation Ltd. (1984), another important case on the principles of wrongful dismissal; Ali v. Teaching Services Commission (1993) on the ineffectiveness of restrictions on the right to seek redress for breaches of constitutional rights; Attorney General v. Mohamed Alli (1989) where legislation was invalidated for unconstitutionality because the legitimate expectation of trade unions to be consulted before it was passed was not met; and Attorney General v. Caterpillar Americas (2000) on the application of the principle of eminent domain in Guyana.
Mr. Chase, who was born on 18 July 1926, read law at Gray’s Inn in England and was called to the Bar in 1957. He served as President of the Senate between 1961 and 1964.
Mr. Chase further served several stints as President of the Bar Association of Guyana with distinction in its most vibrant years in the 1980s and 1990s. The service of Mr. Chase extended beyond the shores of Guyana, to the wider Caribbean as Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE), the governing body of the law schools in the Caribbean from 1992 to 1998. Mr. Chase has the distinct honour of being the only Guyanese to so serve as Chairman of the CLE. In 1985, for his distinguished service in the law, he was, deservingly appointed Senior Counsel.
The Bar Council expresses its deepest condolences to his wife, Mrs. Deborah Chase, and to his children, Dr. Ronald Chase, Serita Chase, and former President of the Bar Association, Pauline Chase.
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