Debate is a battle of wits, a measure of linguistic agility and logical deduction. Like any other game or sport, debate engages and clashes ideas, tactics and stratagems against each other.
At the UTown Intercollegiate Provost Challenge Shield on 6 Feb, this very battle was fought. Featuring three sets of matches, the Democratic People’s Republic of Tembusu was sent up against Debate Juggernauts USP-A in the winners’ bracket; our second team, Na’vi, was paired up against the Yale-NUS-B team in a battle for survival whilst Yale-NUS-A battled it out against the swing team consisting of a coalition of Tembusu’s Ingmar and Yale-NUS’ Benjamin.
Dealing with the theme of politics, the results were not encouraging for the Tembusians. However, it was a valiant fight through all three matches.
Choosing to tackle the extremely technical motion “This house believes that the public should be allowed to pardon whistle blowers through a referendum” as proposition, the Democratic People’s Republic of Tembusu engaged in a tussle over the Edward Snowden issue, whilst their opponents as opposition pressed in for his persecution. The sanctity and value of truth was dissected and discussed, but the adjudicators felt that the case brought by the USP-A team had a slightly stronger standing, giving the win to the opposition by a narrow margin.
The battle between the Yale-NUS-A team and the Swing team was much more clear cut. The topic was “This house will allow political parties to designate certain pre-election claims as binding promises, reneging of which will trigger immediate fresh elections”. The debate was distilled down to how such a policy would influence and swing power in favor of extremist parties and the opposition in the form of Yale-NUS-A brought a resounding argument as to the dangers and harms of enacting such a policy, giving them a clear win.
Featured match: Na’vi versus Yale-NUS-B
“This house will allocate more votes to citizens based on their performance in a current affairs test” was the motion in order. On side Proposition was Tembusu representatives Na’Vi, consisting of Brinda as Prime Minister, John as Deputy Prime Minister and Samuel as Government Whip while on side Opposition Yale-NUS-B consisted of Theodore as Leader of Opposition, Dennis as Deputy Leader of Opposition and May as Opposition Whip.
Brinda as Prime Minister of the proposition stepped to the plate to deliver her substantive. She laid forward the policy her team was presenting, manoeuvring around loopholes through use of justifications and context as she set the tone and pace of the debate to come. The opening moves were set in place; the ball was then passed into the opposition’s court.
Theodore stepped forward and defended the status quo, selling an emotionally fuelled argument as to why status quo of democracy should be maintained. “The inequality in rights caused by such a policy would only end in an uprising of the people!” he ended with this rhetoric, his hands shaking with passion and conviction as he spoke.
John proceeded to bring in his speech, selling the dangers and flaws of the opposition. “Point of Information, sir” came across the room from Dennis, who would be next in line to reply. “Who are you to arbitrate the value of knowledge in current affairs?” Acute and sharp, his question brought about a brief moment of stunned silence from the Na’Vi team. Surely they could not have missed such a key factor in their speeches? John quickly brushed the matter aside for Samuel to pick up on and finished up the rest of his speech.
Smelling blood in the water, Dennis came forward and attacked the wounds of the Na’Vi team. The momentum given from his objection earlier was all he needed. Expounding on the moment of weakness shown, he quickly made the arguments of his opponents look foolish in light of the one key flaw he had identified. Point after point, he delivered rebuttals with gusto and developed a strong case on his team’s side. At this point, the adjudicators were convinced that the winner was clear after his vivid and convincing performance. “Objection!” Samuel knew he had to do something to break his momentum. Tactically, his point was rejected and was asked to sit back down. Dennis knew victory was in his grasp and he was not about to let any opportunity for a guffaw to set that awry.
Coming forward to deliver his reply, Samuel knew he had lots of work to do if they were to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Giving the speech of his life, he tapped on his encyclopaedic knowledge, pulling examples and analogies from various Nations, Elections, anything and everything he could possibly use to turn the tide in his team’s favour. For a moment it would have almost seemed that the adjudicators were swayed by the Rondo brought by Samuel.
However, while it may have tightened the margin closer, the magic worked by Samuel proved to be insufficient as May from the opposition went up and laid the final nails in the coffin, expanding on the arguments that Dennis had earlier brought up and exacerbating the mistake that the Na’Vi team had made earlier.
The decision was unanimous and the Yale-NUS-B team were awarded the victory.