Shadowing Tharaka – aka the Protocol Czar – for most of Day 1 of Conference meant that the MUN highlight of the day, for me, was the struggle to return MUN rules of procedures to its original form. For years MUN procedure in Sri Lanka had mutated into something totally different to what it was at the start. Our love of some timely pandemonium had led us down a slightly dark path of multiplying Rights of Replies. I am guilty of walking down this path myself. Recording Tharaka’s attempts at NYMUN to reverse this process seems to be my atonement for those sins.
What he has essentially been doing is to end the practice of using Right of Reply to speak on factual errors and logical fallacies. Rights of Reply are now only entertained for violations of sovereignty and insults on a country. Find a factual error in another delegate’s speech? Well then use your next speech to bring it up in brief – not to make your whole speech about it, but to use your time wisely to address multiple matters. This means that actual speeches are ever more important – as they should be.
Leaving aside my bias for conference protocol, the next highlight was obviously the move towards accommodating trilingual debate. This has been a continuous challenge for MUN in Sri Lanka and the failure to succeed at it has given it the label of being an English speakers’ bubble.
The UNHRC committee was functioning as a model trilingual committee with a fully functional interpretation system – headphones, human translators and all. The financial resources saved by opting out of expensive hotels in favor of university lecture rooms, allowed this to happen. Such an interpretation system is a very costly aspect of any conference – even for the actual UN.
The Plenary General Assembly had Nuzly in committee as the interpreter, who helped Tamil speaking delegates to understand the flow of debate in committee and translated their speeches to English. While it wasn’t as efficient as the UNHRC’s simultaneous translations, it was effective nevertheless in ensuring that a wider demographic was able to engage in the GA’s debate.
Throughout all committees I saw new delegates, especially those from outside Colombo speaking quite fluently and confidently. The delegate of Maldives in WFP was probably one of the committee’s highlights. Eventhough she was a young delegate from Beruwala, she was speaking very confidently about her country’s stance on the topic. She didn’t appear concerned about what questions the other delegates would ask her later on. She was in her word flow and she seemed to enjoy the moment; something many MUNers forget to do. They either get ashamed of past mishap or get anxious about possible future mishaps – making them anxious about saying anything right now.
While five of the nine committees were at Edulink with its modern facilities, the other four were housed in the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo (UoC). For some of us, including myself, it was the first time spending a significant time within these faculties. It makes us understand two things – the state universities, especially the premier UoC, have better facilities than many would imagine and that there are valid reasons for state university students to protest about improving the infrastructure on campus.
More events need to consider using these Faculties as venues for events so that more young people can get an understanding of these public institutions – which belong to every Sri Lankan not just those studying in them.
Some delegates might question as to why I am not detailing out the issues faced by the conference in the morning session of Day 1. Yes there were issues and there is no denying that. Since that first session, the conference has bounced back to a smooth flow by sticking to the basics of MUN.