Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams on Saturday said the Caribbean’s Council for Legal Education (CLE) has effectively blocked the establishment of the planned Joseph Haynes Law School, prompting his immediate predecessor, Anil Nandlall to reiterate that no decision had ever been taken in favour of Guyana doing so.
“New Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) Reginald Armour of Trinidad and Tobago is relying on a report of a Review Committee which included former Chancellor Carl Singh, to now say that the CLE never gave permission to Guyana to establish its own Law School after decades in the belief of the Guyanese legal fraternity,” Williams said in a statement.
The Guyanese Attorney General said the CLE Chairman has not given into a request to formally give Guyana the criteria to operate a law school, but he has instead raised some purported concerns of the Review Committee to wit, “it was agreed that Council should defer establishing new Law Schools.”
Williams contended that Council never made such a decision, and that the matter will be on the agenda of the next Executive Council Meeting of the CLE in 2018. The CLE runs the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad, the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica and the The Bahamas-based Eugene Dupuch Law School.
Nandlall, who is a former CLE member for several years, recalled stating publicly in 2017 that that, contrary to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the CLE never approved the setting up of a law school in Guyana. “As a former Executive Member of the Council with more years standing than the current Attorney General, I knew what the Council’s position was and possibly still is, in relation to the establishment of additional law schools in the Region and I therefore knew, immediately, that he was lying and that he never obtained such permission as he claimed,” said Nandlall of Williams. “The truth of the matter is that he never obtained the permission of the Council of Legal Education to establish a law school in Guyana. When I exposed this in January, he then lied to the nation by saying that he did. Now his lie has been exposed,” Nandlall added.
The former Attorney General said he was not opposed to the establishment of a law school in Guyana, but was merely concerned that the standard and quality of education is maintained and that the Treaty governing legal education in the Caribbean was not violated.
The Attorney General’s statement did not quote any past or current official of the CLE as stating categorically that Guyana had been granted permission to establish the proposed Joseph Haynes Law School.
However, Williams said the CLE has determined that Guyana would conduct its feasibility study but incorporate the requirements of the CLE that a law school under its auspices must satisfy. He said Guyana and its joint venture partners-University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and the Law College of the Americas (LCA) -continue to pursue the feasibility study in keeping with a memorandum of understanding that was inked on January 11, 2017.
As a result Guyana entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and the Law College of the Americas (LCA) on January 11, 2017 in Guyana. The MOU provides for a feasibility study to be undertaken to determine whether the Joint Venture Partners should proceed to execute the establishment of the Joseph Haynes Law School in Guyana.
Nandlall said now that the CLE has made its position known, the Attorney General has opted to shift the blame to other persons including him, former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh and the CLE Chairman, Reginald Armour.
Williams charged that at one time Armour had issued a media statement to the effect that the CLE had decided on the establishment of a Law School in Guyana under the auspices of Council, “as if in direct response or support of the PPP/C’s contentions.” The Attorney General said that statement had been subsequently withdrawn after he had raised his concerns with colleague Attorneys General.
Meanwhile the fees for the Hugh Wooding Law School for a Guyanese Law Student has been increased to TT$94,000 or US$15,000 or GY$3,000,000, in addition to rent, meals, books and travelling in Trinidad and Tobago.
Attorney General Williams added that there had been uncertainty from 2009 to 2015 by Guyanese Law Students’ over whether the paltry 25 places HWLS was offering, would be available to them despite both HWLS and the Norman Manley Law School churning out over 200 Law students every year. He said the APNU+AFC government should be credited with ensuring a 2016 Collaborative Agreement among the University of Guyana, University of the West Indies and the CLE guarantees 25 places to Guyanese Law Students for three years.