In major legislative push, gov’t altering draconian, harsh & archaic laws

-AG eyes laws for E-transactions, exports, hemp & arbitration

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By Kurt Campbell

kurt@newsroom.gy  

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, in recent days has been highlighting what he said is a “very, very packed” legislative agenda that the government will be looking to get Parliamentary support on this year.

In a recent interview with the News Room, Nandlall also said that constitutional reform and law revisions will move ahead in the coming months even as he looks to ensure that the role of the Law Reform Commission is clearly outlined and its work takes off.

Importantly, the AG has said that there will be laws for every sector with the main aim of altering draconian, harsh and archaic laws. There will also be the passage of new laws to improve existing sectors and offer support for new and developing ones.

LAWS FOR ALL SECTORS

Among the legislations to go to Parliament this year is a new Condominium Bill, expected to lay the foundation for the establishment of condominium schemes in Guyana.

Nandlall said there are already investors, including Guyanese, from the diaspora who have expressed a desire to have that style of investment.

In the agriculture sector, there will be a series of bills, the AG promised, intended to prepare Guyana to export fresh food in compliance with international requirements.

On the trade front, the government intends to introduce legislation that will facilitate state agencies and the general public sector engaging in E-transactions.

The sitting of the National Assembly is being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre [September/Photo: DPI]
“We will lay the legislative infrastructure to make that possible,” Nandlall said as he drew reference to the bombardment of calls for the public for this to happen.

The government is also looking to introduce laws in the public health sector. With the Organ Transplant Bill already tabled in the National Assembly, work has heightened on a Public Health Bill. This will address the archaic Public Health Ordinance that has been in place since 1913 and is out of sync with current public health realities.

The government has long talked about a Bill to incorporate the Wales Development Authority which will lay the framework for the gas-to-shore project and an Arbitration Bill, both of which will make its way to the House this year for debate and passage.

The Arbitration Bill was expected last year but the government was unable to deliver.

“Already, we have a draft generated by CARICOM which is a modern piece of legislation of its type in this hemisphere… we are moving ahead with this to allow for arbitration of commercial disputes and make Guyana an arbitration capital,” Nandlall recommitted.

Another long talked about and promised piece of legislation is the Hire Purchase Bill which seeks to change the existing common law which Nandlall described as “very draconian” in allowing repossessions.

That law is also expected to be passed this year.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM AND LAW REVISION

Additionally, the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) had also committed to pursuing constitutional reform as a manifesto promise in the run-up to the 2020 elections.

Nandlall said that it will move forward this year. The standing parliamentary committee on constitutional reform will lead the efforts in this direction.

That committee will have to determine the modus operandi of how the initiative will manifest but Nandlall has promised the full support of the government.

“Hopefully, we are not affected by COVID because we promised a consultative exercise to engage Guyanese,” Nandlall added.

In addition to constitutional reform, the government is looking to complete another revision of the laws of Guyana; the last revision was done in 2012.

“It’s 10 years since the purpose of a revision is to go back to the principal law and insert all the amendments made over the last ten years,” the AG explained.

He said the law revision exercise will be completed by the end of 2022 and will be led by the AG chambers with assistance from Impact Justice from the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus.

It is on this note that the AG said he will soon meet with the recently constitute Law Reform Commission to ensure they are well aware of their functions.

“You see they have civil and civic organisations; the Law Reform Commission is intended for organisations such as those including other stakeholder organisations to interact and recommend to government changes to the laws or the implementation of new laws,” Nandlall further explained.

He said while those engagements are not happening just yet, he intends to engage the Commission for an agenda for its work plan for this year.

HEMP, MARIJUANA AND ELECTION LAWS

Importantly, in direct response to calls from the public, the government is looking to finalise its amendments to the country’s election laws and complete consultations to have those changes made so as to avoid the chaos that unfolded in the Courts during the 2020 elections.

Already, amendments have been completed for the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), one of the pieces of legislation that governs elections in Guyana.

But there are to be additional amendments to the National Registration Act and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act to address the issue of national registration.

“The state of registration law is in complete disarray,” Nandlall said as he promised to have all these amendments laid in the House in the shortest possible time with greater clarity on what the law requires.

Meanwhile, Nandlall has said that in keeping with the government’s principled commitment to implement a Bill to allow for the planting of industrial hemp in Guyana, that piece of legislation will also make its way to the National Assembly this year.

“We have a Bill but work has to be done on it. Policy guidance has to be given to the drafter and we are in the process of receiving that guidance

Nandlall said he sees the planting of the first hemp seed in Guyana this year.

Also, the amendments to the Narcotics Act to allow for the decriminalising of small amounts of marijuana would also see forward movement in 2022.

The Bill was tabled in the National Assembly in 2021 and after the debate, it was not passed but rather sent to a Special Select Committee.

Nandlall says he has spoken to the Clerk of Committees at the Parliament and requested a meeting to schedule the agenda for that Committee.

“We are waiting on a date when that meeting take place.”

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