March 14, 2005 The University of the Virgin Islands 15th annual Caribbean Intercollegiate Debating Competition concluded Sunday, leaving no one in attendance with any doubt about what's important to the students whether CARICOM should ostracize Haiti; whether international lending agencies promote economic slavery; whether the 'Willy Lynch Legacy' still influences Caribbean culture; and whether peace is possible in the Middle East.
Climaxing three days of vigorous intellectual battle, the University of the West Indies Mona Campus at Jamaica walked off with the overall prize, but it was not easily come by. The school had stiff competition from the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus of Trinidad and Tobago, which placed second.
UTECH of Jamaica and the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus at Barbados also competed, along with the home UVI team. Originally eight teams were scheduled for the debates, but three teams had to withdraw from the competition for various reasons, leaving five teams. Because of this, the debates were changed to a round-robin structure, with the team scoring the most wins winning the championship.
Sunday was dedicated to the Middle East. The UVI team gave an impassioned performance, defending the proposition that peace is not possible in the Middle East. Lead speaker Zeeshan Baig, removed his navy blue suit jacket to reveal a dashiki, and, pounding the podium, declared, "You will not destroy our culture."
Speaking of the entire Middle East, not just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Baig asked the audience how it would like outside forces coming in and stuffing a foreign culture down its throat. "That's what has happened in the Arab world," he said, arguing for the right of the Arab people to defend their own lands against displacement thrust upon them by the West.
William "Spike" Davis-McKean, who was judged best speaker, took up the gauntlet where Baig left off. Saluting his "comrades in arms," he reached in his pocket and pulled out a dollar bill which he brandished before the audience. "The day you see peace in the Middle East, is the day you see human life valued more than a dollar bill," he said.
"You will not destroy our culture," Baig intoned in the manner of a Palestinian leader. "We do not want our culture to be erased." Baig was honored for giving the best rebuttal against his opponents, the UTECH team of Jamaica.
UTECH lead speaker Howard Senior, and his second, Karl Wilkinson, presented a reasoned and well-researched argument that prospects for peace in the Middle East have improved notably under Mahmoud Abbas' leadership after the death of the militant leader Yassar Arafat.
Baig, McKean and researcher Meshach Pryce were noticeably relieved after the debate. "We've been studying day and night," Baig said. "We may be suffering from sleep deprivation,"he said, not entirely joking. Baig said the team had decided even it they didn't win, "It was equally important to get the message across. We have to honor people's lives," he said.
The debate participants were judged on the following criteria: soundness of points and logical development; command of the language; audibility and clarity; audience appeal — the ability to capture the audience's attention; posture and personality; overall preparedness; teamwork; and rebuttal ability to refute opponent's arguments.
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