Guyana’s moves to establish its own law school has hit a bump in the road. Yesterday, Chairman of the region’s Council of Legal Education (CLE), Reginald Armour, disclosed that the paperwork submitted for the law school has come up short.
According to Armour, the Attorney General of Guyana and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, provided the CLE with a feasibility study for the proposed law school, on July 4th, 2018.
The CLE’s sub-committee has since looked at the study and prepared a report.
According to Armour, on Monday, members of the CLE’s sub-committee and the joint venture partners that proposed to set up this law school with the Government of Guyana all met.
The CLE is concerned about three things. The Chairman disclosed that the feasibility was not treaty-compliant – it does not fit within the treaty that the Council for Legal Education operates under.
Secondly, Armour said, the feasibility study does not satisfy the quality assurance that is required. And there is also need to see a curriculum.
The official said that the discussions will be held with Government on a timetable on the proposed law school.
“When those things are submitted, we will look at them.”
Meanwhile, in response, Attorney General Williams said that the details that are required are “not a big deal”. In fact, the curriculum that will be used is that of the Hugh Wooding Law School.
Williams said that the Government will be responding and engaging with the CLE on the issues.
The officials were speaking to media on the sidelines during the 50th Meeting of the Council of Legal Education held at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown, which commenced yesterday.
Government has earmarked a spot in the University of Guyana campus for the building of what will be known as the J.O.F. (Joseph Oscar Fitzclarence) Haynes Law School.
Currently, students have to travel abroad, to Trinidad and other territories, to complete their studies.
LEGAL MINDS NEEDED
President Granger called on the CLE to find new ways to improve the delivery of affordable legal education across the region.
“Guyana’s need for a greater number of trained legal practitioners cannot be satisfied by the present quotas imposed on our students by regional law schools. Guyana looks towards the Council of Legal Education to facilitate the education of more specialised legal practitioners in the Caribbean,” the Head of State said.
He reminded the gathering that legal education is needed to ensure an adequate number of legal professionals can provide services throughout the State, promote access to justice, populate the systems with lawyers, jurists and specialised legal practitioners as well as preparing future practitioners to preserve the rule of law.
In making his case for Guyana, Granger insisted, “Guyana is the largest state in the Caribbean Community and cannot ignore the spatial dimension of extending the reach of legal services, and of expanding access to justice,” the President said, adding that legal aid programmes have been introduced to communities that were previously underserved by legal services.
Moreover, the President noted that access to the courts here is being enhanced with the establishment of new magisterial districts and specialised courts. The Upper Demerara River Magisterial District Court and the Rupununi Magisterial District Court Office were commissioned over the past year.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Williams told the gathering that Guyana played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Council, as the agreement establishing it was signed in Georgetown.
Guyana is also a founding member of the Council, together with CARICOM Member States – Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, along with the University of the West Indies and the University of Guyana.
“The CLE therefore has a significant role in providing postgraduate legal training and education for the lawyers who will shape the legal areas critical to Guyana’s future. As Attorney General, I am very concerned about the state of legal education in Guyana,” he said, noting that, “this is an interesting time for legal education”.
He added: “There is a wind of change blowing through the legal profession and the CLE must rise to meet the demands and challenges that come with such change…The challenge then for legal education is one of helping tomorrow’s lawyers meet the needs of that future.”
The Attorney General alluded to the ability to access legal education becoming a challenge. He noted that every year Guyanese law students face “enormous financial burden with fees of TT$98,000”.
“Our students simply cannot afford this high cost, and therefore are deterred from a legal career…To help with the financial difficulties, the Government of Guyana for the past two years has covered 25 percent of the cost. However, the remainder is still a hurdle for many to jump over. Further, the quota of only 25 Guyanese is no longer practical, as more Guyanese are pursuing a legal career. These factors affect Guyanese accessing legal education,” the Attorney General said.
Similarly, Chancellor of the Judiciary, Mrs. Yonette Cummings-Edwards, in noting the challenges that face the CLE, made it clear that “the quality of legal education must not be diminished or diluted”. She urged the Council to cater to the needs of the people of the Caribbean Bloc as envisaged in 1970. This, she said, must remain sacrosanct.
Also attending the meeting were Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge; Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings; Minister of Social Cohesion Dr. George Norton and Minister of Public Affairs, Ms. Dawn Hastings.
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