McGill Supports WECC, Quality Education -Speaks to Nation in Spirited Conversation on SpoonTalk

MONROVIA: Margibi County Senator and former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill, has been quite vocal on national issues, brandishing the opposition baton in no uncertain way, and keeping the Boakai administration on edge.

The Coalition for Democratic Change Legislative Caucus Chairperson once again took up the public microphone, this time on Spoon Talk night show, where he engaged a team of ideologically heterogenous panelists in the full glare of some 5000 viewers on Monday night, April 1.

Sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for unspecified allegations of corruption, the Margibi County Senator is not shying away at all from the impunity debate, always weighing in on the War and Economic Crimes Court debate often positively.

Responding to mounting questions on his position regarding the Executive Resolution presented to the National Legislature to commence the process of establishing the War and Economic Crimes Court, Sen. McGill said: “Let me make it clear that this resolution in itself does not establish the court; it is just laying the foundation for the court to be established. By passing the resolution doesn’t mean that the court will be established tomorrow, because consistently you know Liberia is a sovereign country; we are using our laws.”

He explained that the National Legislature, under Article 34 of the Liberian Constitution, has the right to create the courts.

In Article 34 (e), it is provided that “the Constitution provides that the Legislature shall have the power to constitute courts inferior to the Supreme Court, including circuit courts, claim courts and such other courts with prescribed jurisdictional powers as may be deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice throughout the Republic.”

Senator McGill therefore pointed out that the Legislature is going to create two courts – one for economic crimes and one for international crimes which is the war crime court.

“That is, [the court will be established] consistent with Article 34 and Article 57 of the Constitution which grants the President the right to lead the foreign policy of our country,” he noted.

The Senator continued: “So we are going to look at all the implications; we are going to look at the TRC, some of the recommendations in the TRC Report which should be implemented. We are going to look at financial mobilization; the security component and everything. But in conclusion, we will have a concurrence of the resolution by next week.”

Unanimous concurrence in sight -McGill

He indicated that he has been following the debate on this issue, with some members of the public indicating that the Senate is dragging its feet.

“The Senate isn’t dragging its feet on the issue,” he clarified. “As you know, I am the chairman of the biggest caucus in the Legislature – the CDC caucus which has 11 members. The entire 11 members are going to vote for the War Crime Court.”

Senator McGill further divulged that the CDC Legislative Caucus has planned to have a retreat over the weekend to resolve the issue of the Resolution, and that each of them has in their possession already a draft of the resolution.

“The draft is going around for people to review it,” he noted, adding: “Hopefully, there is going to be a conversation amongst the senators this weekend at our retreat. By next week we are going to pass it and it’s going to be overwhelming.”

“Not only that I am chairing the CDC caucus of 11 members, there are guys who we are even convinced to vote for the Resolution.”

The senator also disclosed that he is also ‘a member of a bloc of 15’, and that there will be a unanimous vote by the Senate concurrence.

“The 29 senators are going to vote for it. We are going to have a concurrence on the resolution by next week,” he asserted. “You should also know that we are going to review it to trash the issues that are there and need to be addressed.”

Fixing Education not for two months

The Spoon Talk panelists also quizzed Senator McGill on his stance about fixing the Liberian educational system. In response, he noted that it will not be for just less than two months to address the multiplicity of problem with the sector that he chairs at the Legislature, but indicated that the problem needs the involvement of all stakeholders.

“Firstly the Minister of Education has made a county tour and visited the entire five counties in the southeast of Liberia to see for herself the condition of the educational sector – the kind of schools we are running.

The Margibi County Senator and Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education pointed out that the problem with the education sector is not to be blamed on a particular government.

“When you see the kind of facilities – some students are sitting on what some people called blocks (meaning bricks) – there are no chairs in the schools,” he said.

The newly appointed Minister of Education has returned from her countryside tour two days ago and told him, the Senate Chair on the sector, about her experience.

“This gives us the opportunity now to say we need to review some of the educational policies. We have already started doing so,” he told the panelists.

He added: “We will be having an educational dialogue with most of the stakeholders and they will be making recommendations concerning how we can change the law. For instance, few issues parents are concerned about – school fees.”

Concerning the proliferation of private schools, the Senate Education Committee chair acknowledged the problem, stating that private schools are all round the place, with individuals and groups arbitrarily establishing them. He lamented that there is no control, particularly regarding arbitrary hike of school fees.

McGill also underscored how classroom teachers who are paid by the government do not stay in the classroom to teach, leaving students unattended.

The Senator further noted: “We need to look at graduation fees. Most parents are crying about the arbitrary fees. Some of the graduation fees are even more than the entire school fees the children spent to go to school in a year. So, we need to look at that.”

He alluded to a number of things to fix in the system and said that a lot of stakeholders are to be involved with fixing the system.

“We are talking to private school owners,” he said also. “We are talking public school operators; we are talking to the churches because you know the churches run some of the big schools in our country. We are going to bring everybody together on around table to solicit suggestions on what we can do to address the abnormal situations in our school system.”

Senator McGill disclosed that the Joint Legislative Committees of both Houses will have to tour the country to assess the system, not only to address the situation of getting teachers who are trained but also regarding doing voluntary teaching.

“These are the things I am concerned about when we start talking about the budget,” he said. “Addressing these issues will not be just in two months. It will take some time.”

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