Agreement for local law school signed, to be submitted to Council of Legal Education

Chairman of the LCA, Courtney Wynter (left) and UCC Executive Chancellor and Interim President Professor Dennis Gayle (right) shaking hands with Attorney General Basil Williams shortly after the agreement for the establishment of a law school in Guyana was signed (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers)

The agreement for the establishment of the proposed JOF Haynes Law School (JHLS) was recently signed by the Guyana Government and its partners and this along with the feasibility study and the business plan will be submitted to the Council of Legal Education (CLE).

This announcement was made in a press release disseminated by the Attorney General (AG) Chambers and Ministry of Legal Affairs on Thursday, which stopped short of saying how soon the documents would be sent to the CLE for its consideration. The CLE is responsible for legal education in the region.

The topic of the establishment of Guyana’s own law school has been a sore issue between the CLE and Attorney General Basil Williams SC. CLE Head, Reginald Armour of Trinidad and Tobago had previously said that Guyana had gotten no permission to build such an institution.             There has been at least one meeting on the issue between the two parties but the outcome has never been made public.

In a press release, the Ministry said that over the period of three days, June 18-20, 2018, Williams and members of the local JHLS committee met with representatives of the Jamaica joint venture partners.

The representatives were Professor Dennis Gayle, Executive Chancellor of the University of the Com-monwealth Caribbean, UCC; Dr. David Wan, Group Finance Director, Courtney Wynter, Chairman of the Board, Law College of the Americas (LCA) and Marcelle Donaldson, Attorney-at-Law. The visit was specifically aimed to finalize and sign the shareholders’ Agreement for the JHLS, the release said.

“The JHLS created for this purpose met with the representatives on Monday, June 18, 2018 to hammer out the final details of the Agreement. The representatives continued to meet, with the Honourable Attorney General, who represented the Government of Guyana’s interest”, the Ministry said.

It added that the team worked “relentlessly” to ensure that the result was an agreement acceptable by all parties. After careful consideration and collaboration the agreement was signed and witnessed by representatives of the parties involved.

According to the release, the shareholders’ agreement together with the Feasibility Study and Related Business Plan will be submitted to the CLE.

In January, 2017, the Guyana Govern-ment signed a 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 had 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 Armour 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.”  Despite many attempts by this newspaper, Armour has not provided an update on this matter and what was the CLE’s position on the matter.

In February, the Mini-stry had said that it had documentary evidence to show that the country did get permission to proceed.

Williams had continuously expressed his dissatisfaction with the 25 places awarded to Guyana at the Hugh Wooding Law School. The University of Guyana has already identified a piece of land at its Turkeyen campus where the school will be built.

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