Mr. Nadir: First, I want to express my appreciation. I am sure for most of us listened with rapt attention to the Attorney General as he…
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Bond, are you leaving? Mr. Nadir may wish to rebut some of what you said so it would be good for you to hear him.
Mr. Nadir:…with rapt attention to the Attorney General as he outlined the development in our legal system and personally I found it very interesting and enlightening.
Mr. Speaker, there was an observation I was making to a colleague of mine, as were listening to the presentations, that during this debate, and shortly after Ms. Shadick spoke and the other two Members, who spoke from the Opposition, there were deafening silence in the House except, for their voices. I know that the moment you invited me to speak the agitation started. I was not taking it personally, because I also said to my colleague that I note that the same thing happens to other speakers from this side, those disruptions coming from your left hand side of the House, but we are all elected to give our views and make our representation with respect to those people who elected us.
Whilst we have heard a lot of legal argument why this particular amendment is needed and should have come earlier, there are some other implications, and I think the Attorney General did say in his opening that they are small in terms of size, but enormous in terms of ramifications. This is where I feel, Sir, very strongly that these simple amendments here have even more to do with the foundation of our democracy. They have more to do that the foundations that democracy is built on whilst they address some issues in the legal justice system. We do have the audience out there who want us to also explain to them what these laws, which we pass in the House, mean for them. It is not only speaking to the legalities but also the principles. I see in these simple but enormous implications, which these amendments will bring, the confidence of the citizenry. Democracy is built on us serving people and serving people’s interest and governing on behalf of people in a just way. This is how I see these amendments.
Yes, they may have taken centuries to come to the House, but it is among the citizenry, not necessarily only in the courts that these particular amendments will have the enormous ramifications. Whilst the responsibility of Government is to ensure that justice is served, be that by punishing offenders through the justice system and by ensuring due process and that citizens can access the fullness of the judicial process at all levels, I again reiterate that this will redound to the confidence of the Guyanese people in the society which they live in and the democracy which is being constructed every single day. It is not a static process, but it is dynamic, and it is changing by the moment.
When I was invited to make a contribution on this particular Bill I too scratched my head and I said this seems to be something for the lawyers, but as I listened to the Hon. Attorney General and I listened to some of the challenges raised by those lawyers, who spoke before me, I think the gravity of the implications came to mind. The Attorney General mentioned the year1873…, and I think he also mentioned that there was the combination of the two different courts, in the years 1873 and 1875, into one court in England. Sometimes things are left on the back burner, in this case, it was for centuries, but as crimes and serious issues emerge we get the gravity of these offences and the need to act immediately.
As I said, when I looked at it I remember a particular article that I read on the issue of the rape victim in India last month who died. In that particular instance, Mr. Speaker, the sexual offences legislation in India had remained largely unchanged since the year 1872. I have the particular reference which I can forward to you, Mr. Speaker.
Whilst the activists in India said that every single day, every hour in India, there is a rape victim – eighteen children suffering per day and hundreds of thousands of victims annually - these laws were never changed, but one incident sparked immediate change in legislation.
Whilst the Parliament of India was in recess, the Cabinet approved ordinances that were signed into law immediately, less than one week and a half ago, by the President. Of course, I think, for that system, those had to be rectified within six months. In spite of similar offences happening, over and over again, the gravity of that offence sparked the national outcry, in India, and international outcry all over the world for change. It is in this light I draw the parallel with respect to the confidence of our citizenry in the system of justice and in the democracy that we are building.
I see these enormous ramifications which the Hon. Attorney General referred to and, as you had had informed him, Mr. Speaker, that he can break things down a bit for the non-lawyers in the House, I know he may have curtailed his presentation to some extent and made it even simpler. I think we need to still recognise the fact whilst this is remedying in or criminal and legal justice system it will also redound to the confidence of our citizens. Ms. Shadick mentioned “victims” and the ability of the victims now to access the judiciary at all levels.
I am also pleased that this particular piece of legislation is receiving the unanimous support of the House. It is a habit that we need to inculcate in the House. I want to call on us…, especially when the Government brings Bills, that the Opposition needs to understand that we also have that right because the PPP/C is still the elected Government of the land.
Thank you very much.