Despite an avalanche of requests from the press during the course of last week, while the Council of Legal Education (CLE) was in Guyana deliberating on the question of a local law school, I intentionally remained silent. I did so to avoid the certain but ridiculous allegation of prejudicing Guyana’s case, which would have definitely emanated from the desperate Mr. Basil Williams, Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs.
In the process, the AG was allowed to kill the project and perform its final rites, all by himself. It is a classic case of the remarkable and unparalleled incompetence that permeates the entire Government of which the AG is definitely a mega-star.
Readers would recall that in the latter half of 2016, the AG made the surprising public announcement that “he” was able to secure from the CLE “permission” to establish a law school in Guyana at the Council’s recently concluded meeting. Immediately, I publicly debunked this assertion as a deliberate lie. I explained that the AG obviously does not understand the infrastructure under which legal education is managed and administered in the Region. I detailed that it is done under the Council of Legal Education Treaty, to which every country in the English speaking Caribbean is a signatory and that this Treaty is incorporated in an Act of Parliament, in each of those territories and that that Act vests in the Council, exclusively, the power to administer legal education in the Region, through law schools established by the Council. Therefore, if a law school is to be established in a territory, it is the Council that has to do so. Characteristically, the AG rejected what I said and proceeded to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with some unknown institutions in Jamaica, to partner Guyana in the establishment of a local law school. Again, I warned that the AG is proceeding along a precarious path. Again, he ignored me, maintaining that Guyana obtained “permission” to establish a local law school “many years ago”. You will note the change in language from his first pronouncement on this issue.
He was rebuffed by a statement emanating from Council itself. He, ridiculously, accused the Chairman of the Council of “conspiring with politicians in the Opposition in Guyana”. He then proceeded to secure a plot of land, upon which the law school will be constructed. He further ascribed a name to this phantom school – “The JOF Haynes Law School”. At the turning of the sod for this institution, he said that the law school should be “up and running” by January 2019. Again, I publicly accused him of hallucinating and misleading our law students. By this time, the matter became the subject of a substantive item on the agenda of the Council at its meetings. The minutes of those meetings were recently made public in an article in the Stabroek News. Those minutes revealed the following:
1. that there is no record in the Council that Guyana was ever granted “permission” to establish a law school;
2. that it is not possible for such “permission” to be granted, since the authority to establish law schools in the Region vests solely with the Council itself and that the Council never delegated that power to the Government of Guyana;
3. that the Council has requests from territories in the Region to establish law schools and that the Council has requested that those territories prepare a feasibility study and submit it for Council’s consideration.
In the end, the Council distanced itself from any proposed law school in Guyana.
Being totally embarrassed, the AG bizarrely accused former Chancellor, Carl Singh, for his predicament! Needless to say, the former Chancellor correctly denied any knowledge of an involvement in any negotiations at the Council in relation to a law school in Guyana.
At the meeting held in Georgetown, last week, the Council not only reiterated the history of this matter but even rejected the feasibility study presented by the AG, which omitted to include an important component, such as the curriculum of the school. Imagine a feasibility study being done in relation to an academic institution, which does not include its more important characteristic, that is, its curriculum! This level of incompetence is more than extraordinary.
In conclusion, I hope that sensible people have come to the realization that a local law school, within the existing framework under which legal education is administered in the Region, is not on the horizon.
However, I do not rule out ego and arrogance driving the establishment of one that will not enjoy the recognition of the Council. Such an institution would, for reasons too obvious to explain, be a colossal travesty.
To our esteemed AG, I hate to say, I told you so!