Members of the debate team from Cedar International School confer during the March 11 Inter-Secondary School Debate finals, which they won. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Cedar International School came out on top against Elmore Stoutt High School during the finals of the Inter-Secondary School Debates held last Thursday in the auditorium at Althea Scatliffe Primary School.

The teams addressed what adjudicators noted was a particularly challenging moot — “Blacklisting Caribbean financial centres is a modern form of colonialism.”

Kicking off the debate in support of the moot, Cedar International’s team captain Amelia Adamson referenced Argentine activist Che Guevara.

“As long as imperialism exists, it will by definition exert its dominance over other countries,” she quoted. “Today that domination is called neocolonialism.”

Ms. Adamson summarised the history of colonialism and argued the Caribbean should be treated as an equal in a globalised world.

“Throughout Caribbean history, we have empowered ourselves,” she said. “We have dedicated ourselves to providing world-class financial centres. And yet Europe and the [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] want to control how our Caribbean financial centres’ resources are being used.”

She said blacklisting and regulations for transparency, fair taxation and compliance are a system for controlling Caribbean countries through economics. Her teammates Hailey Chomiak and Ali Tarabay supported her by alleging that larger countries were taking advantage of the Caribbean.

The opposition

In opposing the moot, ESHS team leader Eusa Adams also began with a quote, this time from Olaudah Equiano about his account of being sold into slavery. He said financial blacklisting is not modern colonialism, and pointed to the collaborative relationship between Caribbean countries and organisations that act as watchdogs in the global financial services industry as evidence.

He said blacklisting is an important step in combating illegal practices such as money laundering and terrorist financing.
“The reality is that the blacklist that comes from the [Financial Action Task Force] is the recognised international standard, and has been for decades,” he said.

Alexia Penn from Elmore Stoutt High School learns she won Best Speaker during the Inter-Secondary Debates finals on March 11. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

ESHS team members Jordon Dawson and Alexia Penn bolstered his argument by explaining how “legitimate blacklists have been applied,” and said Caribbean centres haven’t been unfairly targeted.

“The BVI, alongside other small Caribbean jurisdictions, has actually served to police the larger countries and has played an instrumental role in setting the standards by which the OECD and the FATF operate,” Mr. Adams said.

Adjudicators at the final debate commended both teams for providing thoughtful arguments during the season.

Near disaster

Ms. Adamson said her team nearly experienced disaster when their 40 pages of notes were left behind.

But fortunately for the team, her father retrieved them in time for the finals, and the Cedar International team pulled off a win by a 30-point margin out of a possible 160 points.

Ms. Chomiak said she found the financial elements to the moot to be particularly interesting.

“I think our team had a bit of difficulty with the moots not really being applicable to our generation,” she said. “But I think it was very insightful to be able to learn about the ‘real world.’ Things like this do happen.”

Addressing the colonialism aspects of the prompt proved more challenging, the team said. The adjudicators observed that both teams struggled to define what a “modern” form of colonialism looks like. However, chief adjudicator Kimberly Crabbe-Adams said though it was a particularly challenging moot to address, the team from Elmore Stoutt did the best job of outlining their argument.

The team said the term “colonialism” itself is outdated, so trying to put it in a modern context was difficult. But they filled stacks of papers with background research and used that wealth of knowledge to provide context for their argument.

A student from Elmore Stoutte High School competes in the impromptu speeches round of the Inter-Secondary School Debate finals. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)
Second place

Ms. Adamson and Chomiak said they found it validating to come out on top after coming in second place last year. They said balancing regular schoolwork and debate prep required a lot of effort as upperclassmen, and they weren’t entirely sure they would return next year as 12th graders. But they urged Mr. Tarabay, who is currently in grade nine, to carry the team forward next year.

To anyone interested in taking up the baton next year, the team offered a bit of advice.

Mr. Tarabay said when taking the podium, he finds it important to think through his points, but not overthink them. Ms. Adamson said especially in the role of captain, building confidence in oneself and one’s teammates is a must.

“I’m very proud of my teammates and colleagues,” she said. “They worked so hard.”

Other winners

Ms. Penn, who led the opposition’s rebuttal, took the title of best speaker at the finals.

Students from all four schools involved in the debate series’ semi-finals participated in the impromptu speech portion of the evening. Nikelle Melville of ESHS took third in the impromptu speeches, Nicklous Kanhai of Bregado Flax Educational Centre took second, and Halla Selwood of ESHS took first.