NEWS

Amendments To Legal Practitioners Act Allows For Local University Representation

The amendment does away with the appointment of a dean from overseas and includes representation from deans of Fiji National University and the University of Fiji law schools
29 May 2020 11:36
Amendments To Legal Practitioners Act Allows For Local University Representation
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum outside Parliament on May 28, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Parliament yesterday passed amendments to the Legal Practitioners Act giving the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the power to appoint representatives from local universities to sit on the Board of Legal Education.

Currently, only deans from the University of the South Pacific including universities in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand sit on the Board, which approves and amends legal programmes to be taught locally.

The amendment does away with the appointment of a dean from overseas and includes representation from deans of the Fiji National University and the University of Fiji Law Schools.

It also makes it mandatory for appointees to attend board meetings instead of sending delegates to represent them.

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad objected to the Bill saying the Fiji Law Society was not consulted and that it was important to have restrictions on the discretionary powers given to the Attorney-General.

He said law societies in many countries had a very important role and that a representative from the law society should sit on the board.

“It’s a bit disappointing that we’re changing this law without consulting the major stakeholder, the Fiji Law Society and replacing that designated representation with an open designation which says two people,” Mr Prasad said.

“It could have said two people with absolute legal background or two legal academics or two professors of law. It’s not in the Bill.”

In his right of reply Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the A-G has always been the appointing authority of the board since 1997 and that it was not a new aspect that has been brought in.

He said including the Fiji Law Society did not mean that they bring the level of competency required to ensure the organisation functions to its fullest and lives up to its mandate.

“The competency of a person who may hold an official position in the Law Society may not be commensurate with the requirement of the competency that is required to be in the board. It’s a very short-sighted way of looking at it,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“We’ll be appointing the right people on merit for those right positions.”

UniFiji welcomes move

University of Fiji Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shaista Shameem, welcomed the move to rectify the inconsistencies in the composition of the board.

She said it was strange that even after 10 years of existence, the University of Fiji’s Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law was not represented on the board.

The university looks forward to participating on the Board to enhance and improve legal education in Fiji, she said.

“We need to think of new types of legal training for the 21st century and venture also into policy areas with respect to legal education overall,” Professor Shameem said.

“With all three Law Schools on the Board, legal education could be more broadly and comprehensively discussed with a view to technological innovations and the social and economic needs of the community.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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