The new revised Laws of Guyana were on Friday officially presented to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the legal fraternity.
At the presentation ceremony at the Sleepin International Hotel, former Justice of Appeal Claudette Singh, the Coordinator of the Modernisation of the Justice Administration System project, said the Laws of Guyana have been updated to December 31, 2010 and are now available in print. She added that the delay in the updating exercise was as a result of the gross underestimation of the subsidiary legislation. “The updating of the subsidiary legislation proved to be very tedious but with great determination the task was confronted and conquered,” she said. Each set of the laws, she noted, now consists of 18 volumes of the substantive and subsidiary legislation.
Singh further said that due to the amount of work, the index is still being prepared and will be out shortly to be placed in volume one. She explained that for 34 years, there has been no official revision of the law in accordance with the Law Revision Act.
Singh said prior to the new revised edition, there were four attempts to have the Laws of Guyana revised but each, for one reason or another, fell through.
However, in 2007 a loan contract was signed between the Government of Guyana and the IDB, paving the way for several institutional reforms, including the law revision exercise, which she described as one of the most important activities of the project. Singh added that the government was grateful to the IDB for its continued support and added that the journey leading to the revision from 1976 to 2010 was not easy.
Singh said the laws were initially going to be updated to 2006 but the revision was extended to 2010, which allowed for the inclusion of a number of key laws that were recently passed, including amendments to the Criminal Law Offences Act, the Criminal Law Procedure Act, the Income Tax Act and the Sexual Offences Act.
Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall said a Law Revision Commission has been established within the ministry and will begin its work shortly. He added that staff has already been trained and stated that the initiative will aid in the continuous revision of the laws.
He called the revision of the laws one of Guyana’s most historic exercises. He noted that it is a part of a number of initiatives which have been undertaken and designed to improve the legal architecture and landscape in Guyana. He also cited the recent rehabilitation and reconstruction of new magistrate’s courts across Guyana, some of which now have living accommodation to ensure the comfort of magistrates.
Nandlall said that he hoped the law revision exercise would not have impacted on the national budget, thus the price of the laws book was fixed to capture the cost of production and the people’s financial ability. Unfortunately, he added, there are piles of Law Reports of Guyana that have not been purchased despite requests made for them by the Guyana Bar Association. He also raised the issue of pirating of the reports by some lawyers.
Nandlall noted that the new revised laws will be on sale from this week and the prices will be released soon after he consults with stakeholders.
IDB Representative Sophie Makonnen said the bank will continue to support Guyana in its quest for modernisation of the judiciary.
Meanwhile, Nandlall noted the recent presidential order to increase the number of Puisne judges from 12 to 20. He said that the government recognises that the capability of the courts has to be increased. “In the 70s there were 12 judges and currently there is still 12 judges who must deliver justice in a system that is presently much larger than 30 years ago,” he said.
“Economic and social development can only take place if we have a high functioning judiciary,” he added, while stating that quality justice should be delivered efficiently and in a timely manner.
Acting Chancellor Carl Singh welcomed the increase in the amount of judges, which he said will encourage speedy delivery of justice. However, he said that money has to be provided to extend the court facilities to facilitate additional judges.