Attorney General Basil Williams has assured that the Government will be moving ahead with plans to establish a local law school.
At an engagement with the media at his Carmichael Street, Georgetown Office on Tuesday, the Attorney General said “We’ll have a [law] school one way or the other.”
“We have a plan. I just told you with oil and gas we’ll have a law school.”
As a result of several issues encountered with the Council of Legal Education (CLE) of the West Indies since the signing of an agreement for the feasibility study for the local law school in 2017, the Attorney General indicated that the Government is mulling a law school which does not come under the CLE.
“We could also model it after [The] Bahamas. They built and then they went under the umbrella of CLE,” the Attorney General told the media.
If Guyana establishes a law school without the accreditation of the CLE, it means that lawyers who would have attended the local institution, will only be able to practice in Guyana.
But the Minister of Legal Affairs does not see this as an issue.
“Basically there is a parallel here. Here is where everything is happening, here is where all the resources will be so perhaps if you have a law school built in Guyana and Guyanese lawyers are graduating, they practice in Guyana, I don’t know they need to go anywhere else to practice, here is where the money will be and the opportunities,” the Attorney General said.
He made the remarks in the presence of some first year law students of the Hugh Wooding Law School who were there to discuss issues they face at the Trinidad and Tobago institution.
According to the Attorney General, before the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas came under the CLE, the few students who could have afforded to attend the other regional institutions were also not able to practice in The Bahamas.
In January 2017, the Government entered into an agreement with two Jamaican institutions to complete a feasibility study to build a law school in Guyana. The school was named J.O.F Haynes Law School of the Americas.
However, after 31 months, local authorities are nowhere close to setting up the tertiary education facility.
The Minister of Legal Affairs said “the goal post keeps shifting.”
He spoke of several issues encountered with the Council of Legal Education (CLE) since 2017.
He referred to a statement made by the Chairman of the CLE, Reginald Armour who in 2017 said Guyana was never granted permission from the to build a law school here.
Subsequently, the Minister said an objection was made to the nature of the project given that it was a Public Private Partnership.
“When we discovered we in fact had permission and negotiations had gone a far way…so they move from that [and] the next thing you know, they raise an objection now to the PPP (Public Private Partnership) nature of the contract saying they didn’t envisage third parties,” the Attorney General explained.
He added that “it’s only then that we (the government) understood that even if they build a school, they (CLE) are required to take over the school and run it.”
The CLE operates three law schools in our Region: the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad – both established in 1973 – and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas which was established in 1998.
The Attorney General believes that the regional body’s responsibility should be changed to being an accreditation body.
The Government was setting up the law school in partnership with the University College of the Caribbean (UCC)/ Law School of the Americas (LCA) which the AG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with on January 11, 2017 to conduct a feasibility study. There it was disclosed that the government will be granted a 30% share in the venture while the Private investors will be granted a 70% share.
In July 2018, the feasibility study was submitted.
The CLE then raised some concerns relating to the business plan.
The University of Guyana has also identified 10 acres of land at its Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown campus, for the construction of a building.
Over the years, the HWLS has only been accepting 25 Guyanese students with the Government paying half the cost. This year, the Government is offering full scholarships to a limited number of persons for the year 2019/2020.