Report: UKEC-KPUM Debate Competition 2011

by Lim Yin Faye

“Debate is much more Rational and Objective”

-Allison Wolfgarten, Judge of the UKEC-KPUM Debate Competition Finals

While a mooting competition would have been the more conventional choice of competition, seeing as this annual event is organised by the Kesatuan Penuntut Undang-Undang Malaysia di UK&Eire (KPUM); this year’s liaison with UKEC resulted in a debate competition which proved to be the epitome of oratory altercation.

As Ms Allison, a City Law School lecturer most eloquently put; a debate competition was chosen as it caters to a more wide-ranging arena of students. Different fields of studies were not a barring factor in joining this competition. UKEC and KPUM both recognise the harshness of reality – that to obtain a simple internship or job in Malaysia or overseas, two things are paramount: confidence and persuasive powers. This applies to not only the constantly-haggled-in-books-law-students but to each and every graduate.

On the 26th of March 2011, the Atkins Building of City Law School was the place to be. The UKEC-KPUM Debate Competition 2011 commenced at 9.15am. Eight teams of three comprising students from all over the United Kingdom were present. After the welcoming speech by Isaac Cheah, president of KPUM 2010/2011 and an introductory session by Lim Yin Faye, the representative of UKEC, the first motion was announced:  the imposition of death penalty on drug trafficking.

There were 5 rounds in this debate competition. The first three motions saw teams compete against each other with opponents being selected at random. Student judges acted as adjudicators for the round-robin sessions. John Lee, the head of the student judges, oversaw this entire modus operandi. After the three motions were debated, all the marks were tabulated and the four teams with the highest score proceeded into the semi-final rounds.

It must be noted from the outset that this debate competition was an impromptu-style debate; hence motions were only released 15 minutes prior to each round. Only debaters with the highest quality of skill and depth of argument could advance, seeing as very little time was allowed for preparation. Additionally, all debate topics were general and non law-related, thus leveling the playing field.

The crux of this event was definitely during the semi-finals and finals, which drew quite the crowd. Four Bar Courses Lecturers: Peter Hungerford, Robert McPeake, Allison Wolfgarten and Nikki Walsh acted as adjudicators. Several of these law school lecturers are even advocacy lecturers which ensured debaters were given grounded, solid advice on an industry’s perception of a good debater. Additionally, Paul Subaramaniam from Zaid Ibrahim& Co. , partner of one of the most prominent law firms in Malaysia and also a sponsor for this event graced this debate competition with his presence, also acting as a judge.

Each debater was scrutinised individually during the semi-finals with constructive criticsm by their allocated judges. These judges from professional backgrounds expressed how impressed they were of certain debaters during the competition. This can prove only one thing- Malaysians really can speak their way through anything, in formal language nonetheless!

The final round of the competition was conducted in one of the lecture theatres. Spectators and debaters definitely had more room to stretch their legs and the atmosphere was set.  The two teams competing in the final round were from the University of Cambridge and the University College of London (UCL) respectively. The motion of the final round was

“This House Would Give Wikileaks Protected Host Space on Malaysian Internet”. With Wikileaks being a controversial affair, the debate between the two teams was very intense. POIs were interjected, speech were projected explicitly and decorum was adhered to. It was a marvellous display from both sides.

Paul Subramaniam from Zaid Ibrahim & Co. said “The real test comes when there is a challenge”. This debate competition has indubitably exposed that each participant has risen up to the challenge. The closing ceremony started with an expression of thanks and immense gratitude of UKEC and KPUM to the sponsors, namely Azmi and Co, Zaid Ibrahim & Co. and ICAEW, before the giving out of token of appreciation to the judges. Certificates of participatory were also distributed.

Accordingly, judges conveyed that they were all in tandem of the view that it was a difficult decision to form, but, there can only be one winner. Victory of this debate competition went to the students from the University of Cambridge which were represented by Ian Beh, Nathaniel Jinho Clement and Low Wen Zhen. Bhavik Jasani, Gurpreet Singh as well as Shivanand Siva from University College of London (UCL) came in second with Gurpreet Singh chosen as Best Speaker of the Competition via the round-robin sessions. They were presented with cash prize courtesy of our sponsors as well as Certificates of Recognition.

One of Paul Coelho bestsellers is entitled “The Winner Stands Alone”. This debate competition is definitely the antithesis of that since every participant and even the audiences went back home a winner, inculcated with better debating directions. As a whole, UKEC hopes that this will be a part of an annual affair with KPUM since the aim of improved students welfare can definitely be achieved.