‘Packed agenda’ for 2022 as Govt moves to modernise legal infrastructure

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Attorney General Anil Nandlall

As Guyana embarks on its development agenda, there is need for the country’s laws to be updated to function in a modern nation; as such, Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has detailed a series of legislation that would be introduced this year to build the legal infrastructure.

During his weekly programme – “Issues In The News” – Nandlall pointed out that the Legal Affairs Ministry has a packed legislative agenda for 2022. He said that Guyana could not be developed without a modern legal framework in place to facilitate this transformation.

“We will continue to reform our archaic statutory framework and remove from it, the anachronistic elements of our law and replace them with other legislation that is geared to meet the developmental agenda of our country,” he noted.

Among the areas to be reformed is doing business in the public sector. According to the Legal Affairs Minister, the aim is to make transactions online-based.

“We have to start to move our transactions to e-transactions in Government. That by itself requires a series of legislation that will allow for us to do transactions online in the public sector. Banking is already being done online in the Private Sector, but we need to transact business in the public sector online. We need to make payments possible online and that requires an overhaul of the accounting infrastructure in the country supported by relevant legislation to lay the foundation for these transactions to take place electronically,” he explained.

Another area on the agenda is putting in place the legislation to prepare Guyana to produce and package agricultural products for export, especially to fulfil its potential to ‘feed the Caribbean’.

Nandlall pointed out that international standards and requirements for exporting food products were high; hence, the country would have to put legislation in place to modernise production and packaging of food in order to meet those export thresholds.

To this end, he noted that the Legal Affairs Ministry is currently working on the Food Security and Food Safety Bills.

Moreover, the Legal Affairs Minister also noted that there were a series of bills that would be presented to the National Assembly this year such as the Bail Bill, which would address discrepancies in the granting and refusal of bail in the courts.

Other legislation expected this year include a new Public Health Act, new Mental Health Act, a Suicide Act, a Domestic Violence Act, revamp of the Sexual Offences Act, and a Sexual Harassment Bill. Additionally, the Minister said efforts would also be made to get the Hire Purchase Bill out of the parliamentary select committee.

Additionally, Government will also be introducing a Condominium Bill in the National Assembly. This piece of legislation is being finalised and will be tabled in the coming months.

“That will allow for the establishment of new condominium schemes in Guyana. A lot of investors want to invest in condominiums, and a lot of the operators within the oil and gas sector have expressed a preference for condominium-style accommodation for the companies. We are going to lay the statutory groundwork and framework for that,” Nandlall revealed.

Meanwhile, the Legal Affairs Minister went on to reassure the public that the constitutional and electoral reform processes, which were manifesto promises of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will also advance this year.

With regard to constitutional reform, Nandlall said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform would be the vehicle through which Government would undertake this process. He explained that while a few meetings were held last year, not much was accomplished otherwise owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.

“Hopefully this year, just after the Budget is read and passed, we will have the constitutional reform agenda kicking in and we can begin the process. 2022 will also see the completion of the statutory reforms that we are pursuing in the elections sector,” he asserted.

According to Nandlall, “We have to rectify certain deficiencies in the law that were exploited by those who wanted to rig the 2020 elections… We made a commitment, both locally and internationally, that we will review the statutory process both at the level of the Representation of the People Act as well as registration process, and we will advance legislative proposals for reforms.”

In November 2021, Government released proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) for public consultation and feedback in the first phase of the electoral reform process. Those include jail term and other penalties for senior GECOM officials such as the Chief Elections Officers who do not follow the prescribed rules and regulations in the electoral process.

According to the Legal Affairs Minister, another set of proposals are being fine-tuned and will be launched soon.