Lawyers in Guyana challenge act of Parliament

Guyana’s bar association Monday said it is preparing to challenge a recent bill passed in parliament empowering the South American nation’s tax chief not to issue to professional practice certificates for lawyers if they fail to pay their fare share of taxes as assessed solely by the body.

Long a publicly stated ambition of the governing party, the bill that was boycotted by opposition legislators but passed with help of the government’s nine-seat majority at the weekend will see lawyers having to obtain certificates from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) for the first time but only if the body is satisfied with the amount of taxes paid.

“This is absolute nonsense and a draconian act designed simply to give those in power more control,” said Khemraj Ramjattan, a veteran attorney and opposition parliamentarian.

He said the bar association will be meeting to examine the legal practitioner’s amendment bill in the coming days to pore over its contents including “the offensive clause” giving the tax commissioner the power not to issue a practice certificate to attorneys who fail to file tax returns or who under-report annual earnings as authorities often allege.

Government legislators like Anil Nandlall said the bill has sprung from wide consultations with groups like the bar association but attorneys and opposition representatives said their objections to the clause was ignored even at bipartisan special committees, presented and passed with government majority as originally worded.

“”A constitutional motion to challenge this bill is coming. The bar council will look at it and go to court,” said former president Kashir Khan.

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