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Saturday 19 October 2019
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Commentary

No Caribbean leaders

Debbie Jacob
Debbie Jacob

NOT A SINGLE Caribbean political leader appeared in the arguments of the much-anticipated quarterfinal debate between Golden Grove Convict Prison (GGP) and Golden Grove Remand Prison (Remand) when the two prisons clashed over the topic, are leaders born or made? The good-natured rivalry between the two prisons proved once again the talent locked away in Golden Grove.

Remand’s opener Leondro Guerra asked with admirable passion, “If leaders are born, why are we here?” reminding debaters and the audience that the inter-station prison debates are producing leaders.

GGP’s Richie David emphatically argued that leaders are definitely born. “They possess charisma, humility and other qualities, which people are born with. Leaders inspire,” he argued, “and that inspiration is innate.”

His examples included Brazilian footballer Pele and Vision on Mission founder Wayne Chance, a product of the prison system. David’s background on Pele went on a bit too long and distracted from his argument.

Remand’s Jalon Robinson displayed his signature hard-hitting style, preventing his opponent Garth Glasgow from wasting any time in his answers. I would like to see Robinson take his line of questions to a new level that would allow his opponent to entrap himself in his own answers.

Glasgow held his own against Robinson, one of the top questioners in the prison debates, referring to a study in 2019, which claimed that “researchers have debunked the myth that leaders are made.”

GGP’s questioner Adrian Mitchell faced Remand’s David Khan, one of the most spontaneous, entertaining and fearless debaters to hold the position of answering the questions for his team. Khan continuously refuses to be intimidated or shut down when answering questions.

Remand’s Kenyatta King produced an admirable image of himself as a leader and a person who recognises leadership. “Wayne Chance was in prison with me. He learned in prison,” King said. “The sum of who you are is what you learn.”

King’s commanding performer proved why he shares the spotlight in the top ten debaters with Women Prison’s Shastri Jagoo and Maximum Security Prison’s (MSP) Khamraj Sahadeo, who are swift, exemplary rebutters.

In the end, GGP’s rebutter Kevin Oneel Les Pierre reiterated his team’s position that people are born with the passion and charisma that make them stand out as leaders. “What you learn merely supports those innate skills,” he argued confidently. He pointed out the talent of Jamaican track and field star Usain Bolt, reminding listeners of the important role genes play in talent and leadership.

With bated breath, the audience braced itself for the closing arguments where prisons’ number one debater, Remand’s Marlon Lee, would face off against GGP’s Kevin Elias, who stunned the audience with his own dramatic arguments in the preliminary stages. Elias had given a solid, dramatic performance in the preliminary round, helping his team to reach the quarterfinal stage.

On this day, Elias allowed too much research and too many definitions to intrude on his closing argument. While his performance proved solid, he needed more of those visual images that impact on the audience and the judges.

Lee gave a riveting performance punctuated with a well-timed, disarming chuckle. With chilling conviction, he said, “I’m glad police put me here because this is where I learned to be a leader.” He punched the pronoun “I” with his deep, bass voice.

Judges pointed out that “debating has to deal with the banter of an argument. You must be active listeners,” judges reminded the rebutters. They said debaters must often craft their arguments on the spot and they must never use the rebuttal to advance the opening. Rebuttals must attack the opponent’s argument.

Judges wanted to see more Caribbean examples of leaders. Remand’s remarkable, selfless team captain, Terrence Morris, would later say his team could find no examples of Caribbean leaders that met its criteria for stellar leadership. Debaters were all warned against using props.

Once again GGP’s programme director Avalon Ramsahai organised a remarkable show for guests, which included inmates. Remand’s debaters proved victorious with a score of 600 to GGP’s 430. Remand moved on to the semifinal round tomorrow. Remand faces fiercely competitive MSP debaters. Women’s Prison faces Port of Spain Prison on Wednesday.

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