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USP wins DF Inter-University “Debate on Election” Series.

Nirvasha Kumar

8 Apr 2022

All the three Universities in Fiji took part in the Dialogue Fiji Inter-University “Debate on Election” Finals, on Saturday, 9 April 2022 at the Fiji National University (FNU), Nasinu Campus.

The series was part of the DF led project “Building Public Confidence in Elections in Fiji through Civil Society Action”, which is funded by UKAID and is being jointly implemented with International IDEA.

Two debate competitions (6 contests) had been held prior to the Finals with teams from The University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji National University (FNU), and the University of Fiji (UniFiji).

The Finals saw top three teams from the universities, as determined by the elimination rounds in the last two competitions competing to decide the eventual winner of the series.

The finale was divided into three contests whereby the teams either affirmed or negated the following propositions; the 5% election threshold in Fiji is appropriate, the 48 hour media blackout before election day in Fiji is desirable and the political parties are bad for democracy.

All the teams put forward insightful and thought-provoking arguments. After a brilliant finale, team proposition, team USP was crowned the winner of the debate series whereas team UniFiji were the first runner-up and team FNU were the second runner-up.

As overall winners of the Debate series, the USP Debate team walked away with $1000 cash prize money, winner's trophy and gold medals, the runners up UniFiji debate team received a $600 cash prize, runner up trophy and silver medals, whilst the second runner up FNU debate team received $300 cash prize, second runner up trophy and bronze medals.

Debates were centered on elections related topics that aimed to generate interest amongst young people and/or university students on electoral processes, generate discourse on campus and address the problem of apathy towards democracy and elections amongst students.

DF Executive Director, Mr Nilesh Lal offered the welcome remarks whereby he conveyed his appreciation to the donors and the stakeholders who made the debate series possible along with expressing his exhilaration on seeing young people in Fiji, for the first time in years, researching, analysing and debating on democracy and elections in Fiji.

“Elections are probably the most influential event shaping the political life of a nation. Given how drastically it impacts you, everyone needs to take a keen interest in elections and actively participate in it. That does not only mean casting your vote, but rather actively participating in various electoral events, whether they are run by the election management bodies or contesting parties and candidates,” Lal said.

“As we await the next general elections in Fiji, it is critical to generate interest in this important event in our democracy. Despite two elections having been held under the new system so far, the Fijian electorate still lacks a full understanding of how the electoral system works. This often gives raise to questions about fairness and suitability of the system. Some of these questions are based on misinformation or inadequate understanding of PR systems and the way they work. This is why we conceptualised the ‘building public confidence in elections in Fiji” project which, we are thankful, received timely funding support from the government of UK through its conflict, stability and security fund for the Pacific.”

The British High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Dr Brian Jones also made his presence to officiate the event whereby he emphasised that the debates are the bedrock of democracy.

“I am hoping to see the debaters engaging in a rousing deliberation and debate to stir the souls of democracy and elections fuelled by their research and preparation for the competition.”

Speaking in the opening session of the event the FNU Acting Vice Chancellor emphasised on how the debate competition is imperative to raise awareness and increase critical thinking and analysis of issues relating to Fiji as a democracy.

The students reflected on their experience as debaters and the enthralling process of researching and presenting their arguments in front of a crowd of experts, academics, fellow students and colleagues, which had increased their knowledge capacity about the topics.

Monisha Chand, a debater representing USP elaborated “I really value the experience that came along with this rewarding debating opportunity, which has enhanced me as a debater. I have participated in debates before; however, I have realised that each time I stand at the podium, I learn a lot, get to impart something and develop my confidence as a speaker.”

A debater from UniFiji, Ezra Pickering shared “I could not believe that we are the 1st runner-up since this is the first ever debate competition that my team and I had ever participated in but I am grateful for the organisers; Dialogue Fiji and UKAID for facilitating such an enthusing series of debates of which I enjoyed every bit of. I would also like to thank UniFiji for giving me the privilege to represent the university.

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