Guyana as a nation of laws

I was more than a little bit surprised by the statement in Mr. Lincoln Lewis’ letter that “[Guyana] is a nation of laws”: (Stabroek News 08-12-14, Constitutional Conversation). At best, it is a compendious articulation of one of the aspirations in the Preamble to the Constitution of Guyana to forge a “… harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental rights, and the rule of law.”

To suggest that Guyana has attained the status of a nation of laws is not only dangerously misguided but a complete contradiction of all that Mr. Lewis has courageously argued for decades. In fact, I do not think that Mr. Lewis believes that the rule of law prevails in Guyana.
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The laws of Guyana – incomplete and incorrect

Today’s column is about the laws of Guyana, a revised version of which was published in late 2013 and stated the law at December 31, 2010. Before I get to the essence of this column, let us take three specific examples.

1. In 2013 the Ministry of Labour sought to bring legislation to amend the law in relation to overtime work and pay. It is well known that at least one employer who is awarded contracts for the supply of labour to the government was breaching the amended law. The Ministry however appeared powerless to prosecute that or any other employer partly because of the clumsy and careless manner in which the amending legislation was prepared.

2. In the new Laws of Guyana, a Note of Subsidiary Legislation in the front page of the Mining Act states: “Subsidiary legislation made under this Act have been omitted due to the advanced stage of preparation of new comprehensive subsidiary legislation”. Apparently the Law Commission, which includes two senior counsel and the chief Parliamentary counsel and his deputy, did not think it necessary to include the not inconsiderable list of the omitted subsidiary legislation which apply until the new comprehensive subsidiary legislation is published.

3. Similarly, in relation to the forestry sector, a Note on Subsidiary Legislation states: “The Forests Regulations have been omitted as new comprehensive Forests Regulations are shortly to be made.” Close to four years since the effective date of the Revised Laws, those new comprehensive Forests Regulations have still not been published.

Apparently, neither “advanced stage” nor “shortly” connotes imminent to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
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