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Tuesday 10 December 2019
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Prisons' debaters to take on UTT

A PRISON debate team will face-off against students from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) later this year. This announcement was made at the Youth Training Centre (YTC) during the finals of the prison inter-station debates on September 18.

The prison team will be made up of inmates who emerged as the top ten debaters from the eight prisons that participated in the debate: Port of Spain (PoS) Prison, Maximum Security Prison (MSP), Carrera, YTC, Women’s Prison, Golden Grove, Golden Grove Remand and the Eastern Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC).

There will be two debates between prisons and UTT. One is tentatively scheduled for November at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) and one will be held at UTT in January.

At the finals of the prison debates on September 19, MSP won with 820 points over Golden Grove Remand with a score of 740 points. Both teams, dressed in red, long-sleeved shirts and ties, appeared confident and professional. Judges praised both teams for their extensive research and pointed out the difficulties of arguing their topic, which was: Should TT open its borders to Venezuela?

Remand argued the affirmative side, stating it was an important humanitarian effort that TT could benefit from financially if and when Venezuela gets its political and economic crisis under control. Remand often summarised information rather than framing an argument, and that proved to be the prison’s downfall. Remand debaters also tried to use Government’s decision to help Dominica after the hurricane as precedent for helping Venezuela, but the argument failed to convince.

MSP argued against allowing Venezuelans into the country, saying that the financial cost was too great. Once again, Kester Benjamin delivered an emotionally-charged closing argument for MSP. He convinced the judges that being against immigration was not a cold, heartless decision, but a financially sound one, necessary to protect this nation’s citizens. In the end, the judges found MSP’s support more convincing.

YTC faced ECRC in a People’s Choice award. Debaters from six prisons (YTC was excluded) and specially invited guests in the audience roared their approval for ECRC in a debate about whether or not TT should have mandatory national service for 16-18-year olds. ECRC argued that national service deprived young people of their rights; YTC’s argument was difficult to discern, as debaters spent their time trying to refute the other team’s argument rather than presenting a solid argument of its own.

Once again, closer Danyell Mohammed from ECRC impressed the judges and audience with his powerful, well-structured arguments that attacked the opponent’s position with poise and confidence.

The debate for third place between PoS Prison and Carrera proved to be exciting and controversial, as PoS argued that religious radicalism is a necessary evil. Technical difficulties distracted from lead debater Mark Hernandez’s arguments, which included a noble attempt to extract religious radicalism from terrorism. Pointing out that Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were religious radicals, but not terrorists, Hernandez argued that radicalism was often a catalyst for change.

Hernandez faced Philbert Foster from Carrera, who has emerged as the number one debater in the competition. In the end, Carrera came out on top with 670 points while PoS earned 750 points.

The debate teams from all eight prisons were present to witness the final debates.

The top ten debaters from all eight participating prisons are:

1. Philbert Foster (Carrera)

2. Peter Cadette (Golden Grove)

3. Aaron Charles (Carrera)

4. Kester Benjamin (MSP)

5. Khamraj Sahadeo (MSP)

6. Prem Badree (MSP)

7. Terrence Morris (Golden Grove Remand)

8. Danyel Mohammed (ECRC)

9. David Khan (Golden Grove Remand)

10. Arnold Ramlogan (MSP)

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