Response to ‘COMUN? No thank you’ – a well wisher of MUN


“MUN in general is missing it’s drive as in the old days and it is important to reignite and reinstate this magnificent student forum to what it was.”

Fellow MUNers of Sri Lanka,

There has been a lot going around lately, you know, tossing words about, sounding logically right at some points, negligent of the real wrong doers at some others – about the 22nd Session of COMUN that was held in February this year.

As much as I respect the writer for putting it all out there, I believe that the factors here are manipulated to bring out some support for an impending conference on media, which we are yet to witness, at the expense of the one in discussion, which is not fair. I, who am an ardent believer and supporter of Model UN, proud of what it has been in the past, understands what it has become now and foreseeing what the future will look like, can simply say that what we need is a more clear understanding of what possibly went wrong, learn from the mistakes made and construct something better as we move along.

In the review titled “COMUN? No thank you” we see how the writer recognizes the 22nd Session as the lowest point at which the conference has been, in comparison to the past 21 years. True, to some extent. While it is a fact that some committees at COMUN completely or to a great extent failed, there were some others that faired pretty well and exceptionally well. I believe the writer too will agree that these were the collective sentiments of many delegates, faculty advisors and past MUN Alumni. To some younger delegates, being in a messed up committee (which is according to the older ones who sometimes may not necessarily accept their chairs) would neither have necessarily played a huge part, nor would have been understood much because some of those older well performing delegates would have set up a good show to motivate them to continue their MUN journey in the future. We cannot simply brand an entire conference as ‘useless’ based on a couple of issues that can be accounted for.

What really stands as an issue if anything here, is when certain “outstanding performers” do not get the award they truly deserve on one level and what they believe they did deserve on another. It is delegates like this that fuel anger against the administration of a conference, on the basis of utter disappointment and speak against the conference. I for one can vouch then, for friends who deserved but lost their award to the head table’s favourite delegate at both the mainstream conferences in Sri Lanka.

The writer also goes on to grant COMUN an epithet for being the  ‘only’ conference that allows foul monopoly.

Point to note: There will never be a single place out there that will guarantee in all possible ways, “recognition” for a hardworker, a truly deserving person. There will never be a single place that is devoid of this ‘foul monopoly’ you speak of, friend.

Reason: Every place is a heavenly place, lest one custom should corrupt the world (and corruption lurks everywhere)

The writer then goes on to call it, I quote, “A monopoly between two international schools.” One would say that, the writer is deeply hurt that he/she would’ve lost out on what he/she deserves because of this monopoly. Justified. Anyone would agree that it is plain unfair that I should lose my award because someone else was from one of these major schools.
Question is, is it a fair allegation against the two schools concerned? I would say, not really. Why? Because delegates from these two schools have invested much more than most other schools to earn their positions at the top. We need to recognize that some chair persons would face a difficulty in awarding between two people of the very same school.

Bottom line: If you are a delegate from another school who deserved that award above the one who claimed it by his school title. It is wrong. You need to speak up not just for yourself but for others who are caught in the game too, which is exactly what you are doing and I respect you for that. But, we cannot neglect the fact that some of them from these major schools really did deserve some award, maybe some of us weren’t good enough.

Lesson to be learnt: Life is not going to be fair. Just make sure that you made it count and you worked till you deserved it ’cause sometimes you might just not be there yet. Also, you won’t always have your way or get to have your say.
Maybe next time, tell your chair that you deserved it or the faculty advisor of COMUN because they are the ones that can give you answers. People who read your article can only sympathize with you, nothing more.

Much was said about the Secretariat of COMUN 2016. A blow against Alo Lenk Walker, the Secretary General was unnecessary here. Why? Because, if you observe the trends of COMUN over the years, the Secretary General has almost always, correct me if I am wrong , been from the organizing school itself. I believe this has been done in order to ensure that all administrative affairs remain in the hands of the school. Alo would possibly qualify as the senior most member for this cause.

However, what the writer should be concerned with is the leadership that she together with her secretariat gave to the executive committee. It is understood that if the secretariat is not strong, the rest would collapse. This is exactly what happened to COMUN if anything. Question is, who should we hold accountable? I would say, the Faculty Advisor. As an adult and representative for the school she should have taken up this responsibility more seriously as opposed to overlooking the inherent problems that would have been there right in front of her eyes. I would blame her for the childish role play by the three secretariat members and not the members themselves as clearly, no direction was given, no fear of authority existed.

As for the executive committee, there were some chairs that were experienced and some others who have entered it, in order to learn. Let us be kind enough to acknowledge both these categories as we take a look at these “EXCO Issues” one at a time.

1) The direct hint made at the newly appointed Charge D’ Affaires who is known in the circuit for photography in a past number of conferences

Response: Maybe he messed up, saying yes to Kurdistan being allowed voting rights passed by the General Assemblies and to many other absurd proposals that propped up during conference, but in terms of dedication to getting conference on the run in a situation where the Faculty Advisor was not so much on the run and blowing a fuse, we can say, be grateful to the guy that took on a last minute responsibility, sometimes way more than the Secretariat itself (according to the Executive Committee Members)

2) “Chairs socializing outside committee during sessions, disappearing from committees for hours on end” – What do I think? Unnecessary, hence agreed on that point. However, this is not only applicable to COMUN. It happens everywhere. Just regulated now, more in one place than the other.

Lesson to be learnt? Draw up a code of conduct or some direction manual for the executive committee members in order to maintain the reputation of the conference.

3) Conference topics chosen by the executive committee being outside the committee mandates – What do I think? Misguided and unchecked work.

Always a problem.

Lessons to be learnt? Model UN in Sri Lanka is undergoing recession in a sense. Set aside egos and maybe ask for help from MUN Alumni. There is a whole load of them out there, some of whom are really humble and are willing to give their input.

4) “Chairs who never applied to be chairs” ending up becoming chairs – Well, quite unfortunate that non-chairs got an upgrade but truth be told, the problem here lies in the administration and by administration I mean lack of regulation flowing down from the Faculty Advisor who should be more accountable in this regard.

5) “Was it the Secretariat that oversaw the awards being decided? And thus oversaw a committee decide to award the Best Novice Award to an experienced delegate and previous chair?”

What I think? It is an error in the definition of who a novice delegate is. Someone sort out that definition in clear unambiguous terms maybe and just make it clear in the conferences’ constitution? We’ll save a lot of time on this argument.

And now to the major issues,

I quote the writer, “During conference we had chairs openly admit to tampering points, chairs openly accuse other chairs of bias, chairs doling out committee positions after every hour or so, chairs asking delegates which award they would personally prefer.”

Friends, my response to this is quite simple, “this happens everywhere” and is not exclusive to COMUN and these facts do not put one conference above or below the other. It is quite unfortunate that youngsters fall prey to the evils of bias. This just remains from today an eye opener and a reminder to the Secretariat and the Executive Committee of SLMUN 2016 later this year and conferences to come, to be mindful of the chairs they pick and ensure that justice is meted out in the best way possible.

The writer goes on to attribute the low numbers at COMUN and the higher numbers at the other mainstream conference to be in relation to the exploitation of “positions of authority” publicly in student run forums such as this. I’d say that the reason why COMUN ranges between 300 to 400 delegates is because it has always been a very compact conference. Bitter experiences that one gains from any situation in life can compel you to not run towards that which caused pain. On this account we believe that yes, people may drop out of conference but what you say cannot always necessarily be attributed to it. The reason why the other mainstream conference still stands as the largest student run conference is due to the fact the Charge D’ Affaires of that conference has always been behind the Secretariat and Executive Boards throughout the years, encouraging them to increase the numbers and stretch out to others. Again, we come down to the guidance and support of a faculty advisor which by now many of us will agree would have deteriorated from the COMUN system and this is the error I would speak of even in this instance.

“The first ever university level foreign delegation to take part in COMUN was told at the end of the first day, they were not eligible for awards. The same university students who were initially invited as international delegates to attend COMUN and who also fit within the age barrier provided by COMUN. Was it ethical to have them come all the way from Malaysia for conference, to only be told they are disqualified ? Did the faculty advisers have a role in this ?”
In relation to the above, what happened was unfortunate and the COMUN 2016 administration should be left to answer to these delegates, who by now I believe do not really care because they came, stayed and left in the true spirit of sportsmanship. Had it been some others, it would have been different. Thus, I would say that COMUN this year was lucky to have less problem from their friends from Malaysia. What were the real issues? The fact that these were university students and what they were doing at a high school conference. Much of this would have become a subject of concern to the faculty advisors which obviously reflected in the decision to call them out.

Lesson to be learnt? Keep University students out of high school conferences if you think it is going to be an issue.

What I think? They don’t need to be there because it’s time that the new kids in town find their way to the top and earn it. The oldies? They can settle down to chair. (Nothing intended against our Alumni and friends from Malaysia)

Lessons to be learnt: Redraw Faculty Advisors’ Parameters and limit their interference in conference matters as it is understood that speaking up for actual injustice is much different from lobbying on behalf of your school delegates and becoming parties to the manipulation of awards.

In conclusion, I believe that the writer has a true passion to see MUN become what is used to be with all its glory. It is true that COMUN has been coming down and losing its spirits. Moreover,I believe that some of you will agree with me MUN in general is missing it’s enthusiasm and drive as in the old days and it is important to reignite and reinstate this magnificent student forum to what it was. How we do this? We start from scratch. Let’s not just blame the Secretariat and EXCO shall we? Poor kids some of them tried really hard to keep it together.

I believe there were a couple of discrepancies that happened to Chair Persons as well, some hard workers were not recognized whereas some others we know were for their flowery language and even generous contributions in terms of money and sponsors. So, it was not necessarily one party that has been hurt here. Not one party that can be put at fault given that it was a collective action plan that was implemented. Some of them worked well. Some others did not.

However, at the end of this, our minds should be tuned to accept the faults of the past, learn our lessons and shape our future. To the youngsters in “positions of authority” in the conferences to come, good luck!

To past MUN Alumni, it’s time to give back to the conferences that made you who you are, and how you should do this, is by simple words of appreciation for the work of blossoming young leaders in the MUN Circuit and at other times, some constructive criticism to keep them on the right path, so they don’t go astray.

Let us not forget the wonderful memories and the friendships that were made at COMUN and remember all that with gratitude before we completely lash out at something.  I believe that the COMUN 2016, SC Best Delegate would agree with anyone that the feeling that so many kids in the MUN Circuit look up to him and are inspired by him counts way more than the award itself. Because, you may not have won that BD award you so wanted. But you may have won the hearts of many in your committees and those kids, may love you for who you are and consider you their role model. Sometimes, that makes a difference more than anything else.
Martin Luther King, Jr once said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that…”

With the hope of spreading this light and love, I rest my case.

Best Regards,

Social Critique, SL


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