Laws of Guyana 'must be made a living reality' -launch of CD told By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
June 26, 2004

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A compact disc containing the 450 statutes that make up the Laws of Guyana and the Guyana Constitution was launched yesterday.

But one observer at the launching noted that it would remain just a piece of plastic unless there is a commitment to make the law a living reality and a reflection of the society.

The new disc replaces one launched in 2002 but which contained a number of errors. This version contains amendments made up to August 2003. Michael Murphy the country director of the National Democratic Institute said the errors had been eliminated thanks to assistance provided by members of the Guyana Bar Association.

USAID provided the funding for the project and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development was associated with it.

Democracy Adviser of the USAID Guyana office, Dr Ken Lizzio told a gathering including Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard that it would remain a piece of plastic unless the country has the mechanisms and institutions to make the laws a living reality. "To the extent that you have a professional, effective and incorruptible Police Force to enforce the laws; a justice system capable of administering justice in a timely manner that punishes wrongdoers no matter how great or influential they are; that antiquated laws are regularly abolished or updated and new ones actively debated in an informed manner; that citizens are aware of their constitutional rights under the law, to the extent that you have all these elements of democracy and good governance then the CD then has meaning and takes on its intended purpose. It becomes a living reality."

Dr Lizzio said civil society also has an important role to play in the process as laws must reflect the will of the people they are meant to serve and protect. He cited the outcry about raising the age of sexual consent, one of the many antiquated laws still in existence, as an example of what he meant.

Bar Association President Khemraj Ramjattan described the CD as being "an invaluable source of primary legislation for use by judges, magistrates and lawyers and others with a general interest in the law". But he lamented the absence of the subsidiary legislation at this time as a major shortcoming that has to be addressed on some other occasion.

Detailing the contribution of the Bar Association, Ramjattan explained that it "involved ensuring that the text of the statutes on the compact disc would reflect the actual Acts passed in Parliament". He said it entailed in a six-week time span comparing what was on the CD with that of the Green Volumes up to 1978 and after 1978 with all the Acts as printed in the Official Gazette up to the present time.

But he said it was more than merely proof-reading as the Bar Association members working on the project had to highlight and bring to the attention of the Attorney-General's staff whatever errors they came across in relation to numbering, spacing, fonts and other miscellaneous clarifications.

He said the efforts of the Bar Association members went a far way in ensuring the final product "is as accurate as far as could have been made possible within the time-frame of six weeks or so."

Ramjattan was not saying it was 100 per cent accurate "as I will leave that for the perfectionists to discover in due course of the use of this CD."

Murphy, who chaired the short launching ceremony which included a demonstration of the use of the CD, said there was need for a law-review commission to undertake a detailed examination of the laws.

The CD would be available to the public from the Attorney-General's Chambers for a fee that is to be announced.

The other speaker at yesterday's ceremony was Johnny Fung-A-Fat who represented Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh SC, who was otherwise engaged.