Former Chief Justice Ian Chang loses battle with cancer

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Former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang, SC, died Saturday afternoon at the Balwant Singh’s Hospital surrounded by family members at his bedside.

The Senior Counsel was diagnosed with cancer; he acted in the post of Chief Justice from 2000 until December 2015, when he headed into retirement.

Members of the legal fraternity took to social media to express condolences to his family and to reminiscence on Chang’s brilliant legal mind.

Former President of the Guyana Bar Association Kamal Ramkarran in his tribute said, “He always distilled his learning and knowledge as a lawyer and a judge without pomp, ceremony or fuss. In his last days as Chief Justice, I sneaked [a] picture of him in the chair outside his court where he frequently sat and talked about the law to anyone who cared to listen.”

The Senior Counsel was once Guyana’s acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and a former Justice of Appeal.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall in his tribute on Facebook noted, “Personally, I know of none who worshipped more dedicatedly at the altar of the law than him; neither do I know a more voracious reader of the law than him. In short, his life was the law; the law was his life; his every conversation was hardly about anything other than the law.

“Every lawyer knew that there was one person to whom they can turn at any hour, day or night, for assistance or guidance on any issue in the law, that person was Justice Chang. He never refused such a request. Indeed, it excited him and he made it his personal assignment or challenge,” Nandlall recalled.

The lawyer further said, “That he was a special human being is an understatement. Though he rose to the pinnacle in his profession, he remained unusually humble and exceptionally accessible. The power, authority and grandeur of office neither impressed nor changed him.

“He always believed that one should use “intellect” rather than “power” of office. His humility, simplicity and cavalier approach sometimes invoked the ire of his judicial colleagues but he remained steadfastly unbothered. To him, the law was his only master, which he served with unflinching devotion.”

Nandlall said that Chang surpassed every judge in Guyana’s history and perhaps in peers in the Caribbean when it comes to delivering written judgments.

“The more difficult, challenging, complex and controversial the legal issues in a case, the more anxious and excited he was to write a judgement. He was special. His pedigree does not come frequently.

“The void that he has left will perhaps not be filled in my lifetime. As Attorney General, I appeared in many important constitutional challenges, some involving issues never litigated before in the world, but he rose to the challenges and delivered written judgments.”

“He was also my close friend; a friendship built on our mutual love and dedication to the majesty of the law and nothing else. Justice Chang was one of the few persons on whom I can rely to test my interpretation and analysis of the law in my moment of difficulties. He was an intellect of the highest caliber.

“Lastly, he helped thousands using his office and his knowledge of the law, without a charge or fee but through his passion for justice.

“Goodbye Chief, you made your contribution to the jurisprudence of Guyana, the Caribbean, the Commonwealth and the world and you did it your way,” Nandlall concluded.

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