PM Roosevelt Skerrit
PM Roosevelt Skerrit

Dominican students of the Sir High Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad & Tobago will not graduate next month because government has not paid "economic costs" for students for the past eight years. And students who have completed their studies this year will not receive certificates and won't be called to the bar.

According to information reaching the Sun, the law school is willing to negotiate with government; HWLS has asked that at least half the unpaid amount should be settled but all correspondence to the relevant authority here remains "unanswered."

According to a statement, Dominica owes the institution EC$1.8 million as at July 2014. At the end of July 2014 Dominica was 76 months in arrears

But on that issue Dominica has company. The report also shows that Grenada, at the end of the same period, owed EC$2.7 million with 61 months outstanding. Antigua is also heavily in arrears; it owes EC$460,000 (BDS$341,000) for 108 months. However, Antigua has been making payments; the latest being June 2014. St. Lucia is also in arears, owing over EC$500,000.

Information received by the SUN revealed that Caribbean governments' total outstanding financial contributions are in excess of over BDS$ 10 million dollars.

Dominica's Legal Affairs Minister, Ian Douglas, and Attorney General, Levi Peter, confirmed to the SUN that government was indebted to HWLS but said they did not have the documents before them and could not confirm the precise amount.

"I am aware that the Government owes but I can't say or give you the amount, I will have to source that information from the office," Douglas stated.

He, however, expressed surprise that this will have an adverse effect on students who are due to graduate this year. Meantime, AG Peter says that "government is attempting to address the debt situation and it was not the primary responsibility of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to deal with these financial issues."

Government, he says, does have an obligation to the debt and will try to address the issue.

However, many persons who are aware of the situation say it is unacceptable and government for the past 8 years has made no efforts to deal with the matter. "It has reached a point where the people are saying that enough is enough; those who are to graduate this year will be affected if payments are not made then they won't be able to graduate," a source, who requested anonymity, said.

When contacted for comments on the matter, president of the Dominica Bar Association, Wynatte Adrian-Roberts, said she was out of State but did not wish to make any comments on the matter advising us to contact the Minister of Legal Affairs and the Attorney General's chambers for information.

The Hugh Wooding Law School, established in 1973, is located in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and provides professional legal training to persons from the sub-region. The Certificate from HWLS entitles holders to be admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth Caribbean, subject to the laws of each territory.