MIHS tops legal debate

High Court Chief Justice Carl Ingram, center, with Justices Linda Murnane and Witten Philippo, joined with the championship debate teams from Majuro Baptist Christian Academy (left) and Marshall Islands High School.

High school students engaged in the first-ever moot court competition where they were exposed to courtroom debate organized by the Public School System and the Marshall Islands Law Society at the International Conference Center at the end of April. The schools had only three days of preparation for the moot competition after a briefing about the competition earlier the same week at PSS.

The event started off with an opening ceremony with PSS Associate Commissioner for Secondary Schools Junior Paul as master of ceremony. Kanchi Hosia, PSS Commissioner, delivered the opening remarks and thanked the schools and their coaches for their participation.

There weren’t enough students graduating in the field day of law, lawyer and Law Society President Divine Waiti remarked. He said he believes that this competition will spark interest in studying law among students. Assistant Attorney General Joe Lomae told the students that the event is a next-level experience in debating.

Judging the preliminary rounds were Divine Waiti, Attorney John Masek, Attorney General’s office Registrar of Corporations Davina Nathan, and Traditional Rights Court Judge Claire Loeak.

The debate focused on parliamentary privileges, freedom of speech, and the handling of government funds.

Out of the six high schools in the competition, Marshall Islands High School and Majuro Baptist Christian Academy, who competed in the first preliminary rounds, made it to the final round that was held at the High Court.

Presiding over the championship round of the debate were Chief Justice Carl Ingram, and Associate Justices Witten Philippo and Linda Murnane.

Wilmer Joel, Gladden Lakmej, Maryam Schellhase, and Kelera Turaga presented arguments for the appellant (positive) side of MIHS. Their opponents from MBCA were Alatera Martin, Albert Jermeto, Joseph Pickering, and Brianna Tartios for respondent (negative).

Both sides defended their positions. The judges would intervene and ask questions concerning a point or argument the speaker is making. Each speaker tried their best to answer the questions given by the judges. If they couldn’t they replied with an honest no.

A lesson for all present was offered by Chief Justice Ingram who pointed out that it’s acceptable to admit ignorance rather than being an “etao” (deceiver) by trying to make up a response.

After the debate concluded, the judges met together to decide the ruling of the debate. The judges ruled in favor of MIHS becoming the first high school in the country to win the moot court competition. MBCA came in second and Assumption High School in third place.

The winning team MIHS who had only one day of preparation, at first wanted to pull out from the competition, but the organizers insisted they participate. AAG Lomae told the MIHS team that they accomplished the mission impossible to which one of the students replied, “No, with God all things are possible.”


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