PETALING JAYA: A group of Malaysian secondary school students have made the nation proud by winning the Asian World Schools Debate Championship (AWSDC), held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The team – made up of Deborah Wong Kai Wai, 17, from SMK Damansara Jaya, Thevesh Thevanathan, 17, from Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, and Nishanth Selvalingam, 18, from the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) – proposed the motion “This house believes that if leaders of capable states turn away refugees, the International Criminal Court should try them for crimes against humanity” in the finals against South Africa on Monday night.
Thevesh was also awarded Overall Best Speaker, ranking first among all participants from 40 teams.
“It was truly a special moment, standing on that stage and arguing to solve one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world today. As a team, we truly felt passionate about this cause, and having the opportunity to fight for it on a global stage was electrifying,” Thevesh said.
“In the first round we lost, but because of the helpful feedback from the various judges we were able to keep growing together as a team,” said Deborah, who explained that the competition really pushed her to change and improve as a debater.
“It’s been a great tournament and I’ve had a very beautiful experience. It really helped me grow not just in debate but as a person because I got to meet so many amazing people with different ideas and different vibes,” said Nishanth.
Among the five other Malaysian speakers who also ranked in the Top 10 was 13-year-old Kishen Sivabalan from SMK Sri Permata, the tournament’s youngest participant.
“It’s a good experience and it’s just fun to be part of the team,” said Kishen.
Malaysia sent 12 speakers in four teams to compete with representatives from nine other countries, namely Korea, China, Denmark, South Africa, Thailand, Sweden, the Netherlands, India and Bangladesh.
The Malaysian teams received funding from the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) with approval from the Education Ministry to compete in the tournament hosted by the Anglo Singapore International School in Bangkok from July 31 to Aug 5.
The contingent is staying on for the World Schools Debating Championship (WSDC), the largest school debate tournament in the world, also in Bangkok, which begins Tuesday and ends Aug 15.