The Power of Speech
Imran H. Khan
Contrary to popular belief, the pen is not mightier than the sword. Well if you were getting mugged then the sword might be a better bet but there is something more powerful than a pen. It is the power of speech. Adolf Hitler mesmerised Germany with his charismatic speeches that wreaked havoc on the world. Today's speech covers lesser grounds but hold the same importance; to move the people, to woo the audience, to fuel the fire in our think-tanks. Such is the power of speech, practiced through debate. To contest this power, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) held a three day Inter-College Debate Competition from May 4, 2006 through its debating club, the IUB Debating Club (IUBDC).
Participating in the mini 'sparks of hostility' were a team each from Dhanmondi Tutorial, Radiant School and The Red Brick School, two teams from Mastermind School while Manarat International School had three entries. There were eight teams in all. After grueling rounds of debate between the participating sides, Team 2 from Mastermind and Team 1 from Manarat International School made it to the finals. Representing Mastermind for the final win were Md. Umar Faruque, Rafid Shams, Shafkat Manir while the team from Manarat comprised of Abu Yousuf Md. Abdullah, Labib Rahman and Hasan M. Chowdhury.
The debate followed the parliamentary tradition and the motion of the day was 'Bangladesh should subsidise its farmers'. Speaking for the motion was Manarat International School representing the Government while Mastermind School, representing the Opposition, spoke against the motion.
Shafkat Manir (extreme left) takes to the podium to oppose the motion of the day
The first speaker from Manarat International School, posing as the Prime Minister (PM) started the contest off with great support for the farmers. In his view, the farmers needed money to grow crops, buy fertilisers and eventually become independent. It was rather interesting to see young people debate about such an issue as this is a pressing topic of our country. More than 75 percent of Bangladeshis are farmers and it is the government's duty to make sure that they are able to maintain a decent standard of living.
This topic contains somewhat of an ethical dilemma. We usually assume that subsidies are needed to help family farmers and keep food more affordable. But both these notions are misconceptions.
The panel of judges consisted of national and international debaters and adjudicators, certified by the World Debating Council
What was overlooked in the debate is that subsidising farmers to produce usually results in a greater supply of food and lower prices, but the subsidy money must come from taxing ourselves. We'll have more disposable income because of lower food prices but less income because of higher taxes. From our income side, our disposable income is not increasing either. If the rich bear most of the tax burden, then subsidies could make food more affordable for poorer people. But this is hardly the intent or practice of most subsidies in Bangladesh as the tax structure is usually favoured towards the rich.
Next to take the stand was the Leader of the Opposition from Mastermind School. He asked the Government body quite pertinently where they planed to get the money to pay the farmers. One definite option was the taxation policy. The solution they came up with was to go to the International Monitory Fund (IMF) to propose to improve Bangladesh's industrial sector. Food is not the only basic requirement that needs to be emsured; overall well being is also an important need.
If the tax structure was properly maintained and the government officials were strict to enforce the law, there would be balance in the system. The farmers would get some form of aid, and they would also be able to move on to an industrial phase. All this is possible as long as there is a political will to do so from both the government's side as well as from the opposition.
The panel of judges finally ruled Mastermind as the champion while Manarat International School had to settle for second place. Shafkat Manir from Mastermind also took home the best speaker award for the whole debate competition.
Special Guests, teachers and members of IUB enjoying the finale between Mastermind and Manarat International School
Present as Special Guest in the event were Independent University, Bangladesh's Vice Chancellor Professor Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury accompanied by Registrar Officer Tanvir A. Khan. Shaiful Islam, Co-Moderator for IUBDC, Aziz Ahmed, President of IUBDC, Tanvir Ahmed Haroon, Vice-President of Communications, Tawsif Islam, Vice-President of Administration, and Tanzeer Hasan Morshed Gaffar, Vice-President of Finance were also present on the memorable occasion to cheer the schools on. The event was sponsored by Igloo Ice Cream of Abdul Monem Ltd. and Yemen Airways.
As the event drew to a close, one cannot help but wonder how long it will be, if ever, till these young people find themselves in our Parliament. They will no doubt be arguing over such similar issues…issues that just might shape the Bangladesh of tomorrow.
Participators from all the schools comprised the majority of the audience in the final stage of the competition
(R) thedailystar.net 2006