PENANG: Funds spent on space exploration should be used to save mankind now plagued by threat of war, disease and poverty, said a regional finalist of an inaugural public-speaking competition.
Vilashini Somiah, 19, from Penang Free School, said mankind was facing a bleak future, adding that a looming US attack on Iraq was one of the many challenges to be solved.
“Are we civil enough to know that war can easily get out of hand, resulting in no clear winner?
“Earth is so small and if we cannot take care of our own backyard, why go to space?” she said, when speaking on Space is not the Final Frontier on Sunday.
Vilashini was the sole female among six finalists of the northern region preliminary round of the English Speaking Union (ESU) of Malaysia, The Star, HSBC Public Speaking Competition 2003.
Twenty youths between 16 and 20 years old from Penang, Kedah and Perak took part in the competition at KDU Penang.
The other finalists were Mohammad Nasrullah Zulkifli, 17 and Christopher Ng Chia Liang, 19, both from KDU, Chong Ooi Ming, 19, from St Xavier’s Institution, Thiruventhiran Narayanasamy, 19, from SMK Dato Onn Butterworth and Alvin Jude, 19, from Inti International College, Penang.
Chong said the deep ocean and matters of the human soul and spirit were also frontiers to be explored.
Thiruventhiran, Ng and Alvin shared a similar view that the human mind, with its infinite capabilities, was a frontier that was yet to be fully understood.
Mohammed differed with his opinion that space was a “wonderland, the last place untainted by corruption, greed, radiation and threat of war” that humans desired to escape to in search of bliss.
“It is the last frontier that is pure, untainted and where we can be happy,” he said.
Chief adjudicator and ESU committee member Dr Omar Salahuddin Abdullah said finalists from the two preliminary rounds in Penang and Petaling Jaya would be ranked after which the best five or six would be chosen to enter the grand finals in Kuala Lumpur on March 29.
Two final winners will attend a champions training camp before departing for London to take part in the International Public Speaking Competition in May.
The preliminary round for the central region will be held on March 15 at KDU Damansara Utama in Petaling Jaya.
ESU (www.esu.org ) which has representation in over 50 countries, is a charity founded in 1918 to help bind together English speaking people in the United States and Commonwealth countries.