Moroccos House of Councilors Approves Controversial Education Bill

Rabat – The House of Councilors, the 120-member upper house of Morocco’s parliament, has approved the newly adopted Draft Law 51.17, definitely putting to rest nationwide debates about the implications of that law for the future of Moroccan education.The draft law has widely been opposed in Moroccan conservative circles. One MP of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) resigned after Parliament adopted the bill. To most PDJ supporters, the bill feels like a dangerous deviation from the party’s traditional nationalist and Islamist foundational pillars.Critics of the bill, among them former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, feared that the adoption of French as the principal medium of instruction for scientific subjects at high school level, one of the bill’s major points, amounted to a cultural surrender to French culture and identity. Benkirane, a founding and well-respected member of Morocco’s ruling, Islamist PJD, even called on PJD MPs to boycott the law because, he said, it was contradictory to Moroccan culture and identity.According to education minister Said Amzazi, however, those who opposed the draft law have an incomplete, inaccurate understanding of what it really means for Morocco’s education system.Speaking yesterday after the House of Councilors green lighted the parliament’s lower house’s decision to adopt the bill in question, Amzazi said that social inclusiveness and socio-economic equity are some aspects of the law that have not been sufficiently mentioned in debates over its implications for the future of the Moroccan social and educational systems.Channeling King Mohammed VI’s Throne Day Speech, which called for a new impetus to complete the ongoing reforms and bring about “a new generation” of Moroccan public servants, the Moroccan minister said the law is consistent with the “royal vision” to modernize Morocco’s education, maximize pupils’ performance in foreign languages and policy decisions. This in turn, Amzazi stressed, will drive up Morocco’s competitiveness on the world stage.Inclusive education system, compulsory and free-of charge schooling for children aged 1 to 16, equal opportunities for all children, as well as socio-economic equity were some of the points Amzazi repeatedly relied on to show, according to him, how the newly passed law is key to achieving the new development model of which the King enthusiastically spoke in his Throne Day speech.He said the law includes positive discrimination for students from low-income, marginalized backgrounds, a reflection of the King’s insistence on policy reforms aimed at including and lifting Moroccans who still feel left behind or not concerned with the series of reforms that have so far punctuated the country’s political life.If Amzazi’s hearty, celebratory reception of the adoption of the controversial bill sounds like one of the most spirited defenses of a law which some Moroccans do not welcome, it is because the minister has been one of the most outspoken voices of the modernization, pro- Draft Law 51.17 camp.When the bill was being drafted and provoked uproarious opposition among conservative MPs and political pundits, Amzazi hit back in numerous public statements. He consistently said that embracing the fast-moving world of globalization benefits Morocco far more than conservatives’ call for keeping, or returning to, some essence of Moroccan identity.In a March interview with Moroccan outlet Challenge, he said that Morocco had to choose between remaining parochial and at the margins of global dynamics, or catching the train of globalization and scientific progress.The recently approved law, he suggested back then, represented a step in the right direction, one of educating future generations of Moroccans at ease with and equipped to navigate the world of scientific progress and technical inventions.“What exactly are we asking of our education system?” Amzazi asked. “Do we want to train our children in a vacuum in a model predefined for eternity and without regard for the changing world around, or do we rather want them to be equipped to be citizens of the world, capable of integrating themselves in competitive work settings, and having mastery over technological advances impacting all fields?” read more

Opposition objects to Police probing MPs over Parliament clash

The opposition today objected to the Police investigating Members of Parliament over the clash in Parliament during the political crisis.Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament today that outsiders must not be allowed to get involved in an incident which took place in Parliament. A report compiled by a Parliament committee over the incident was handed over to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya today.However, separately the Police is also investigating the incident based on complaints made with the Police. However the opposition said that the privilege rights of Parliamentarians was under threat by the Police investigating the incident. (Colombo Gazette)

New Brunswick fracking moratorium raises industry ire pleases environmentalists

FREDERICTON – Five conditions must be met before New Brunswick will lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, Premier Brian Gallant said Thursday in a move that has frustrated the energy sector but pleased environmentalists.The provincial government introduced legislation that would prohibit fracking throughout the province until concerns about health, the environment and First Nations input are addressed.Gallant placed conditions on the legislation including a process to consult with First Nations, a plan that mitigates the impact on public infrastructure and addresses waste water disposal and credible information about the effects fracking has on health, water and the environment.The development of a royalty structure and a “social licence” ensuring that the public accepts fracking are also needed before the moratorium would be removed, Gallant said, though he acknowledged that last condition has yet to be defined.“We have been clear from Day 1 that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood,” Gallant told a news conference in Fredericton.“We believe these conditions to be very reasonable.”He said his government supports job creation but added that it needs to be done in a diversified and sustainable way.“We’re not interested in putting all of our eggs in a single basket,” he said.A number of companies are exploring for shale gas in the province and Corridor Resources recently fracked wells in the Penobsquis area that are used to supply gas to the nearby Potash Corp. mine.Gallant said such operations would be allowed to continue under the legislation, as long as they don’t rely on fracking.“We’ll certainly also always listen to businesses that may have concerns and try to mitigate some of the impacts if they believe (them) to be negative on their operations,” he said.Sheri Somerville, a natural gas adviser with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry is disappointed with the government’s decision.“We’ve been saying all along that a moratorium is unwarranted and that we’ve been doing this safely here in New Brunswick for at least a decade and in other jurisdictions in Canada for more than 60 years,” Somerville said.She said each energy company operating in the province will have to make its own decision on how to react but there are concerns that it could put a halt to exploration.“This could certainly have a detrimental impact on future investment and industry progress for the province.” she said. “It might result in a missed opportunity.”Corridor Resources president Steve Moran said his company doesn’t support the moratorium.“We have always maintained that a moratorium is not necessary for an industry that has operated responsibly and safely in this province,” Moran said Thursday in a statement.He said the conditions cited by the premier are not clear enough.“They do not provide a predictable path forward. In addition, New Brunswick already has clear and robust regulations in place under which the industry operates safely.”Moran said Corridor Resources and its partners have spent more than $500 million exploring for oil and natural gas in New Brunswick since 1995, drilling 46 wells and completing 120 hydraulic fracture stimulations.He said the company believes there is a huge gas potential in the province but will only determine that by drilling and fracking more wells.Jean-Guy Leclair, general manager of PotashCorp New Brunswick, said in a news release if the moratorium removes a supply of natural gas it could raise costs and prompt a review of the firm’s operations in the province.But Stephanie Merrill of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick welcomed the legislation.“It’s really refreshing to see the premier be so concerned about the environment and our water,” she said, adding that she hopes the moratorium is permanent.Mark D’Arcy of the Council of Canadians, who has attended anti-shale gas rallies across the province, said he believes many New Brunswickers support the government’s decision.“This is a great Christmas present,” he said.Opposition Tory Leader Bruce Fitch accused the government of breaking its promising to create jobs by bringing in the moratorium.Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have also passed moratoriums on fracking, though they vary in scope.Follow @KevinBissett on Twitter. New Brunswick fracking moratorium raises industry ire, pleases environmentalists by Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press Posted Dec 18, 2014 8:18 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more