Law school in limbo

-as Council for Legal Education says no permission given

Basil Williams

Announcing that the Council for Legal Education (CLE) is now saying that no permission was ever given to Guyana to establish its own law school, the Attorney General’s Chambers last evening blamed former attorney-general (AG) Anil Nandlall and now retired Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh for the turn of events.

“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,” the AG’s Chambers said in a five-page statement yesterday.

It also informed that while efforts are being made to have a feasibility study done, Armour is yet to formally honour Guyana’s request for the criteria to operate a law school and has raised some other purported concerns of the Review Committee.

Anil Nandlall

Nandlall subsequently defended himself, stating that it was Williams who erred from the beginning when he created the impression that the school was being built with the permission of the CLE.

It was unclear why AG Basil Williams SC is now making the issue public when Armour had raised the matter in January this year. From January until last month, Williams has consistently insisted that the planned JOF Haynes Law School will become a reality. Last month, he assured that construction of the law school would begin once the University of Guyana identified a spot at the Turkeyen Campus.

The statement from his Chambers yesterday explained that Singh was the only head of judiciary on the Review Committee, established in 2009 and was allowed to continue to serve on it by Armour until his removal was requested, given his retirement, at the last CLE Council Meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago from September 7 to 9, 2017.

According to the statement, the Review Commit-tee, which was set up for a different purpose, “suddenly reopened a decision of a CLE meeting in Antigua of September 2016, chaired by previous Chairman Jacqueline Samuels-Brown SC, of Jamaica, which had concluded that some “determination had been made,” that is, granting Guyana permission to establish a law school.

The AG’s Chambers said that it was on this basis that 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 to pave the way for the establishment of such a school.

The MoU, he said, 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) in Guyana.

At a CLE Executive Council Meeting in Jamaica in January, 2017, the AG’s Chambers said the CLE determined that Guyana would conduct its feasibility study but incorporate the requirements of the CLE that a law school under its auspices must satisfy. “Guyana and its Joint Venture partners continue to pursue the feasibility study and a request was made to the Chairman to furnish Guyana formally with the criteria to operate such a law school, but he has not done so and has raised some other purported concerns of the Review Committee to wit, “it was agreed that Council should defer establishing new Law Schools,” it noted, while adding that this is not a decision of the CLE.

According to the statement, this issue will be on the agenda of the next Executive Council Meeting of the CLE in the new year.

The Chambers stressed that Guyanese students continue to face the economic burden of attending the law school in Trinidad.

“The fees for the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) for a Guyanese Law Student has been increased to TT$94,000.00 (ninety four thousand Trinidad and Tobago dollars) or US$15,000.00 (fifteen thousand United States Dollars) or G$3,000,000.00 (three million Guyana dollars). The Guyanese Law student also has to pay for rent, meals, books and travelling in Trinidad and Tobago,” it noted.

Meanwhile, Nandlall, in a media release, said that from the beginning he knew that Williams was misleading the public.

“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,” he said while explaining that it was on the basis that he wrote to Armour.

In the letter, Nandlall asked whether the CLE was aware and in support of the initiative and whether the government’s partners were recognized by it.

“As usual, he launches into his characteristic blame game tirade, trying to shift blame to former Chancellor Carl Singh, the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies and I. The public must now be most familiar with the Attorney General’s modus operandi: at almost everything he fails and then tries to extricate himself by shifting blame to others,” he said.

He pointed out that the truth of the matter is that Williams never obtained the permission of the CLE 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,” he added.

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