AG Williams maintains Guyana has permission to set up law school

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Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, is once again stating firmly that the Government of Guyana is forging ahead with the establishment of the JOF Haynes Law School and is continuing the work which he said was started under the previous Administration.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

The Attorney General, in response to a question posed by the media regarding the denial of permission for Guyana to undertake the building of the Law School, reasoned that permission must have been granted,  a release from the DPI stated.

“Why would the Chancellor of the Judiciary at the time, Justice Bernard go to a meeting and talk about sighting at the University of Guyana for the school?” he questioned.

The Minister reiterated that the project is currently in the feasibility stage where the Committee will be examining all the factors, including establishing the Law School under the auspices of the Council of Legal Education (CLE).

He made it clear that the Government of Guyana cannot be stopped from building the Law School, but the country wishes to remain community-minded. As a founding member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), AG Williams said Guyana has the right to establish the institution since there are several in various Caribbean countries.

The Minister said the Committee which comprises the Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana and other professionals, is in the process of the identifying the land at the Turkeyen Campus of the University.

A process, which he expects to be completed in the shortest possible time.

Only recently, the AG posted that his Ministry is in the process of finalising the engagement with Guyana’s Jamaican counterparts in relation to the establishment of the Law School, dispelling claims that the matter has been put on hold.

At a press conference, he made it clear that a statement issued by Chairman of the CLE, Senior Counsel, Reginald Armour and repeated by the former AG Anil Nandlall, stating that Guyana was not given permission to establish the law school had to be withdrawn.

Today, he said that “We are saying that no international organisation is driven by the Opposition and we have an email from him [Reginald Armour] assuring Nandlall that he would put the item on the agenda, without informing me, the sitting Attorney General for Guyana.”

Williams had raised concerns with the operations of Armour, whom he said was engaged with members of the Opposition regarding the Law School.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Nandlall in responding to the AG, had explained that when the matter first appeared in the press, he was the one to query about Guyana’s failure to receive the permission of the CLE to establish such an institution and eventually cautioned against proceeding along such a path, unilaterally.

“Mr. Williams boldly asserted that he obtained permission of the Council. This remains a blatant misrepresentation. I drew the matter to the attention of the Council. The Council raised the matter with him and to the utter shock of the Council, he informed them that they (the Council) granted Guyana permission to establish a Law School” said Nandlall.

At that time, the Council, in order to comply with due process, agreed to search its record for this alleged permission.

However, according to Nandlall, after several months they reportedly found no such permission, since “none was granted.”

“If such permission was granted, it must be in some form of communication to him, either in a letter, email, minutes of meetings, or even a text message on a cell phone. All he needs to do is to produce it and put the matter to rest. But he cannot because no such permission was granted,” Nandlall said.

The former AG posited that “by now it has become clear that Mr. Basil Williams did not even know that Guyana requires the permission of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) of the West Indies in order to establish a local law school which would meet the region’s acceptance. As a result, in blissful ignorance he misled the government and announced publicly, that Guyana would be establishing its own local Law School.”

Recently, former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh was recorded in the media denying knowledge of permission being granted for same.

“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,” said Singh in a statement.

In January 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with the University of the Caribbean (UCC) and Law College of the Americas (LCA) for the establishment of the JOF Haynes Law School in Guyana.

There are presently three laws schools in the Caribbean offering the Legal Education Certificate (LEC). These are the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas.

The project comes after some two decades of lobbying for an alternative to the three existing laws schools currently servicing the Caribbean region. If established, it is expected to significantly reduce the cost, particularly to Guyanese, to continue with their law studies while attracting other students from across the Caribbean.

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