Re-migrants affected by two laws which are in conflict

Dear Editor,

I am a recent re-migrant from Canada to Guyana and as such I would like to take advantage of the reduced duties charged on an imported vehicle. However, it seems I am to be denied this privilege because of two laws in Guyana which conflict with each other, although not at first glance.

I refer to the law which requires one to drive on the left side of the road in Guyana (Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Cap 51:02, Sec 47) and the law which stipulates that re-migrants must own the vehicle they are importing for at least six months prior to resuming residence in Guyana (Customs Act, Cap 82:01, Sec 1 (a) (b)).

Obviously, if one is to operate a vehicle with maximum safety on the left side of the road one must use a vehicle outfitted with the steering wheel on the right. One cannot do other than infer from Section 7 (2) of the Traffic Act that the reason the architects of Guyana’s traffic laws severely curtailed the use of left-hand drive vehicles in Guyana was to optimize safety on Guyana’s roads. Section 7 (2) of the Traffic Act states:

“Unless the Minister otherwise directs a licensing officer shall not register a motor vehicle, other than a tractor, having the steering pillar on the left or near side, which has been imported or brought into Guyana after the 31st of December 1932.”

However, with apparent disregard for the current traffic laws and road safety in Guyana, the law relating to the importation of vehicles by re-migrants compels most re-migrants to import left-hand drive vehicles. I say “compels most re-migrants” because currently most of Guyana’s re-migrants are from North America where left-hand drive vehicles are employed to drive on the right side of the road, and since the law requires them to own the vehicle that is to be imported for at least six months prior to returning to Guyana in order to qualify for the special duty concessions, the vehicle must be purchased in North America – a left-hand drive vehicle obviously.

Thus the two laws contradict each other – one requiring persons to drive on the left side of the road and promoting almost exclusive use of right-hand drive vehicles to apparently maximize safety on the roads, and the other causing persons (albeit indirectly) to import left-hand drive vehicles which are creating safety hazards on the roads.

Does Guyana not have sufficient carnage on its roads? Do we need to add another dangerous factor to the already deadly equation of lawlessness and recklessness on Guyana’s roads?

Additionally, this law penalizes those re-migrants from North America who, out of a sincere concern for their own safety and the safety of others on Guyana’s roads, refuse to import a left-hand drive vehicle. Such is the case with me. I was recently informed by GRA that I will be denied the benefit of reduced duties on an imported vehicle because I refuse to bring a left-hand drive one from Canada. This ought not to be.

I submit that the consequences of the law regarding re-migrant importation of vehicles were not well thought out by the architects of this law.

The lawmakers of Guyana need to decide forthwith: do they want the citizens to drive on the left or right side of the roads in Guyana? Whichever side they choose, they must contemporaneously enact laws which facilitate driving safely on that side. As it stands now, the law which requires re-migrants to pre-own the vehicle they are importing is in most cases definitely not achieving that end, and a law that does not contribute to the welfare of those in the sphere of its governance is not good law and should be amended or repealed.

I hope this letter will be read in particular by President Granger, the Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs, and the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority.

Yours faithfully,

Valerie Leung

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