Priscilla Ngeow, a second year full-time Finance programme student at SIM University (UniSIM), did the University proud with her commendable performance at the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Youth Debates 2015, held at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 6 September 2015.
The event, organised by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and AICHR, brought 30 university students from 10 ASEAN member states together to debate on topics related to human rights. It aimed to promote greater awareness of human rights among ASEAN youth, and facilitate an active exchange of ideas and perspectives on various human rights issues. Guests at the event included Guest-of-Honour Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at MFA; and judges Dr Noeleen Heyzer, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations; and Mr Max Everest-Phillips, Director of the United Nations Development Programme Global Centre for Public Service Excellence.
In her opening speech, Professor Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador-at-Large at MFA and Singapore's Representative to AICHR, emphasised the importance of ASEAN youth in shaping the future of the region. Following a panel discussion on "Youth and Human Rights in ASEAN" with four of the eight AICHR Representatives present, the students engaged in five debate sessions, discussing topics such as the death penalty and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.
Priscilla, who was interviewed and nominated by UniSIM's faculty to participate in the event, was selected as one of the three debaters to represent Singapore, together with students from NUS and Nanyang Technological University. As the first speaker in her transnational team comprising group mates from Cambodia and Myanmar, Priscilla provided the team's definitions and framed the parameters for argument on the debate motion "The Primary Human Right is the Right to Good Governance". She outlined cases that occurred in Cambodia, and argued that good governance provided the basis upon which other human rights could be fulfilled and implemented. Her fellow speakers then contributed a detailed analysis of this position.
The audience members, including close to 150 tertiary institution students, enjoyed a spirited exchange of ideas and views with the debaters. Twenty UniSIM students, who turned up to support Priscilla, were kept on the edge of their seats by the electrifying speeches and rebuttals.
Priscilla was appreciative of this opportunity to network with and learn first-hand from other delegates about their views of and aspirations for ASEAN. Besides the debate, she and the other participants were also taken on a guided tour of Singapore's newly opened Community Rehabilitation Centre.
Priscilla reflected that her experience taught her "nothing about human rights, yet everything about human rights", and said: "Human rights are not an idealistic position we aspire to. Rather, human rights touch upon every aspect of our daily lives. Human rights are not something that only bigwigs talk about. Rather, human rights are most relevant to those who have been oppressed and exploited." Thanking her school mates for their support, she added: "This event has been most insightful, and I have emerged so much stronger after this experience. I encourage UniSIM students who are interested in human rights-related service-learning initiatives to participate in such activities."
Priscilla Ngeow presenting her arguments.
Priscilla Ngeow (centre, in white top) with her school mates who had turned up to lend their support.