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  • By Joyce McClure

A competition other than sports in the FSM

Battle of the wits marks FSM Law Day

Carlson Tomihara, Kayolanie Heuston, Paul Allen Morabito

Colonia, Yap-- While the athletes competing in the 2018 Micro Games were preparing a few miles away at the Matson Yap Sports Complex, another type of competition was taking place in Yap. High school debaters from Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap and Chuuk gathered for a competition of wits during the annual FSM National Law Day. Held annually on July 12, the celebration commemorates four historical events that occurred on this same date: The first Congress of Micronesia (1965), the first Micronesian Constitutional Convention (1975), approval of the FSM Constitution (1978), and the inauguration of the Supreme Court of FSM (1981).

Four teams, each consisting of two debaters and their coach who had won their state competitions, came together from Kosrae High School, SDA High School (Pohnpei), Xavier High School (Chuuk) and Yap Catholic High School to debate the proposition, “Now, therefore, be it resolved that, the Federated States of Micronesia shall ratify the 1951 United Nations Convention and its 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees.”

In his opening address, Dennis K. Yamase, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of FSM, noted, “As always, we in the Court and the legal community take a keen interest not only in the propositions put forth to be debated, but also in the continuing development of the full potential of the individual debaters themselves. The very close involvement of these debaters,” he continued, “with the intensive preparation and honing of oral advocacy skills for the debates is testimony to their strong passion, enthusiasm, and dedication to the art of debating.”

One point made during the first debate of the daylong event that received particular attention was the definition of “refugee.” In the match between Kosrae and Yap, the Kosrae debaters, P.K. Sigrah and Kayolanie Heuston, in their opening argument against ratification by FSM, brought up climate change “refugees” as a recent addition to the refugees that are being forced from their homes. In rebuttal, Yap’s Stacee Bomtam and Carlson Tomihara who set forth the proponent side, disagreed by arguing that people fleeing climate change are “victims” and not “refugees” as set forth by the convention. Refugees, they argued, are forced from their home countries due to “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

But in the end, the Pohnpei team of Marlin Nena Lee Ling, and Paul Allen Morabito won first place.

Debaters from Chuuk were DeShawn Romolow and Rita Mae Keller. Judges were attorneys Carleila Carl-Edgar, Danny Recue, Jr., Thomas Thiesen and Stephanie Ritland.

Chief Justice Yamase concluded his remarks by saying, “We hope that after this year’s debates are done, these young students will continue to cultivate and refine their competence for clear and critical thinking, coherent and logical presentation of argument, persuasive articulation of complex ideas, and effective delivery. It is our hope,” he added, “that this talented group of young debaters will go on to further their education in college and then return home and join the legal community in some professional capacity.”

Scholarships ranging from $250 to over $1,000 were awarded by FSM Development Bank, Yap Delegation Office, Etscheit Enterprise, Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Ramp and Mida Law Firm, Mrs. Norah E. Sigrah and Bank of Guam Pohnpei Branch.


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