Mobile phone owners were warned yesterday by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that the deadline for the first tranche of Sim-card re-registrations is January 17. The original deadline was October 16, but that was extended because too many people were unaware of the law, or did not understand their obligations under it.
The Sim re-registration case is one example of a confusion that sometimes exists after a law or regulation is introduced. And it's an issue that has been taken up by the Federal National Council, the consultative body that is designed, in part, to provide channels of communication between people and the government.
Last month, Salim Al Ameri, an FNC member from Abu Dhabi, sent a letter to Mohammed Al Gergawi, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, in which he noted that people were being penalised for breaking laws they simply did not know existed. As The National reported yesterday, Mr Al Gerawi's reply noted that new laws were published in the official government gazette, and said that it was not necessary for everybody to know about every law because some legislation applied only to specific segments of society.
In the case of laws that applied to everyone, there were often press conferences followed by media campaigns and advertisements, he said. Mr Al Gerawi pointed to the example of Wadeema's Law, a crucial law on child protection that has received widespread publicity.
Still, the message sometimes fails to get through on other important initiatives, such as the Sim re-registration. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are sometimes delays of years before laws are enacted, or the relevant regulations are even drawn up, creating problems for those with the task of enforcement.
As we saw with the Emirates ID, sometimes it is just a matter of time for a regulation to be implemented. The FNC plays an important role here, identifying shortfalls, speeding up the machinery of government and clarifying decisions. The lines of communication are open, but sometimes the message gets garbled.
While ignorance of the law is not an excuse, it is in everybody's interests for laws and regulations to be well understood from the beginning.