Public to be consulted on traffic law changes By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
November 8, 2001

CABINET has authorised the Home Affairs Ministry to conduct nationwide public consultations on amending the traffic laws before a final Bill is drafted and taken to Parliament as a top priority issue of the Government.

Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon yesterday said he, President Bharrat Jagdeo and Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj, other officials and many Guyanese, including the `Mothers in Black' group, have for some time been advocating reforms of the traffic laws.

He said that at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Gajraj identified areas in the traffic laws which will be subjected to reform.

He told the regular post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown that the list of areas identified for reform is "exhaustive" and includes the need for special attention to be paid to the required age for people to obtain a driver's licence, especially for hire cars and mini-buses.

Other points are the use of seat belts; certification of fitness for vehicles; fines; the basis for revocation of licences and laws to include mandatory testing for noxious substances such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, which Luncheon said have been shown to interfere with the ability of drivers to be in charge of their vehicles.

He said there are other sections of the laws subjected to reform which will all be discussed at the public consultations.

Luncheon reported that Cabinet, having considered the recommendations and submissions, subsequently authorised Gajraj to host public consultations at which the merits of those recommendations and submissions will be discussed publicly.

The inputs from citizens at these sessions will also be discussed before the actual Bill is finally drafted and submitted for consideration by Parliament, he explained.

He said too that the Home Affairs Minister has been asked to expedite the convening of these consultative engagements with the Guyanese people.

"I am certain the public consultations would be able to identify each and every specific area where legislative reform is intended," he said.

President Jagdeo announced at a news conference last week that high on the Parliamentary agenda of the administration would be amending traffic laws to deal with the grave situation on the country's roads.

He said that given the problems on the roadways, urgent attention has been placed on amending traffic legislation which will hopefully change the situation on the roads and help to curb the carnage.

"People are dying everywhere from what seems to be systemic problems in traffic administration," Luncheon said.

He noted that people were already dying on the newly repaired Essequibo Coast road and on every major highway including in the city.

He pointed out too that people who are not supposed to get fitness certificates for vehicles do so and youngsters not eligible for drivers' licences end up getting them.

This situation will have to be carefully looked at, he stressed.

"I believe the consultations would, out of necessity, have to embrace all the regions, definitely the counties", he added.

Luncheon also noted that awaiting the conclusion of the consultations may well influence the nature of the legislation and in this regard, it is a delay for all intents and purposes that is unavoidable.