“I divorced Mr Ashton Chase in 1976 and since then in the years between 1976 and 2011 (35 years) this case has gone back and forth through the judicial system by the device known as postpone and delay.”
Those were the painful words of Audrey Salamalay, a trained journalist who studied at the London School of Journalism and who was the first wife of Senior Counsel Ashton Chase.
On Saturday, because of the injustice meted out to her by the judicial system of this country, she penned a letter to the Kaieteur News in protest.
In 1987, eleven years after her divorce, she got her first maintenance cheque, $800 per month, on an order by the then Justice Desiree Bernard.
Two years later, in 1989, this sum was hiked to $2,200 monthly.
In 1994, Ms Salamalay successfully filed in the court for an increase. She was awarded $25,206 per month, citing Ashton Chase’s lucrative practice, his earnings and his assets.
In 1998, the Appellate court presided over by Justice Cecil Kennard and included Justices Lennox Perry and Prem Persaud ordered that the monthly fee be doubled. She got $52,206 per month. Justice Kennard said then, “I feel that to do justice to the case, the order should be backdated to July 1, 1995.”
In the letter that she wrote to Kaieteur News on Saturday, she said she got her present maintenance of $77,866 in 2011. And she got this because she again went to the Court of Appeal.
The woman is now 88 years old. She said that when she filed for divorce in 1976 and was represented by Sir Lionel Luckhoo.
She said that Sir Lionel had told her that he did not do divorce cases but when he went through the papers, he said that this was the worst case he had ever come across. He eventually agreed to do the case.
He filed for divorce; he filed for maintenance; he filed for custody of their only child and he filed for division of property.” All this was done in 1976.
To this day the court has not dealt with the case of division of property.
Sir Lionel had given up on the matter because of a lack of patience with the system of postponement and delay. When he did, Senior Counsel Rex McKay stepped in and never gave up.
She got custody of the child but despite the court order, Ashton Chase managed to take their daughter out of the country without her consent. She was forced to travel to Canada in search of her daughter.
“The Canadian Government after learning of my desperate situation, offered me residence there.”
The Canadians said that they would offer her residence on the condition that she claims political persecution. She said that she stopped the process immediately.
“I told them that I had no problem with the government or the opposition. The only problem was with my ex-husband.”
She said that Ashton Chase deprived her daughter of her mother and deprived the mother of her daughter. She later spent a year in Jamaica.
When contacted, Senior Counsel Rex McKay said that he cannot explain why the division of property filed by Sir Lionel Luckhoo has not come up in the court system after 40 years.
The case has outlasted Presidents Burnham, Hoyte, Cheddie and Janet Jagan, Sam Hinds, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar.
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