Caricom is seeking a permanent resolution towards ending the perennial problem of Guyanese law students being accommodated at the Hugh Wooding Law Faculty, Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall told the University of Guyana (UG) students, when he met with them on Friday at the Cheddi Jagan Lecture Theatre.
Minister Nandlall informed the students that Chairman of the Caribbean Community Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will be writing to the Council of Legal Education, requesting that a comprehensive examination be undertaken of the provision of legal education in the region, with a view to finding a permanent solution to the problem so that it will not be an annual exercise.
Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall addressing the University of Guyana law students
Minister Nandlall explained too, that Dr. Gonsalves will also inform the Council of Legal Education that they must admit as per the historic agreement, the 25 Guyanese students for the academic year 2014 into the Hugh Wooding Law Faculty.
“I am hoping that the request by the Prime Minister would be accommodated and acted upon by the law school in a positive way, and that 25 students graduating, top of the class this year or by whatever mechanism or criteria those 25 students will be admitted for the year 2014, and we are hoping that whatever mechanism is going to be established to find a permanent fix to this arrangement, that mechanism be enacted quickly so that we can move swiftly to find a solution to this problem,” Minister Nandlall told the students.
“ Whether it will be done for the year 2015, I am not sure, but what obviously we would agitate for at every forum available is that until that mechanism is found, the 25 students’ arrangement of admission into the law school by way of the automatic process must continue,” he said.
Starting in 1995, and later adopted in 1996 as part of an agreement between the Council for Legal Education and UG, every year, 25 automatic placements were offered for entry into Hugh Wooding.
This agreement which expired in 2012 and was later extended to 2014 was objected to at the Council for Legal Education 2014 meetings. The Council made the argument on the grounds that when Caricom made expansive, the provision of legal education in the region, it would have increased the influx of students to UWI, and the opening up of new law programme in several Caricom states including at Mona, Jamaica. On the other hand no decision was taken to expand the Hugh Wooding Law Faculty which now has to deal with the influx.
Minister Nandlall explained that this year the UWI law school would graduate 550 students, which is more than Hugh Wooding and the Norman Manley Law School can accommodate and as such, the decision was taken not to automatically as per the UWI and UG’s agreement, accommodate Guyanese students. Both of these Law Schools, which accommodate students from the region usually, take in 180 per year for the former and 150 for the latter.
Upon the decision of the Council of Legal Education, Government had reached out to Caricom on the issue and was successful in getting the matter discussed at the recent the 25th Inter-Sessional CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Prime Minister Gonsalves as Head of Caricom, committed to writing to the Council of Legal Education to have the matter resolved.
During Friday’s engagement, one of the students queried the likeliness of the Council of Legal Education favouring the accommodation of the 25 students from the 2014 batch, given their decision in the first instance to stop the process.
The University of Guyana (UG) laws students at the meeting with Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Anil Nandlall
The Minister assured with reasonable certainty that the decision of the Heads of Government will be acted upon in a favourable way by the Council. “I cannot concede a decision of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community under which the Council of Legal Education falls, that decision emanating from that high body being disregarded by the council, to my mind that is inconceivable,” he said.
Minister Nandlall explained that the Council, which meets twice a year, is scheduled to do so in July. He pointed out that Guyana cannot wait until then and hence will utilise the occasion of the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education’s upcoming visit to Guyana to discuss the issue. She has been appointed to sit on the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry and will be in Guyana from March 18, for three days.
“I would use the occasion of her visit to engage her on that matter so we can establish some type of mechanism… that deals specifically with this matter and deal with dispatch and urgency that it requires having regards to the fact that the academic term is scheduled to begin in September 2014,” he said.
Responding to a call for a law school in Guyana, the Minister explained that the issue is not a new one and has been considered before by Cabinet. Minister Nandlall however noted the establishment of a law school will take a number of years and will be a most expensive undertaking if Guyana was to have a law school that it can be proud of; one of quality and one that gains the recognition and admiration of academics and practitioners alike in the region.
Minister Nandlall also informed the students that the Bahamian Government has indicated that it can accommodate Guyanese students at their newly established law facility.