Budget 2023 creates a framework to advance legislative agenda − AG

Budget 2023 creates the framework for the advancement of Guyana’s legislative agenda which aims to foster transparency, accountability, inclusivity and efficiency.

This was expressed by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, as he defended the $781.9 billion budget in the National Assembly on Friday.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, during his presentation in the National Assembly

“Budget 2023 was not crafted in abstract. We have a plan, and we are delivering in accordance with our manifesto,” the AG told the house.

Boasting the government’s track record from 2020 to the present day; the Attorney General reminded of the previous administration’s intended plans for the establishment of a law school that never materialised, owing to the absence of accreditation from the Council of Legal Education (CLE).  

“They did an artist’s image of the law school and gave it a name. And, a public statement was put out by the Council of Legal Education, that they never gave permission for the establishment of a law school in Guyana.”

The attorney general said the CLE in 2022, granted its legitimate approval for the establishment of a regional law school in Guyana, a feat that was not achieved under the APNU+AFC government.

The AG also informed the National Assembly of developments to come. He reminded that the passage of the Constitutional Reform Commission Act will see the establishment of a 20-member commission appointed by the president early this year, as the process of reforming Guyana’s constitution advances.

Meanwhile, last year saw the induction of a batch of special prosecutors comprising LLB students, from the Prosecutorial Programme, who will be trained in innovative ways to equip them with the necessary skill set to work alongside the police prosecutors in the magistrate’s court.  Some 35 special prosecutors graduated, and are stationed at magistrate’s courts in Regions Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten.

The AG disclosed that another batch of 35 will begin training in a month and disseminated to other courts to ensure the reach of justice is extended.

To bring to fruition the tenets of the Restorative Justice Act, which was passed in 2022, the restorative justice centre will soon be established.

“The focus is on the exploration of other forms of punishment, bringing the victim and the perpetrator of the crime together, to try to repair and restore the relationship. Significantly, it goes into the society itself, trying to find the root cause of the criminal conduct and working to address it,” the attorney general explained.

In addition, further infrastructural development on the judicial front will see the construction of a massive building at Suddie, Region Two, for officers of the Director of Public Prosecution’s office.

Two buildings, one at Lusignan, East Coast of Demerara and the other at Vergenoegen, East Bank Essequibo will also be constructed to accommodate Hope and Justice centres.

“These institutions will provide legal, medical and probationary services to the victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, etc. Accommodation will be provided for the victims, so as to remove them from the source of the violence, if necessary,” the AG told the National Assembly.

The year 2023 will see the completion of several magistrate courts countrywide, as well as the advancement of the Lusignan prison centre and mental health division.

A bill to abolish the need for preliminary enquiries in the court system will also be drafted this year.

AG Nandlall noted that “Every day we read the complaint about the delay in the criminal justice system and the length of time that accused persons are languishing in prison.”

He said one of the reasons for the backlog, and extensive wait time, is the fact that the law requires a preliminary enquiry to establish a prima facie case before going to a judge or jury. The elimination of this preliminary process will save time, and eliminate the backlog.

“Right across the Caribbean and even in the Commonwealth, that first tier of the criminal process has been abolished. We are moving in that direction-removing that tier and accelerating that trial,” the AG said.

Today marks the final day of budget debates. This will be followed by the consideration of the estimates in the Committee of Supply in the new week.