An important step forward Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
August 7, 2002

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THE majority of Guyanese would welcome the recent announcement by
the Government that several pieces of legislation are to be amended and
updated to bring them in line with current developments.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Doodnauth Singh has
said that this should have been done earlier and many would agree.

However, the important step has been taken.

The Racial Hostility Act, the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, the Evidence
Act and the Prevention of Crimes Act have all been included for proposed

For too long, many mischief makers bent on destroying the moral fabric
of the society to foster selfish political and other agendas, have been
allowed to get away with too much - in the process creating dangerous
racial and political tensions which severely hinder the developmental
process of the country.

Most Guyanese have become fed up with the daily doses of uninhibited
venom spewed on some television stations by some personalities whose
obvious intention is to sow discord and hostility between the major
ethnic groups under the guise of struggling against marginalisation,
discrimination and various forms of other perceived injustices against one
ethnic group.

This campaign is being carried out by peddling rumours, slanders,
half-truths and in some instances plain racism.

The strategy of the "bigger the lie, and the more often it is repeated the
more likely it is to be believed'" is generously applied on these `shows'.

The Attorney General has pointed out: "In our situation, and because of
civil strife, and domestic terrorism, (the amendments have) become
inevitable at this stage."

He 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.

It is some relief too that one of the revisions deals with the deportees
issue, because it has been a sore point ever since criminals who hardly
lived in Guyana began to be dumped here.

Authorities have said some deportees have been involved in the recent
upsurge in violent crimes in the country and keeping close tabs on them
makes much sense.

We also welcome the assurances from the Attorney General that the
proposed amendments would not infringe on the constitutional rights of

We expect that in the discussions with the stakeholders, concerns such
as these would be raised with the authorities and that measures are
implemented to avoid any infringements of the rights of citizens.

But while changes in legislation are an imperative first step in curbing the
degeneration into lawlessness, equally important is giving "teeth" to the
legislation to ensure that the laws are effectively enforced if they are to
produce the desired results.

There are many instances where the laws pertaining to a particular
offence exist but are simply not enforced because the personnel are
either reluctant to do so or there is an absence of such personnel.

Many good intentions or good ideas go awry simply because of poor
implementation or enforcement.

So while the first step has been initiated it is important that
simultaneously the relevant and appropriate systems are established to
ensure the effectiveness of the proposed amended legislation.