President Dr Irfaan Ali on Wednesday swore in the recently appointed seven-member Law Reform Commission and in doing so, charged the Commissioners with modernising the laws of Guyana to reflect societal and economic changes taking place in Guyana.
Retired Appeal Court Judge, Justice B S Roy (Chairman); Attorneys Teni Housty, Clarissa Riehl, Emily Dodson, Roopnarine Satram, Deenawatie Panday, and Dr Brian O’Toole took their oath of office before the Head of State at the Office of the President.
During his brief remarks, President Ali pointed out that much of Guyana’s laws are dated and run the risk of becoming obsolete. He noted that societies do not remain static and as such laws and regulations must be regularly updated to be abreast with societal changes and be reformed to fill legislative gaps as well as be responsive to the demands of modern justice.
“No law can remain totally relevant over decades and centuries… Law Reform must aim at the simplification, modernisation and the systematic development of the country’s laws,” the President stated.
According to the Head of State, the work of the Law Reform Commission is vital to ensuring that Govt develops a systematic approach to reforms and critical to ensuring that Guyana keeps abreast with emerging and evolving legislative trends around the world.
“The work of the Commission will ensure that our country’s legislation does not stagnate or become backward,” he posited.
President Ali went on to outline that legal reforms must, among other things, foster and facilitate development and not prove to be a hindrance.
“Our economy is changing and our laws has to reflect this change. The environment in which we’re operating globally is also changing and we have to adapt to those changes… and an important part of adapting to those changes is ensuring that the legal system reflects where the country must be in adopting to those changes,” he stressed.
The Head of State further pointed out the ongoing global pandemic which has sparked debates around on the world on certain aspects such as public health laws in terms of what can be made mandatory and what cannot, as well as the treatment of future pandemics.
“We cannot be left behind or excluded from these discussions… Legal reform is a priority for my Government… There is much work ahead and my Government will offer full support to the Commission, and will welcome and treat with utmost seriousness, its recommendations,” the President assured.
The seven-member Law Reform Commission was appointed by President Ali last month after consultations with Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, SC. These persons were selected and thereafter – accepted, to serve on the Commission following recommendations received from the various stakeholder organisations.
The Law Reform Commission is an advisory body to the State and can recommend to the Government of Guyana amendments to existing laws, new legislation, and the repeal of existing legislation.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Justice BS Roy told this publication that they have a great task ahead to not just modernise but also harmonise the laws of Guyana.
“The laws that are in the statue books, there [will be] almost a revision of those laws and then we have to look forward in terms of what it is in terms of the legislative agenda of the Government. It could be in areas that we have not yet touched, for example, the whole question of petroleum law and the oil and gas industry that is now upon us. We will talk about stem cell research, we will talk about the laws of defamation in relation to the social media and what is happening,” Justice Roy explained.
However, even with a packed agenda, the Law Reform Commission has already been asked to assist the Ministry of Legal Affairs with its Law Revision project. Minister Nandlall indicated to reporters on Wednesday that he already discussed this with the Commission as one of their priority tasks.
“Revision of the law is to insert into the principal Acts, the various pieces of amendments that would have been made over the last few years from the last revision. So, the last revision, for example, was in 2012, you can imagine how many legislatives we have passed since that are lose leaves all over and not in the consolidated volumes of the law… We need to get those inserted properly into the laws to make them easy to consult and read,” he noted.
According to Attorney General Nandlall, the establishment of this Law Reform Commission is a historic and momentous occasion in Guyana, especially since most Commonwealth Member States already have such a body in place. He reiterated the need for a overhaul of Guyana’s entire legislative architecture, adding that the Commission will be pushing this agenda.
The Law Reform Commission will be housed on Middle Street, Georgetown, in the building that was previously used as the Mash Secretariat.