Samin Ishrak Islam
North South University Debating Club (NSUDC), proud organizers of the 15th All Asians Inter-Varsity Debating Tournament, just concluded the BP (British Parliamentary) edition of its Inter-Varsity Debate Championship. Held between the 3rd and 6th of September, this is the largest English BP format debate tournament ever held in Bangladesh. NSUDC claims to be one of the leading institutions in the English debating fraternity of this country, and once again it proves why it deserves the mantle.
Before moving onto the details of “Dialogue '08”, one must not miss this opportunity to appreciate the dedication of NSUDC to creating new debaters. Just prior to the “Dialogue” competition, an Intra-NSU competition, the NSU-Novice, was held, which gave young aspiring debaters in North South University a chance to learn about the art of debating and overcome their fear of public speaking. The members of the Novice-winning team had no prior debating experience, and they finished only a single point behind the breaking team in the Dialogue competition. North South University, spurred on by the success of the Novice, entered Dialogue with 8 teams, the largest contingent any team had ever had in a competition held in Bangladesh. All its teams won at least one round of debating in the “Dialogue” tournament while receiving commendatory feedback in the process.
Registration of the tournament began on the third of September at around noon. 32 of the most talented teams from different 12 Universities around the country signed up to take part in this competition, making it the largest British Parliamentary format of debate tournament ever held in Bangladesh. Teams began arriving at the NSU Campus at around noon on the 3rd of September. An exclusive briefing session was held to explain the rules and regulations of the BP format for both the adjudicators and debaters alike. This format, in contrast to the 3-on-3 debating style that we are used to watching on TV or in most other competitions in Dhaka, has four teams in two pairs each, representing the government and opposition respectively. The advantage of this format is that points can be scored by finishing 2nd and 3rd as well, therefore making it more competitive for all participating teams. This format has been adopted by the most powerful debating nations like England, Ireland, Australia, USA and many others. Inspired by the traditional “coalition parliament system” of Great Britain, the British Parliamentary format facilitate intellectual engagement of all the participating teams.
The first of the four preliminary rounds of debating started on the 4th of September around noon. North South University Debate club, which has a rich track-record in international competitions, takes pride in staying updated with the latest information. The topic of the first round was the recent hot-issue of the Georgia-Russia conflict: “The House will recognize the Independence of South Ossetia”. The match-up of the first round was random, generated by the automated Tabulation software, a new introduction to the Bangladeshi Debating Fraternity. The “Tab”, one of the many valuable lessons of the 15th All-Asians, can take into account the team-rankings, feed-back on the judges, and prevent judges and debaters of the same institutions being pitted against one-another and arrange match-ups accordingly. “NSU Dialogue 08” is also the first competition to strictly follow the rules and regulations set by the “World University Debating Council”. These pioneering methods, the quality personnel available for adjudicating, along with the participation of all the major players in Bangladesh's English Debating circuit, made the competition a tremendous success.
The second day of the debates had three rounds of match-ups. The first motion for the day was “This House would ban digital enhancement of images in advertisements and magazines”, which was considered as one of the most innovative motions in any domestic debate tournament so far. In the age of digital enhancement and visual trickery, the talented participants of “Dialogue 08” dug deep in their minds to support the principle of simplicity and also raised their voice against the vileness of digital terrorism.
The third debate of the tournament was rather on a very old yet controversial topic-“This House will ban all blood sports” - An age old debate which yet rose storm in the minds and words of the debaters. For the last debate of the preliminary rounds, NSU chose to give the liberty back to the debaters. A rather unusual and metaphorical motion was provided for the 4th round- “This House will not have Coca-Cola”. In a very exciting and competitive round of debating for everyone, different teams decided to fabricate and design the debate in different perspective of their own. Some said by not having Coca-Cola they want to defy the US imperialism in the modern world. Some said, they consider Coca-Cola as a conservative choice and by refusing a conservative choice they want to legalize homosexuality. Some said against terrorism, some against communism and some were more simplistic who literally refused Coca-Cola.
As one can see, for the first two motions it is possible to argue on a range of arguments from the perspective of technology, the spirit of consumer rights, promotion of aggression in society and a multimillion dollar industry that is blood sport. The “Coca-Cola” motion, an open-ended motion, is open to be defined whichever way the opening team wants it to be: from the varying houses, “Coca-Cola” represented child-labor, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the product “Coca-Cola” itself. Such is the beauty of debate, and the power of intellect of today's young debaters!
After three grueling rounds of debate, the exhausted debaters were treated to a delicious traditional Iftaar provided by NSUDC. Following the Iftaar was the “Break” announcement. Now for readers who are unaware of the term “Break”, every competition the top teams go to the Elimination round after a series of Preliminary rounds. At “NSU Dialogue 08” after 4 rounds of preliminary debates, 8 teams “Broke” into the Semi-Final of the competition. Three teams were from NSU, two from IBA, and one each from East-West, IUT and IUB respectively. Some breaking teams were predictable while the others, like that of one team from NSU-Novice, were greeted with surprise and excitement.
The evening came to conclusion with the long awaited “Succession” of NSUDC's executive body. NSUDC former President Afrin Hossain Borsha stepped down and the deserving Farha Deeba Sufian became the new President of the club.
The Semi-final and the Finals took place on the 6th September. At early noon the motion was announced “This House will legalize voluntary Euthanasia for Life-time Imprisoned War Criminals”. A very challenging topic when it comes to finding arguments, two very high-quality debates were to follow. On one side we heard how it was the humane thing to do and could lead to new evidence on war crimes, on the other side there were passionate arguments made on how it undermines the judiciary and can be open to exploitations. At the end of two very high quality debates, the two favorite teams of North South University, one senior from IBA and the main team of East West University qualified for the finals.
An open-ended topic for the finals was that “This House would build a wall”. The Final of the “NSU Dialogue 08” was considered by the respected adjudicators and the viewers to be the best debate seen in Dhaka debate fraternity for many years. It was such a close and competitively quality debate that, it took the judges almost an hour to reach upto the decision. After an hour of intense session of discussion between the adjudicators, IBA-1 (Arbaaz Nayeem and Ridwan Mohammad Karim) was declared the winners while NSU 8 (Nayeem Kashem and Sinha Ibna Humayun) finished Runner-ups.
The day finished with the prize-giving ceremony for the tournament. The Novice-winners, Daud H.Khan and Nabil Azad Chowdhury were given trophies by Sohab Sayeed and Salman Beg of EWU, the adjudicators of the Novice tournament. Naveed Adnan received the award of the best speaker of NSU-Novice. A highly popular Asif Newaz and the revered Zunaed Rabbani gave away a unique black figure with a silver microphone in his hand, the “NSU Dialogue '08” winners' trophy, to the IBA team, while Nayeem Kashem and Sinha Ibna Humayun, the visionaries and architects of the two tournaments, went on to pick up the runner-up trophy.
Rashedul Hassan Stalin, who will be in charge of the AUDC 2009 to be hosted by East-West next year, sponsored a RanksTel mobile to the best speaker of the Dialogue tournament, Rishad Sharif of the Islamic University of Technology.
“NSUDC” is one of the few debating bodies in Dhaka that has been regularly hosting English debate competitions for the last few years. And now by pioneering the “Tab” and adhering to international guidelines, it has raised the bar for future tournaments to be held in the English Debating Circuit in this country. The tournament itself was an all-English tournament being held in months, and will be an important part in the preparations for the intense international calendar, with tournaments in India, Ireland and Pakistan to be held in the coming months.
Once asked a debater about his purpose of debating, he answered-“it's all about changing the world”. In an age of confusion and contradiction, debaters are the elites who engage themselves regularly with words of knowledge and rationality. In an era of destruction and hate speeches, debaters prevail on their constructive arguments, knowledge and rhetoric. One may ask-“can debaters really change the world?” To that we answer- yes!!! One can and one will, as long as one speaks with passion and logic and one listens to his opponent with attention and respect - two very important skills, which are apparently absent in the political society of Bangladesh. The society needs more Dialogue for its rational stability and NSU has just made its mark in this regard.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008