I was invited to make a keynote address to the UG Students for Social Change on the topic ‘Legislating as a means of Effecting Policy Changes.’ It is not important that the invitation to me did not indicate that there would be four panellists comprising the Government, the PPP/C, the APNU and the AFC. Nor that ‘certain politicians’ had insisted that they would only participate if they were given the same time to speak as I was given.
What is important for the purposes of this letter is that in the course of the question-and-answer session following the presentations, Ms Gail Teixeira, Presidential Advisor on Governance was categorical that her government did not wish to be distracted by copyright laws and was only interested in reducing the cost of school books. Displaying an enormous insensitivity to Guyana’s obligations under the rules of the World Trade Organisation/WIPO; and under the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, she dismissed authors’ rights as property and questioned why copyright had to last more than a few years.
Even if the governance czar does not know that the rule of law is the first requirement of governance, I had hoped she would understand that her economic and political case could be met by the government contracting for the writing of the required textbooks. The government could then be free to grant the right to any and everyone to copy as they please.
The issue of respect for the intellectual property of writers was strongly supported by Mr Khemraj Ramjattan of the AFC. But I was extremely disappointed that Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, who like Ms Teixeira is a member of the Council of the University of Guyana, did not offer a comment on Ms Teixeira’s absurd and disgraceful position.