…full report on project for discussion Friday
A SUB-COMMITTEE of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) has asked the Government of Guyana and its Joint Venture Partners – Law School of the Americas (LCA) and the University College of the Caribbean (UCC), to provide additional information on the feasibility study for the proposed Joseph Oscar Fitzclarence (JOF) Haynes Law School here.
Once provided, Chairman of the Council of Legal Education Reginald Armour said a full report on the proposed law school will be presented to the full council on Friday at the Guyana Marriott but he made it clear that approval will be not be granted at that stage.
The CLE Chairman met with Guyana’s Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams and officials from the Law School of the Americas and the University College of the Caribbean including the LCA Chairman Courtney Wynter at the AG’s Carmichael Street office on Wednesday. Shortly after exiting the meeting, the CLE Chairman, in responding to a series of questions posed by the Guyana Chronicle, confirmed that copies of the feasibility study and business plan for the JOF Haynes Law School were handed over to Council by Minister Williams on July 4, 2018.
“A sub-committee of the council has been looking at it, has made recommendations which will go before the council for the council’s determination on Friday September 7, 2018,” Armour said. He said during the meeting, the CLE sub-committee, which he chairs, sought a number of clarifications on areas identified within the feasibility study and business plan. Though the Attorney General was not available at the time to offer a comment on the meeting, the CLE Chairman said he (the AG) committed to addressing the areas of concern.
“We are awaiting that clarification and once we get that, we will put a full report for the council to consider on Friday to determine a way further,” Armour told this newspaper. He, however, decline to disclose the areas for which clarification were sought, noting that the matter must be first ventilated fully at the level of the council.
“All I can say, it is not a question of a blueprint on Friday being signed off by the council. It will take some time to be examined and to be decided on,” the CLE Chairman stated.
Wynter – the Chairman of the Law School of the Americas – told the Guyana Chronicle that the CLE sub-committee sought additional information on the quality assurance and curriculum of the proposed JOF Haynes Law School. “They wanted a little more detail on the quality assurance of the law school and the framework around that quality assurance which is acceptable. They also needed a little more detail on the curriculum that is going to be offered, which is also a reasonable request, and they wanted further clarification on the joint venture model, with the Government of Guyana, that would be used for the JOF Haynes Law School,” Wynter explained.
While Armour indicated that the Attorney General has committed to providing the needed information, Wynter said it is not likely LCA would be able to provide the required information by Friday when the CLE will meet. “I don’t think we might be able to provide the details by Friday, but we are hoping that the Council will look at the overall feasibility study and business plan and provide some provisional or tentative date for us to provide that information and possibly some conditional approval for us to start to look at establishing the law school while we are trying to meet all the requirements of the CLE,” Wynter said.
Nonetheless, the LCA Chairman said what is clear is that Guyana needs a law school.
“For years the students of Guyana and other parts of the Caribbean have been disenfranchised, one because of cost, and two because of the allocation into the Norman Manley or the three existing law schools, and so because of the space availability of the three existing law schools, we have Caribbean nationals who are struggling to continue their legal education,” explained noting that JOF Haynes Law School will help to meet the demands.
“What we have found is that there are students who have graduated with a LLB from different institutions including, institutions in Jamaica, Belize and other CARICOM countries that have not been able to continue their legal education,” he added.
Endorsing a statement made by the Attorney General on Monday, Wynter said it is important for the country to have a law school as it develops into an oil producing nation – a development likely to transform its economic, infrastructural and social landscape. “Interestingly Guyana is on the cusp of development given its pending transformation, and what we are seeing is the need in the future for Guyana to take control of its own destiny in terms of the occupation of law…as a country develops, a country cannot develop without a proper legal representation, and so all we are trying to do is anticipate the future of Guyana as well as anticipation of the growth in Jamaica, and to have a legal profession that is robust, and ready for the transformation both in Guyana and Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean,” he posited.
Asked to offer clarification on whether Guyana was given permission by the CLE to construct its own law school, Armour, in response, said: “the council under its treaty is established to establish, maintain and equip law schools. The Government of Guyana is free to proceed to build a law school but the council does not yet have sufficient detail to approve the law school. We are looking at that, we are hoping that that can be accomplished in the near future.”
Article 1 Paragraph 3 (B) of the Agreement establishing the CLE, empowers it to establish, equip and maintain Law Schools – one in Jamaica, one in Trinidad and Tobago and in other territories as the Council may from time to time determine, for the purpose of providing postgraduate professional legal training.
The Attorney General has long maintained that approval to build the law school here was granted. Excerpts from the CLE minutes dating as far back as 2002 suggest that approval was granted, and that the matter was actively discussed. The JOF Haynes Law School when constructed will be located at the University of Guyana (UG). The state-of-the-art law school is expected to cost US$6M, and with the Guyana Government already securing the land, its private partners are in line to finance the project.