From Novices To MPs: Youth Debaters Shine In Mock Parliament Showdown
The Dewan Rakyat came alive last Saturday, 26 August, as scores of passionate Malaysians gathered in the corridors of power ahead of Hari Kebangsaan to engage in spirited debates on matters of national importance
This was a familiar scene for this writer, who has covered multiple parliament sittings during his time as a political writer at the New Straits Times. The writer was accompanied by his colleague at SAYS. But this was no ordinary sitting for one reason: Parliament only meets from Monday to Thursday when it is in session.
You see, the smartly dressed individuals who filled the august house are not members of parliament (MPs); they are a group of young Malaysians taking part in the Youth Parliamentary Debathon, an event that lets them experience a day in the life of an MP.
Imagine the buzz in the air as the spirited debaters, aged between 16 and 25, took their places on either side of the aisle, mirroring the government and opposition benches in a riveting simulation of an actual parliamentary session.
For a full six hours, they passionately locked horns over pressing issues: the urgency of climate change, the wallet-pinching cost of living, and even the necessity for political education. The hallowed chambers resonated with their fervour and for those hours, they embodied the voices that shape a nation's future.
They didn't just mimic these voices – they practically became them
Their words, delivered in both Bahasa Melayu and English, carried the same persuasive charm and unapologetic enthusiasm that make an MP's speech so engaging. You could swear you were listening to a seasoned legislator if your eyes were closed.
Within those chambers, around a dozen bona fide elected representatives, including Cabinet ministers, sat among the students. They shared words of wisdom and valuable insights with these budding activists and potential lawmakers. Their presence added a touch of seasoned guidance to this youthful bunch.
Some of them even donned the distinguished robes of the House Speaker
Several MPs presided over the discussions, ensuring that the rules were followed and decorum was maintained – just as you'd expect from seasoned lawmakers.
But by the end of the day, the legislators were impressed by what they had witnessed and showered praise on the young rookies.
"I had a truly enjoyable moment watching all of you and imagining that one day, you will actually be in the House," said Deputy Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Fuziah Salleh, who observed the debate on the rising cost of living in Malaysia.
"And the rowdiness that was projected by the opposition reminds me of what it is like in the real chambers," Fuziah, who is also a senator, said with a smile.
Bandar Utama state assemblywoman (ADUN) Jamaliah Jamaluddin said she felt as though she attended an actual sitting
"I'm quite impressed because you guys follow the Standing Orders better than actual MPs. Everything was done so professionally… and most importantly, no vulgarities were spewed," she said, adding that the event, jointly organised by Malaysiakini and KiniEvents, is extremely beneficial.
"Today shows that youths can assume the role of an MP or ADUN if given the opportunity. What's important is your intention to contribute to the country," she said after observing the debate on climate change.
The best four debaters were awarded lifetime subscriptions to Malaysiakini
The winners – Muhammad Mahdiyen Nafiz Mohd Azizi, Benteny Ooi Si Quan, Muhammad Haikal Khairi, and Mohamed Adam Mohamed Ashraff – also received a trophy made of sustainable balau wood courtesy of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council, the event's co-partner.
Besides partnering with The Body Shop, Taylor's College, and the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking, the event is also supported by Parliament and the Youth and Sports Ministry.
If you missed the debates, you can watch these talented speakers in action on the Youth Parliamentary Debathon website. You can also vote for your favourite debaters, but hurry, polling closes on Wednesday, 30 August.