Law Reform Commission must be proactive not reactive – Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall

The Law Reform Commission of Guyana has officially commenced work on Wednesday with a charge from Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall not to be reactive but rather proactive in the execution of its mandate.

“We have had law reform in Guyana being reactive. So, something happens, you go and pass the law to correct it. We will try to get this Law Reform Commission to be proactive so that we have legislation in anticipation of, and not as a reaction to,” Nandlall told reporters after meeting with the full commission at its Middle Street, Georgetown office.

During the meeting, he held discussions with the Commission on its agenda going forward. He outlined that the Law Reform Commission has a long and arduous task ahead.

AG Anil Nandlall with the members of the Law Reform Commission at their inaugural meeting on Wednesday

“We are still grappling with the mammoth nature of the agenda that the Commission has to execute,” he indicated.

However, one of the first tasks the Law Reform Commission will undertake is working in tandem with the Law Revision Commission, which is headed by Nandlall, to revise the laws of Guyana.

“Firstly, [they will have] to correct all of the errors and omissions that we would have made during the last revision exercise when we consolidated the laws in 2012… We want to now revise the laws from 2012 to 2021. That means we have to incorporate into the laws, all the amendments that we would have passed since 2012 in the National Assembly and also all the new laws that we would have passed and put them into consolidated volumes that will be the updated laws of Guyana,” the Attorney General stated.

According to the Legal Affairs Minister, when that process is completed, the Law Reform Commission will begin its work of holistically reviewing the Laws of Guyana with a view of reforming them, especially those that are archaic.

This, he noted, will require the seven-member Commission to conduct public consultations on “thorny issues” such as decriminalising suicide, the removal of the death penalty and decriminalisation of marijuana.

“So the Law Reform Commission will be dealing with thorny issues and make recommendations to the Government… It is the Law Reform Commission that must go out now and have the consultations, trash out the thorny issues and then come back with reports and recommendations based upon their consultations which will be taken into account by the Government of the day,” AG Nandlall posited.

Meanwhile, Law Reform Commission Chairman, Retired Justice B.S. Roy said they were cognisant of the responsibilities given to the Commission and would give of their best to fulfil them.

Another Commission member Clarissa Riehl acknowledged the large volume of work to be done, but reassured that the Commission was up to the task.

“We really have to put our heads down and work… Lots of things happening in Guyana as we all know, lots of progress being made with the oil and gas, and areas like that – public health with the global pandemic in Guyana and getting more severe in Guyana every day. The legislation [will have to be] put in place for all of these things. We have legislation in public health which is more than 100 years old. So, we have to bring all of these things up to scratch. So, there is a whole lot of work,” she noted.

The other members of the Law Reform Commission are: Teni Housty, Emily Dodson, Roopnarine Satram, Deenawatie Panday and Brian O’ Toole. They had their first meeting on Wednesday when they ironed out the agenda of the Commission going forward.
The body is required to meet four times monthly. Additionally, the Commission will be working closely with the Regional Director of the IMPACT Justice Project, Professor Velma Newton, from Barbados.

The seven-member Commission was sworn in last month by President Dr Irfaan Ali, who charged them to modernise the laws of Guyana to reflect societal and economic changes taking place in the country. The current Law Reform Commission, which is the first of its kind in Guyana, will be in effect for three years.