Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams SC says that construction of a local law school is still on the cards and that once the University of Guyana identifies the spot at the Turkeyen Campus where it will be located, work will begin.
This update comes days after former AG Anil Nandlall publicly accused Williams of misleading aspiring lawyers.
In January this year government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and the Law College of the Americas (LAC) for the construction of the JOF Haynes Law School. The approximately US$75 million investment, it was said would end years of problems that local students have had entering regional law schools to complete their studies.
During a press conference held at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on November 11, Nandlall said that after the “great photographic moments of the AG shaking the hands of persons professing to be the administrators of the law school of America”, he had heard nothing more.
According to Nandlall, from the beginning, the names of the two institutions that would be collaborating with government, “aroused my suspicion. I don’t know of (and) I’ve never heard of an institution called Law School of Americas”.
LCA which is affiliated with UCC and Northumbria University in the UK markets itself as a college which aims to meet the needs of a wide range of students looking to complete a programme for certification in the legal education in the Caribbean.
Originally registered as the Chancellor Law School of the Americas its website explains that it was established by Dr. Velma May Brown Hamilton with a view to providing legal education to students in the Caribbean extending to Guyana in South America.
During the signing ceremony the media was informed that the campus target date was 2018. Nandlall pointed out that there is nothing in the public domain that indicates that this target will be met.
“That is what I remember in January of this year ….all the big headlines that we will have our own local law school. The government was patting itself on the back that this project would happen and that it would start in November because it was to help students who had problems in getting admission into the law school (Trinidad)”, he said.
He further noted that as every academic year passes the situation becomes more precarious for persons who have been unable to get into the Trinidad law school and “who now have been duped into placing their hopes and aspirations and expectations on the establishment of this law school”. He stressed that there is no real evidence to suggest that a school is going to be built.
However, Williams on Wednesday sought to dispel concern that the project will not become a reality and explained that the government was waiting on UG to identify the swathe of land.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 46th Plenary and Working Group Meetings of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), the AG said that he has written to the Vice- Chancellor of the Univer-sity of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith inquiring about the land that former Chancellor Desiree Bernard had identified somewhere around 2000. He said that a decision was made back then that a law school would be built at the UG Campus. He pointed out that the Vice-Chancellor would not have been here at the time of that decision and as such the government was merely seeking to inform him of the plan. While noting that the Vice-Chancellor is yet to respond to the issue, he said that he has taken note that lands have been “given out to other people and he the deputy vice-chancellor is on our committee and they haven’t signed on yet on the land but we will have to get the land”.
Williams insisted “we have to have a law school whether people are putting up obstacles…so the obstacles will have to be broken down because our students are punishing”. He added that Guyanese students have to find $3M to complete their stint in Trinidad.
In January, Williams had said that construction would begin following the completion of a feasibility study.
Asked about this on Wednesday, Williams said that this is being worked on. “We are still pursuing the feasibility study it’s not an easy thing. You have to ensure that you get everything right”, he said adding that it will take about two years to ensure that everything is done including the construction of the law school. In this regard he said that there is still a lot of time left.
“A lot of work has been done. As you know the Jamaicans sent in an accountant, the counterpart of Christopher Ram and they were engaged and really that was the last fine-tuning”, he said, noting that once the land on the campus is identified, things can move ahead as planned.
According to the information previously released, the facility is expected to cater for between 200 and 400 students at a time, mainly from Guyana and Jamaica. Other Caricom nationals and persons from Commonwealth countries will also be accepted. Accreditation will be in order and the teaching will be of the “highest standard”, though no proposed price range was given for the two-year Legal Education Certificate programme.
Two committees were set up weeks after the signing to work on Guyana’s proposal to establish the law school.