Former acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh yesterday rejected claims by the Attorney General’s Chambers linking him to a purported about-face by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) on the establishment of a local law school.
Additionally, Chairman of the CLE Reginald Armour SC yesterday said that he has written Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams SC for a copy of the media release his office disseminated last Saturday and in which it was claimed that the regional body was now saying that no permission was ever given to Guyana to move ahead with the project. Armour noted that a Sunday Chronicle report based on the release contains noteworthy inaccuracies, which he will respond to once Williams provides the release.
The release had stated that Armour was relying on a report of a Review Committee, which included Justice Singh, “to now say that the CLE never gave permission to Guyana to establish its own Law School….”
It further claimed that Justice Singh was the only Head of Judiciary on the Review Committee and was allowed to continue to serve on it by Armour until his removal was requested—due to his retirement in February—at the last CLE Council Meeting, held in Trinidad and Tobago in September.
The release added that the Review Committee, which was set up for a different purpose, “suddenly reopened” a decision of a CLE Council Meeting that had granted Guyana permission to establish a law school.
But in a statement issued yesterday, Justice Singh denied the utterances of the Chambers and made it clear that he never participated in any discussions at the level of the Review Committee on the matter.
In January this year, the Guyana Govern-ment signed a Memoran-dum 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.
As recently as last month, Williams assured that the facility was still on the cards and that construction would begin once the University of Guyana identified a spot at the Turkeyen Campus.
Justice Singh said that parts of the Guyana Chronicle’s report on the release were “troubling” and it was a “gross inaccuracy” to state that he was part of the Review Committee which issued a report saying that CLE never gave permission for the school to be established.
“The troubling parts of this release so far as it makes reference to me are that: (a) I have been a member of the Review Committee of the Council of Legal Education. (b) The Review Committee, with me a member, issued a report to say that the CLE (Council of Legal Education) never gave permission to Guyana to establish its own Law School. (c) I was allowed to serve on the Review Committee even after I demitted judicial office in February of this year,” he said.
While acknowledging that he was indeed a member of the Review Committee of the CLE, Justice Singh said that it was “a gross inaccuracy and a complete falsehood” for the Attorney General/Ministry of Legal Affairs to assert that he was a participating member of the Review Committee that issued a report to say that the CLE never gave permission to Guyana to establish its own law school.
This assertion, he pointed out, has no basis in truth or in fact. “Indeed such a statement was recklessly made without consideration for its consequences,” he said.
Justice Singh explained that for several months prior to his retirement in February of this year, he had stopped attending Committee meetings. Additionally, he said his retirement marked the end of his membership.
“All of the meetings of the Review Committee which I attended were chaired by Mrs. Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, QC. I never attended or participated in such meetings chaired by Mr. Reginald Armour, SC the current Chairman of the Council of Legal Education either in person or by electronic means. I certainly did not attend or participate in a Review Committee meeting Chaired by Mr. Armour, SC in January of this year in Jamaica,” he said.
He made it clear that he never participated in any discussion on the issue nor did he contribute to the Review Committee’s report.
“I was never part of any Review Committee discussion on a proposed Law School for Guyana nor have I ever contributed in any form or manner to the preparation and release of any report by the Review Committee which addressed the proposed Law School for Guyana,” he added.
The AG’s Chambers release also stated 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.
Armour yesterday said he was “very concerned” because the Sunday Chronicle report based on the release contains “a number of very significant inaccuracies.”
In a telephone interview, he related to Stabroek News that earlier in the day he wrote to Williams asking for a copy of the press release that the newspaper referred to.
Armour stressed that he intends to correct the inaccuracies of the newspaper report but “wanted to see what it is that the Attorney General said… while I consider the terms which I will use to correct the inaccuracies.”
Further, he said that because of the history and the fact that the matter has been “carefully documented” as recent as at a CLE meeting which took place in Trinidad in September this year, he needed to see firsthand what Williams said.
His response, he explained, will be cross-referenced with what the Attorney General has said against the CLE’s records of the facts.
According to the CLE Chairman, he did not want to preempt or assume that the AG was correctly quoted or referred to. “I want to first see what he said. So, I have written to him this morning and asked him to please urgently let me have a copy of his press statement,” he said. Up to when Armour spoke with this newspaper yesterday afternoon, Williams had not responded to the request.
Asked about a specific date when he first had a discussion with Williams about the proposed law school, the CLE Chairman said he doesn’t want to respond to this as yet as he first wants to see what the AG is saying.
“What I can say categorically is that there are a number of very serious significant inaccuracies in the Sunday Chronicle report. Beyond that I don’t want to say anything further. I want to first see what the Attorney General said in his press statement. I am concerned,” he reiterated.
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.
Former attorney general Anil Nandlall last Saturday 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.
“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 added.
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.