…as PPP blast Govt for collecting millions but failing to deliver
The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has one of the most vital functions of any commission in Guyana. It is supposed to reform and upgrade all possible legislation in Guyana, in order to ensure they are in line with international best practices.
But after approaching the National Assembly, passing the Law Reform Commission Act, and appropriating millions for the commission’s establishment, Government has failed to establish this entity.
At a recent press conference, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall blasted Government on for this discrepancy. He noted that no one knows how the money which was appropriated for the commission was spent.
“In the National Assembly, we budgeted over two years ago for the establishment of a Law Reform Commission,” Nandlall said. “You will remember that the Attorney General came (and) had that as part of his budget. We appropriated money for that,” Nandlall reminded.
“They brought a bill as well, so there is a Law Reform Commission Act on how the commission will be constituted. We have heard nothing about the Law Reform Commission, and we do not know where the money has gone,” he declared.
“Where has the money gone?” he asked. “There’s no such commission appointed or established, so where is the (money)?”
At least $20M had been included in the 2017 budget estimates for the purchase of office furniture, laptops and desk top computers, and to rent a building. At the time, the building had not even been identified to the public,” Nandlall reminded.
The Commission’s mandate
According to the Law Reform Act, No. 4 of 2016, the commission will have the duty to “keep under review all the law applicable to Guyana with a view to its systematic development and reform, including in particular the modification of any branch of the law, the elimination of anomalies, and the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments.”
The commission is also mandated by the law to “receive and consider suggestions for the reform of the law”. These suggestions, according to the Act, can be made on the invitation of the commission, and can come from Judges, public officials, lawyers and the general public.
The commission also has to “prepare and submit to the Minister specific programmes for the examination of different branches of the law with a view to reform, including recommendations as to whether such examination should be carried out by the commission or some other body.”
In order to fulfil its functions, the commission is allowed to set up “law reform committees” that would examine particular aspects of the law to make their recommendations. Staffing of these committees, according to Section 8 (2) of the Act, do not have to be restricted to legal professionals.
Last year, however, the fact that the bill allows the President to make appointments to the commission did not sit well with the parliamentary Opposition. Nandlall had been vociferous in declaring that nominees should be made from different groups.
In its recommendations, the PPP had noted that the Association of Legal Professionals, the University of Guyana, Private Sector Commission, the religious community, labour unions, human rights groups and the political opposition should be represented.
During his budget presentation, Attorney General Basil Williams had argued that the commission would undo the laws Guyana inherited from the United Kingdom before independence, “many (of which) are archaic and irrelevant to our society.”
There are a number of legislative acts likely to be scrutinized and changed if the commission comes on stream. Those include laws pertaining to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), laws criminalising same sex relations, and laws regarding possession of marijuana.