Three weeks after the establishment of a local law school was to be discussed at a Council of Legal Education (CLE) meeting in Barbados, Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams SC, who was in attendance, and the government are mum on the outcome.
In fact, Williams left to attend an anti-money laundering meeting in France without briefing Cabinet.
The CLE meeting occurred during the first weekend in February.
The Council is responsible for legal education in the Commonwealth Caribbean and without its imprimatur graduates of a local school would not gain accreditation in the region.
“The question of the law school did not arise at the last Cabinet meeting [last Tuesday]. The Attorney General, as you know, is attending the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] meeting in France and therefore there was no discussion on the law school,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon, when asked for an update during a post-Cabinet press briefing last Thursday, said.
Stabroek News had approached Williams on February 14th, following the swearing in of Senior Counsel Rafiq Khan as a temporary Appellate Judge, and he said that the matter would be addressed at a press conference to be held soon. Later, he said the press conference would be held the following week but nothing materialised.
In January, 2017, the Guyana Government signed an MoU with the University College of the Caribbean and the Law College of the Americas for the construction of the local law school, to be named 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.
Williams since then has consistently maintained that the project was going ahead as planned and that construction would begin once the University of Guyana identified a spot at the Turkeyen Campus
However, in a statement issued on December 9th, 2017, the AG’s Chambers implied that the establishment of the law school was in limbo as the CLE was now saying that no permission was ever given to Guyana. Former AG Anil Nandlall and now retired Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh were blamed for the turn of events. Both Nandlall and Singh distanced themselves from the issue and denied the claims made by Williams.
Following the AG’s Chambers statement, CLE Chairman Reginald Armour SC said that he was “very concerned” because the state-owned Sunday Chronicle report based on the release contained “a number of very significant inaccuracies.”
He had related to this newspaper last December that he wrote to Williams asking for a copy of the press release that the Chronicle had referred to.
Armour stressed that he intended 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.” Up to when this newspaper spoke to Armour last month, the request had not yet been fulfilled.
Days before the CLE meeting, the Chambers of the AG issued a statement in which it said that there was documentary evidence to show that the country did get permission to proceed. However, none of excerpts that were released offered definitive proof that Guyana did have permission.
When Stabroek News made contact with Armour days after the Barbados meeting, he said that a press release on the outcome would be issued. However, this newspaper got no release or saw any evidence of any being issued. Efforts to contact Armour subsequently were futile.