Withdraw Miscellaneous Provision Bill now

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I have read the story, which appeared in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper on June 12, in which it was reported that a group of seven lawyers has expressed opposition to a plan by the Government to introduce a law for the compulsory registration of agreements for the sale and purchase of real property.

Let me say that I am a litigation lawyer and do not undertake the type of work that my seven colleagues routinely carry out. I have practised as counsel and senior counsel before the courts of this country for several decades and represented numerous clients in cases relating to agreements for the sale and purchase of real estate. I am therefore familiar with the danger to the unwary.

I would like to add my voice in the public interest in general and in the interest of landowners and prospective landowners in particular, in support of the position taken by these lawyers. My colleagues all have vast experience in real estate law and command significant respect among their peers. It is axiomatic that “the life of the law is experience” and given their enviable record in real estate transactions, when they express concerns, as they have, it is incumbent on any government to listen and take heed.

There are serious pitfalls in this bill.

This legislation, if enacted, would amount to a fundamental change to this country’s jurisprudence relating to real estate law and would, on its face, upset the fine and reasonable balance of the rights and obligations in law between property owners and purchasers that has been developed by courts and appropriate legislation over centuries.

In developed jurisdictions (UK, Canada, etc.) such changes only come into effect after they are deemed to be justified following wide consultation with all stakeholders and only upon careful analysis and research by commissions such as our Law Reform Commission. Failure to do so can result in great harm to a country.

I therefore call upon the Government to hold its hand in seeking to pass this law and remit the matter to the Law Reform Commission for its mature consideration and appropriate action. This piece of proposed legislation is not a matter of life and death so there is no need to rush it through Parliament until meaningful consultation is carried out.

Mr AG, please withdraw this bill now.

SEENATH JAIRAM, SC