Attorney General, Minister Teixeira, DPP, President of the Bar Association, Newly sworn members of the Law Reform Commission, other lawyers, members of the media, let me welcome you to this simple but significant event.
Society does not remain static; it is subject to change. The law as a central pillar of civilized societies must therefore be regularly updated in order to keep abreast with societal changes. It equally must be reformed to fill gaps to the country’s legislative architecture, harmonize our laws with our international obligations and to be responsive to the demands of modern justice.
It is the duty of all societies to continuously perfect and modernize its laws. No law can remain totally relevant over decades or centuries. Not every piece of legislation drafted in our society can be easily transplanted, remain effective or produce the desired results in another society. Law reform, therefore, has to be adapted to the peculiar circumstances of our country.
Law reform is not new to Guyana. Throughout our history, new laws were enacted and old and laws were repealed and amended. However, much of Guyana’s laws still remain dated and run the risk, if not updated, of becoming archaic and obsolete. Law reform aimed at the simplification, modernization, and systematic development of the country’s laws.
The Law Reform Commission of Guyana was established with the expressed function:
…to keep under review all the law applicable to Guyana with a view to its systematic development and reform, including in particular the modification of any branch of the law, the elimination of anomalies, the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments and generally the simplification and modernization of the law…
The Law Reform Commission of Guyana was established through a consultative process.
In selecting the members of the Commission, the Law Reform Commission (Amendment) Act 2021 obligates the Minister to consult with a broad range of stakeholders; namely organizations representing the legal profession, the private sector, the trade union movement, consumers’ affairs entities, the religious community, the Rights Commission, and the National Toshaos’ Council.
The Commission’s functions allow it to draw from persons with technical expertise or from persons with specialized knowledge.
The work of the Law Reform Commission is vital to ensuring that government develops a systematic approach to legal reforms, including prioritizing and establishing a programme of such reforms. The work of the Commission is also critical to ensuring that Guyana keeps abreast with emerging and evolving legislative trends in the world.
The work of the Commission will ensure that our country’s legislation does not stagnate or become backward. The work of the Law Reform Commission will be of benefit to both the Executive and also the National Assembly.
Legal reform is a priority of my Administration. The government’s commitment to legal reform is manifested by the swiftness with which the government moved to amend the Law Reform Commission Act, have the amendment passed in the National Assembly, and assented in order to bring this Commission into being.
Legal reforms must enhance, not inhibit, human rights and freedoms. Legal reforms must, of necessity, empower citizens and protect them from arbitrariness. It must foster and facilitate, not frustrate development. Legal reforms must help build greater trust between our citizens and our justice system. These, I believe, represent the litmus test of the effectiveness of legal reforms.
I congratulate the Chairman and members of the Law Reform Commission of Guyana. I thank all those who have accepted to serve on the Commission, and I wish you success in your work.
There is much work ahead. My Government will offer its full support to the Commission, and will welcome and treat with the utmost seriousness its recommendations.
As you are aware our economy is changing, and our laws have to reflect this change. The environment in which we are operating globally is also changing and we have to adapt to those changes. The nature of the new world order itself is changing daily and we have to adapt to those changes and an important part of adapting to those changes is ensuring that the legal system reflects where the country must be in adopting to those changes.
Take for example the pandemic today, there is now global debate on varied aspect of the pandemic including public health laws; what should be mandatory and what should not be, and how do we treat a future pandemic. We cannot be left behind or excluded from these discussions. So, it is a very important time, not only in the context of Guyana but in the global context that you will be serving on this commission. It calls for a lot of forward thinking and also a wider understanding and appreciation to the environment in which Guyana is operating in; from a social, economic, political and international point of view.
So, with these words once again congratulations and best wishes.
Thank you, Ladies and gentlemen.