There is mounting evidence of serious and numerous errors in contained in the Revised Laws of Guyana released by
Government in March, said commentator, Christopher Ram.
Describing the omissions as colossal incompetence that has implications for judges, magistrates, lawyers and administrators, Ram, an accountant and lawyer by profession, in a telephone interview, said the errors are so grave that the only sensible option at this stage is for the complete withdrawal of those laws.
“This is to ensure that they are properly edited by competent technocrats properly supervised before being released.”
The issue was addressed in Ram’s blog chrisram.net last week under the caption –”The Laws of Guyana – Incomplete and Incorrect”.
Kaieteur News understands that the Law Revision project was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of more than US$5M ($1B). “IDB should immediately disassociate itself from this monumental embarrassment which should be placed squarely at the feet of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall, Chairman of the Law Revision Commission.”
Other members of the Commission were Mr. Ashton Chase, OE, SC; retired Justice Madame Claudette Singh, CCH; Mr. Cecil Dhurjon, CCH, SC, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and Mr. Charles Fung-A-Fat, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
The lawyer contrasted the “negligent work” of Nandlall’s Commission and the “amateur performance” of the technocrats in the Ministry of Legal Affairs with the flawless quality of the last revision in 1977 under Sir Sridath Ramphal, Bryn Pollard and their team, in an era when computers were still largely unknown.
Ram said he believes that any corrective measure requires a professionally led, interested Law Revision Commission that takes its work seriously, “with the actual work being done by competent technocrats. Both of these were missing in this fifth attempt by the PPP/C to publish laws.”
According to Ram’s blog, one of the problems involved the Forest Act which carries a Note on Subsidiary Legislation stating that: “The Forests Regulations have been omitted as new comprehensive Forests Regulations are shortly to be made.” And in relation to the mining sector a Note of Subsidiary Legislation in the front page of the Mining Act states: “Subsidiary legislation made under this Act have been omitted due to the advanced stage of preparation of new comprehensive subsidiary legislation”.
He pointed out that close to four years since the effective date of the Revised Laws those new comprehensive Forests Regulations have still not been published. “Apparently, neither “advanced stage” nor “shortly” connotes imminent to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.”
Ram pointed out that the Law Revision Act under which the exercise was carried out requires that the Laws of Guyana must also include a chronological list of Acts, a table of contents and an index. “The Laws of Guyana as published include neither a chronological list of Acts nor an index. The failure to include a list of laws omitted, a chronological list of Acts, and an index means that the Laws of Guyana as published themselves do not comply with the law. Without being facetious, the laws are themselves lawless.”
“Significant though those omissions were, if they were indeed the only omissions, they may have been considered tolerable from a theoretical perspective, although the practical effect of the omissions would be of some consequence.”
Ram noted that the National Accreditation Council Act of 2004 does not even appear in the current laws despite the fact that it was never been repealed. “Meanwhile the Council continues to operate within the framework of a nonexistent law.”
Ram said that he had over the past several weeks, had cause to review a number of legislation. “Almost without exception they are errors of either omission or commission meaning that things that ought to be included in the Laws of Guyana are excluded, or things that are included ought to have been excluded. One of the errors in the tax laws could give rise to unnecessary litigation and cause losses to the revenue of the country.”
Ram noted that in the case of the Tax Act which is used daily by attorneys, the courts and the business sector, the changes brought about by a number of amending acts were completely ignored, leaving the act as published without several key inserts. The revised laws even retained a number of provisions that were later removed by the National Assembly.
Ram described that but for the seriousness of the matter, the statement by Nandlall that the laws are to December 31, 2010 while certain of them were updated to 2012, would be “laughable”. He said that this was “completely unacceptable and unprecedented” in the history.
The commentator said that while legal officers and practitioners are entitled to assume that the laws published under the Law Revision Act are complete and accurate, in Guyana that would be a risky assumption to make. “The laws are neither complete nor accurate. The impact of such errors on the administration of justice could be substantial. What if an issue to be resolved by the court by reference to the Companies Act, or indeed any other Act, touches on a point of the law that is a victim of one of these errors?”
The lawyer suggest that one solution may be one of the solutions may be the completion of the index, the chronological list of Acts and the list of the laws omitted. “The other is an immediate and competent review and edit of the entire eighteen volumes to make sure they are complete and correct. In the interest of the proper administration of justice, this has to be done. No legal system can function properly if the laws as published are inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable.”
Ram said that Minister Nandlall has to own up to his own contribution to the messy state of the laws. “He owes the country not only an apology but what he is doing about correcting the several defects.”
He said that once again, the taxpayers are burdened with the cost of incompetence by a governmental entity. “No doubt all of those involved were handsomely rewarded, and no doubt too no one would be held responsible for the embarrassing result of their efforts. Meanwhile, those who purchased copies of the laws must feel particularly aggrieved. In fact they would seem to have a legitimate case for a refund of their money. Those who decided not to expend $825,000 on the laws may feel vindicate”, Ram concluded.
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