–official documents suggest permission was granted to establish law school here
ON the heels of the Council of Legal Education Meeting of the Executives this month, the Attorney General’s Chamber has provided official documents suggesting that Guyana had been granted permission to establish a law school here as stated by Attorney General Basil Williams.
Chairman of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) Reginald Armour has reportedly said that permission was never granted for Guyana to establish its own law school. Former Attorney General and executive member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Anil Nandlall, has also argued that no permission was ever given.
But excerpts from the Council of Legal Education minutes dating as far back as 2002 suggest that approval was granted, and that the matter was actively discussed.
According to an extract from the minutes of the 34th Meeting of the CLE on September 2, 2002, the then Attorney General Doodnauth Singh (SC) had informed the Council of the country’s intention to establish a law school. A motion was then carried for a task force to be set up to work on the establishment of the law school in conjunction with a committee set up by the Government of Guyana.
Additionally, minutes of the 36th Meeting of the CLE on January 21, 2005, revealed that progress had been made and the parties involved were considering a site for construction of the law school.
According to the minutes, the chairman reported to the Council that the Cabinet of Guyana had appointed a small committee to consider where the law school should be sited.
“The vice-chancellor of the University of Guyana and members of the law teaching department had purposed [sic] that a new facility be constructed on the campus of the University of Guyana,” another section of the January 21, 2005 minutes read.
The matter had also arisen at a meeting of the Council of Legal Education on September 2, 2016, the documents provided by the Attorney General Chamber show.
In January 2017, Williams had announced the launch of the project for establishment of the JOF Haynes Law School – after some two decades of lobbying for an alternative to the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas.
But since then, the attorney general has been engaged in a battle of words with the PPP executive member and even the CLE chairman, contending that no approval had been granted for the law school to be established here.
Williams has made it clear that if Armour continues to interfere in the matter, it is likely that Guyana would resort to taking the issue to the CARICOM heads.
“If this chairman continues to act in the manner in which he is acting, against the interest of Guyana, we would have to take the matter to the CARICOM heads again. I am not sure Guyana would be comfortable with such a person remaining in office to chair this organisation,” Williams threatened during a news conference earlier this year.
Williams himself early December had announced that a Review Committee of the CLE had agreed that the Council should defer the establishment of new law schools.
The attorney general said that Armour, of Trinidad and Tobago, relied on a report of a Review Committee which included former Chancellor Carl Singh, to say that the CLE never gave permission to Guyana to establish its own law school.
Justice Singh, former acting Chancellor of the Judiciary here, was the only Head of Judiciary on the Review Committee established in 2009 and was allowed to continue to serve on it by the new chairman, until his removal was requested, as he had retired from that office at the last CLE Council Meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago from September 7 to 9, 2017. Justice Singh has since denied any involvement in any meeting.
Williams contends that the Review Committee which was set up for a different purpose, suddenly reopened a decision of a Council Meeting in Antigua in September 2016, chaired by previous chairman, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown S.C., of Jamaica, who concluded after considering several documents, including an unauthorised letter of inquiry by one Trevor Hamilton of Jamaica, that some “determination had been made”; that is, granting Guyana permission to establish a law school.
The Review Committee comprised the principals of the three law schools under the CLE: a senior counsel from Barbados; former Chancellor Carl Singh, and the new chairman.
Guyana’s delegation at the September 2016 meeting of the CLE in Antigua included Madam Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Chancellor (ag); President of the Bar Association, Gem Sandford-Johnson; Secretary of the said Bar, Excellence Dazzell; and Attorney General Williams S.C.
It is as a result of the decision of the Council that Guyana entered into the MoU with the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and the Law College of the Americas (LCA) last January.
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 (JHLS) here.
The JOF Haynes Law School is being established through a Public-Private Partnership between the Government of Guyana, the Law School of the Americas (LCA) and the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and will add to the existing options available to holders of a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB), and who intend to pursue their Legal Education Certificate (LEC).
Despite the attorney general and the CLE chairman being at loggerheads, a timeline of 2018 was set for the establishment of the local institution. Guyanese students are faced with hefty sums they have to pay and along with the small quota of students accepted into the Hugh Wooding Law School, are of concern to his administration.