IT WAS SHOCK and awe when debaters from Carrera Convict Prison clashed with debaters from Maximum Security Prison (MSP) last Monday. The heated debate over whether children should be tried as adults in our nation’s courts enthralled guests gathered under a sprawling peepal tree at Carrera. A view of the ocean and the smell of Carrera’s signature fish broth wafted through the ocean breeze.
A solid, emotionally-charged argument admirably delivered by Carrera’s opening debater Kenneth Alexander grabbed the audience’s attention.
“Gone are the days when children act as children. Do you think the victims of rape or murder care if the suspect is 15 or 51?” Alexander asked.
MSP appeared uncomfortable in their long-sleeved red shirts, black vests, black pants and black ties. Meanwhile Carrera captain Aaron Charles beamed a proud smile at his debaters dressed casually and comfortably in purple polo shirts. “Win or lose,” he had said before the debate, “we are going down fighting.”
Using the same jargon and same format he has used since last year’s debates, MSP’s opener Arnold Ramlogan outlined his team’s strategy in his radio-perfect baritone voice. The judges’ score would later award Ramlogan 394 points for his delivery, beating Alexander’s 392 points in the opening round.
In the question and answer segment, Carrera’s Hassan Hussein asked pointed questions in an authoritative, respectful and engaging manner.
“So do you mean to tell me if someone is 17 years old and commits a murder, he should not be considered an adult until the next day when he turns 18?” Hussein asked MSP’s Prem Badree, who fielded questions with his usual knack for skirting the issue.
Hussein’s pointed questions sparked more audience support for Carrera. Once again the judges failed to take note. In the end, they would award Badree 386 points to Hussein’s 382 points.
Without knowing the judges’ scores so far the audience, visibly stirred by Carrera’s performances, could barely contain their excitement. Then came the shocker.
MSP replaced Ishmael Khan, their confident and effective questioner from the preliminary round. Khan had delivered dignified, thought-provoking questions, but MSP substituted Ako Patrick, who viciously and shamelessly bullied Steve Lyder, Carrera’s debater in charge of answering questions. Patrick cut off all of Lyder’s attempts to answer questions, then accused him of not answering any questions.
At one point Lyder turned to the judges and said, “Am I not allowed to answer questions?” When he tried to use a Bible verse to answer Patrick’s question, Lyder was cut off in mid-sentence. “You’re not answering me,” Patrick accused.
“I’m trying to use the Bible verse to answer the question,” Lyder said.
The audience gasped and grumbled. Judges shook their heads and then, in a puzzling and shocking move, awarded Patrick 396 points, putting him in fourth position at the end of the debate. They demoted Lyder to last position with 328 points. Later, the judges would heavily criticise MSP for their bullying tactics.
The best was yet to come. With clear, impeccable diction, Carrera’s Aaron Charles delivered a brilliantly constructed rebuttal that poked holes in MSP’s position. He lifted the crowd’s enthusiasm to new heights. Carrera, an underdog going into the debate, now had everyone’s support.
MSP’s Khamraj Sahadeo delivered his signature, authoritative rebuttal, most of which was constructed on the spot. Sahadeo always proves to be a charismatic debater; a class act. Clear, concise organisation defined his presentation. The audience wholeheartedly approved. Sahadeo’s delivery earned him a third-place score of 406.
Carrera’s closer Wayne Garcia finished strong saying, “We now have to make the decision to save our nation. We must demonstrate if you do adult crime, you must do the time.”
He proved to be the only person in the debates to ever use well-timed pauses to stress points. His tactic proved refreshing. In a desperate rush to get all their points in, debaters always construct sentences that collide with one another.
MSP’s Kester Benjamin discredited Carrera’s team by pointing out their mistake of saying juveniles were not children. He wracked up points even though his argument, which included a Stevie Wonder quote and the usual MSP jargon about their “team’s mantra,” often seemed disjointed. The judges awarded both Charles and Benjamin a tie for first place with 416 points.
In the end, the judges, who chastised MSP debaters for their overconfidence that now borders on arrogance and their bullying tactics, shocked everyone by rewarding MSP with 600 points. Carrera earned 470 points. For the stunned audience, the results felt like robbery at Carrera.