Law changes will ensure citizens' rights
-- Attorney General
Guyana Chronicle
August 6, 2002

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`In our situation, and because of civil strife, and domestic terrorism, (the changes have) become inevitable at this stage' - Attorney General Doodnauth Singh
AMENDMENTS to several pieces of legislation are to be fast-tracked through the National Assembly and the changes will ensure the rights of citizens, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Doodnauth Singh said yesterday.

An extraordinary meeting of Cabinet last Saturday examined amendments to the Racial Hostility Act, the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, the Evidence Act, and the Prevention of Crimes Act.

Singh yesterday said the amendments should have been done a long time ago.

"In our situation, and because of civil strife, and domestic terrorism, it has become inevitable at this stage," he added.

According to the Attorney General, the amendment to the Criminal Law Act is to define acts constituted as acts of terrorism which can be construed as dangerous to community or State and which are likely to cause civil disobedience.

The proposed amendment to the Prevention of Crimes Act will give the Commissioner of Police authority to impose restrictions on deportees. However, an order to impose such restrictions must be granted by the High Court.

Restrictions could cover place of residence, the issuance and possession of firearms and movement of deportees.

Under the Evidence Act, the proposed amendment will cater for the admissibility of audio and videotapes and computer records.

Singh said the amendment to the legislation provides measures to ensure that videotapes produced as evidence, are a true representation of events as they occur. This will eliminate tampering with video and audiotapes produced as evidence.

The Attorney General noted that various incidents are shown on television, and questioned why such tapes should not be produced as evidence.

"Various incidents are seen on television. Why should the public see it on television, be allowed to form their conclusions, and then the same evidence is not allowed in court?", he argued.

The Attorney General has been mandated by Cabinet to hold consultations with members of the Judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions Chambers , the Guyana Bar Association and others on the proposed amendments.

Draft copies of the amendments are being forwarded to all relevant stakeholders and responses are expected by Friday, he said.

He said Opposition political parties would have the chance to raise their concerns when the amendments are tabled in Parliament. This should be done within the next few weeks, he said.

While every effort is being made to fast-track the amendments, Singh believes there may be need to extend the life of Parliament to debate the amendments.

The proposed amendments will guarantee that citizens' rights as enshrined in the Constitution will not be infringed upon in any way, he said. (Government Information Agency-GINA)