Months after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to revise the laws of Guyana, Government is getting help from
a CARICOM specialist to correct deficiencies.
The project to revise the laws was completed this year, but lawyers have been complaining of problems that could have potential impact on ongoing cases because of missing pieces.
According to the Office of the Attorney General and the Minister of Legal Affairs yesterday, Justice Abdullah D. Zuru, a Law Revision Consultant attached to the Legal and Institutional Framework of the CARICOM Secretariat, will be heading a team to correct the issues.
Justice Zuru yesterday met with Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
Assisting Zuru will be Cheyenne Lall, State Counsel assigned to the Law Revision Unit and Renée K. Sandiford, legal assistant within the unit.
Justice Zuru, according to the AG’s office, has successfully “remedied similar” discrepancies associated with Revised Laws in countries including Fiji, Belize, Dominica and others including CARICOM member countries. “He noted that such deficiencies are not uncommon when Law Revision is done, specifically after a protracted period. In the case of Guyana, the last Law Revision exercise occurred nearly 40 years ago.”
Zuru was updated yesterday by Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, of the deficiencies that have been attributed to the newly Revised Laws, including the omissions and mistakes which have to be corrected.
Zuru will be working to establish an index. The index would be the beginning of the process of rectifying the omissions and mistakes, the law expert said. Once the index is completed, then the other steps
would be taken to rectify the problems associated with the Revised Laws. A draft of this new index has already been prepared and was presented by Justice Zuru to the Attorney General.
The work is expected to begin this coming week.
In September, prominent attorney-at-law Christopher Ram describing the omissions as colossal incompetence that has implications for judges, magistrates, lawyers and administrators.
Ram, an accountant and lawyer by profession, 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.”
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,” Ram had said.
Other members of the Commission were Ashton Chase, OE, SC; retired Justice Madame Claudette Singh, CCH; Cecil Dhurjon, CCH, SC, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and Charles Fung-A-Fat, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
Among other issues found were omissions to the Forest Act. Missing also was a required 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.”
Ram said that he had been forced to review a number of legislations. “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.”
Another major omission was contained in the Tax Act which is used daily by attorneys; the courts and the business sector… the changes brought about by a number of amended Acts were completely ignored, leaving the Act as published without several key inserts.
The commentator had 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 revised laws are by no means cheap with the volumes costing up to $825,000 for the complete set.
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