– addressing outdated laws should be a priority
There is growing urgency for the country’s laws to be upgraded.
A number of incidents has reinforced legal arguments that many of the laws and penalties on the books are way beyond archaic, making it impractical for justice to be served.
They will also have little impact in moving Guyana in line with first world countries.
Take for example, the Customs laws with regards to persons leaving these shores with jewellery.
These laws have reportedly been on the books since the 70’s but have not been enforced and persons currently travel out of Guyana with jewelry valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars with no one batting an eyelid.
But this scenario was amplified as a result of a recent seizure of jewellery from an outgoing passenger at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.
Guyana has been turning a blind eye to the law until this one recent incident.
The Customs Act provides that persons leaving or arriving in Guyana present himself or herself to make a declaration in a designated form (Form C 14A) of the things they are bringing in on their person and baggage. There is a general prohibition against any jewelry and articles made from precious or semi-precious stone.
The exception to the general rule is any marriage or engagement ring or watch. Except for the ring and watch, any jewelry being carried out by a female valued at more than $2,000, the equivalent to US$10, or by a male valued at $1,500, the equivalent to US$7.50, or by a person under twelve years valued at more than $500, the equivalent of US$2.50, require the written approval of the Minister of Finance before they could be taken out of Guyana.
A simple wedding ring costs at least $30,000.
The wearing of jewellery by outgoing Guyanese passengers is a popular practice.
The recent seizure at the airport has sparked a court case with the plaintiff questioning the rights of officials to stop him.
There is no consensus on how the law will play out, particularly in a year of Guyana’s 50th Anniversary when members of the Diaspora will proudly want to take away jewellery from Guyana as a souvenir of their visit.
Legal officials say that since the Customs Law was passed by Parliament, it remains law until the Parliament repeals it, and that no matter how long it has not been used, it remains the law of Guyana. This is not the only law that has gone into disuse over time and many persons now will not know that it is an offence to cause injury to trees, defacing coins by marks, drunkenness etc.
What does one do with legislation that may not have been enforced for decades? This is the question that many citizens are now asking.
Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram, President of the Guyana Bar Association, was asked about the presence of the archaic laws and how the body would deal with the situation.
He indicated that this is a matter that requires action by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
The lawyer noted that legislation for a permanent Law Reform Commission is before Parliament and that addressing outdated laws should be a priority for that body when it becomes operational.
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