The law and you

Stabroek News
March 14, 2000

In l992 the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers launched The Law and You Leaflet Project. 500,000 leaflets dealing with 3l legal topics were distributed throughout the country. The project was very successful and with further help from the Futures Fund a booklet was produced in l993 containing all 3l of the short articles. That booklet is no longer available though copies had been made available to libraries, schools, places of work and the University of Guyana. Funding has reportedly been obtained to print another edition.

The short articles are a model of their kind and range from the requirements for making a will and the effect of dying without a will (intestacy) to getting probate of a will or letters of administration of an estate, divorce, custody of children, adoption, child maintenance, powers of attorney, rights at work, buying and selling land, landlord and tenant, going to court, the Equal Rights Act, the Family and Dependants Provision Act, Bail, Police Powers of Search, Police Powers of Arrest, Police Powers of Questioning, traffic offences and even a helpful piece on when you need a lawyer and the question of his or her fees. It is a useful compendium of basic information on precisely the kind of topic that the intelligent lay person would like to have ready access to. For example, when is bail available and how is it paid, when can you be arrested without a warrant, going to the station to assist with enquiries and so on.

Several of those leaflets were re-published in this newspaper at the time and in other journals. They attracted much interest and were a useful service to the public. The Association had shown by its example how with some care and dedication useful information can be made available on complex topics that will be valuable to citizens. It is the kind of booklet that should be with the personnel officer of every company and government ministry and should be available in police stations, in schools and in homes. It educates the citizen in many important areas. Now that a process of constitutional reform is under way and will clearly not be completed in the immediate future could one urge these valiant ladies to undertake a series of say 30 short articles on the constitution which could contribute to the better understanding by our citizens of this important document, which sets the framework for their legal existence. What form of government do we have, what are the president's powers, the powers of parliament, how are judges appointed (here and elsewhere), what are our fundamental rights as citizens, are they adequately protected, is the Auditor General adequately protected? These are all issues that are vital to our lives. Our lady lawyers can continue to lead the way in this field by spelling them out and bringing their importance and relevance home to the citizen. It would be a timely exercise that would enable citizens to appreciate more fully the real issues at stake in crafting a constitution and given their track record funding should surely be available.