The Hope Versus The Voice.
The first day of the MUSA General Election Debate was held on the 23rd of August, 2018 as Monashians filled up the concourse area; with various food trucks providing an unique backdrop for the debate. The reason for conducting this debate was to have a platform for the candidates to give each other constructive criticism as well as provide an outlook as to whether their respective policies would bode well with Monashians. The presidential, vice-presidential, general secretarial and treasurer candidates were all put to the test in this hotly-anticipated debate.
The President’s Debate
The presidential candidates were first up to deliver their respective speeches. Johnathon Wong, The Spero’s presidential candidate started off by reminding the floor that he is just a student like all Monashians. As a presidential candidate, he proposed that he would like to improve the livelihood of Monashians in their day-to-day routines. Johnathon promised more utilities such as more vending machines and microwaves as Johnathon feels that the general vending machines are all located at building 5, causing the center to be too centralized. He also stated that he would like the students in Monash Malaysia to have the same facilities as the students that are in the Clayton campus. Although the process would be hard, Johnathon promised to bring more facilities as seen in the Clayton campus into our current Malaysian campus. The keyword in Johnathon’s overall manifesto was integrity; as he emphasized having integrity was key in unlocking the ultimate synergy in creating a better MUSA.
Soon after, it was time for Kajendra Govindasamy, presidential candidate of the Vox, to step up to deliver his speech. In his speech he proposed an overhaul in MUSA in order to improve and rebuild communications within MUSA as well as between the general student population. Under his leadership, he proposed a replacement of the MUSA forum with “Coffee with the President”, in which students are treated to coffee by Kajendra in the hopes that informal conversations would be sparked from the resulting factor. Kajendra also proposed that he would like to conduct TedX-style talks amongst the students so their voices would be heard. Through the affiliation with Center of Asia Leadership, leadership workshops will also be more affordable. An EBIT (External Brainstorming and Innovation Team) would also be formed, where students from different schools can come together to solve problems together. The keyword in Kajendra’s overall manifesto was voice, as he wants students to have the opportunity to voice out their opinions through his party’s introduction of new avenues of communication, in the hopes that the barrier between MUSA and Monash students would cease to exist.
After delivering their opening speeches, both candidates were allowed a back-and-forth, in which each asked questions about the other’s policies and gave constructive criticism in regards to those policies. Johnathon from the Spero began by asking for the reason for abolishing the MUSA forum. Without hesitation, Kajendra from the Vox pointed at the decreasing turnout for the forum through the years. Kajendra further explained that student bodies in world-class universities like Harvard hold informal talks with the general student population, as informal conversations have more potential to increase student engagement.
Kajendra then questioned Johnathon’s statements on integrity and the policies Johnathon plans to instill integrity amongst MUSA members, to which Johnathon swiftly replied by saying that he will not micromanage but to lead the members to a common goal, that is to be on par with the Monash Clayton campus in Australia.
After both presidential candidates cross-evaluated their policies, current Mr. President Thush asked both the candidates what would they do if there were MUSA members who blurred the boundaries of personal and professional problems, and whether those problems can be stopped entirely. Johnathon from the Spero agreed that those problems would likely arise but he would solve the problem by getting to know his members more personally and work to find a common goal. Kajendra from the Vox also agreed that it would be virtually impossible to stop those problems but he would solve the problem as soon as it arises and would also try to find the common goal through negotiations.
The Vice Presidents’ Debate
As the vice-presidential candidates from the Spero withdrew under unforeseen circumstances, the vice-presidential candidates from the Vox, Nikita Fernandes and Siow Zhi Shuen, were left uncontested for the position. In their speech, both took it in turns to present their vision and elaborated on how they planned on improving MUSA from a vice-presidential point of view. Their main aim was to familiarize Monashians with their surroundings in campus through various school initiatives. Their manifesto encouraged an increase of informal communication, as well as going on record to state that the Vice President would only finance student initiatives which are academic-related. Current MUSA vice presidents Ryan and Khai Tze then posed an important question to the pair from the Vox: How were they going to ascertain whether the event was academic-related or not? Nikita acknowledged that while events in Monash are diverse and hold different themes, they will prioritize events that are not held by clubs, but by students instead.
As the MC signaled the end of the Q&A session for the vice-presidential candidates, the general secretarial candidates from both the Vox and the Spero went up to the oddly symmetrical, scarlet stage to prepare for their battle after a short intermission.
The General Secretary’s Debate
As the bell rang, both general secretarial candidates, Allyce Hui Shan Low of the Spero and Khor Jing Ying of the Vox introduced themselves to the curious and excited audience. In Allyce’s manifesto, she pledged to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of meetings by undertaking the responsibility of recording the meeting minutes through audio and/or video. She also intends to update Monashians on the progress made with concerning issues in Monash, as she believes it is imperative for Monashians to be able to rely on MUSA in being accountable as well as transparent. Allyce also believes the electoral process must be reevaluated, as she felt the election should reward a singular majority party with seats in MUSA, instead of the current electoral process, where elected individuals can be from different parties.
As for Jing Ying(according to her, anyone who knows her knows that Jing Ying is her “Ching Chong” name), she pledged to conduct fortnightly-sessions titled “Coffee with the General Secretary”, echoing fellow party member and presidential candidate Kajendra’s proposal. Jing Ying believes the gap between the general student population and MUSA stood to be tightened through the aforementioned practice. Additionally, she proposed the introduction of a MUSA manifesto and Key Performance Index (KPI), to supplement the usual MUSA constitution, handbook and election regulations; this being borne out of a feeling that a document which houses records of the pledges made by MUSA members would allow her a means of ensuring office bearers are held accountable to their promises.
Subsequently, the current GenSec, Tharshini was invited to give her opinions on both policies and pose questions to both candidates. Tharshini asked both the candidates on how each would solve conflicts within MUSA, and how they would detect the source of the rumors that surround these conflicts. Jing Ying of the Vox remarked that it would be hard to trace the direct source, but not impossible. She elaborated that she would first find out the reason behind the conflict, after which she would see if the rumors were just rumors, or potential problems that could arise in the future. In the event of there being emergency situations that needed to be addressed swiftly, Jing Ying proposed that she would hence bring up said issues in the next MSC meeting.
Allyce of the Spero on the other hand pledged to fostering two-way relationships, creating an environment in which members feel comfortable in trading feedback, therefore solving problems before they have the chance to snowball into a bigger issue. Seemingly satisfied with both answers, Tharshini then addressed Allyce’s suggested proposal of audio recording, as MUSA is currently adopting that approach in their meetings, posing a question to Allyce in regards to how she would further improve the recording of meeting minutes, excluding the audio and video approach that is currently in place. After a moment in thought, Allyce responded that she could train one of her sub-committees to record the meeting minutes alongside her, and cross-checking each other’s records at the end to ensure both records tallied with each other. As for Jing Ying, Tharshini suggested that if she were to require a hearing/motion in a short amount of time, she may explore the notion of an email motion, instead of waiting for the following MSC.
Soon after, Skylar from the school of IT asked whether members in shared positions should equate to having a shared vote, or be granted two separate votes for motions. Allyce believed that it was logical to have the single vote for a shared position; while Jing Ying disagreed. Jing Ying felt everyone should have the opportunity to voice out within MUSA and limiting this voting right to one vote per shared position would be a means of limiting one’s opinions. Jing Ying also suggested that editors from MONGA ought to have the ability to vote in motions. This statement was then questioned by current MONGA editor, Ling Jie, as he believed this voting right may result in general bias, and how that might clash with journalistic integrity as well as the transparency of articles in general. Jing Ying agreed on this front, but stuck to her guns in saying that editors should be bequeathed with the power of votes in meetings.
The Treasurers’ Debate
Next came a fierce battle between the two prospective financial overseers, as the treasurer candidates from both Spero and Vox took the stage amidst the humid weather. The Vox was represented by Minal Kinai and Marium Imran; while The Spero was represented by Nur Sharikul Huda and Shania Jessica.
Sharikul and Shania from the Spero began their speech by addressing their reputation and credentials, with both having had experience in MUSA, hence providing them with the required knowledge to succeed as treasurers. If they were to be elected as treasurers, they would prepare a financial breakdown at the beginning of each semester in order to determine the allocation of funds to respective departments. They would also like to reduce food expenditure (especially from events), and channel those funds to where it was most needed.
Minal and Marium from the Vox proposed to keep 16% of the overall budget allocated as a reserve for emergency events, and planned to reinvest any profit gained from events back into the Monash community. They also felt that the expenditures for Monash Cup have been too high, and would like to allocate excess funds to welfare activities, such as having more food choices and food trucks; this stemming from a belief that the food choices in Monash Malaysia as it stands is not satisfactory.
As both parties closed their respective manifestos, the stage was then open to a cross-examination of each party, which started off with a bang! Minal and Marium requested for further clarification from both Shania and Sharikul on the purpose of the financial breakdown at the beginning of each semester. Sharikul explained this came into effect as wastage and last-minute expenditures may arise in the absence of planning in the allocation of the overall budget. Subsequently, Sharikul and Shania questioned the proposal of Minal and Marium to keeping 16% of their overall budget as a reserve. Marium and Minal explained the purpose for the reserves was merely to help students hold events, with the condition that the event details is given to them with a 2-month notice. Sharikul followed up his question by stating that this would result in the redundancy of the VP’s reserves, as this would see an overlapping in objectives. Minal defended their stance by stating that they would only act as an intermediate, with their reserves only being granted in cases with a prior notice; unlike the VP’s reserves, which are reserved for student initiatives.
As the cross-examination came to an end, Jae and Kelly, the incumbent treasurers of MUSA, questioned both pairs as to whether corruption may happen if they were chosen as the treasurers for the next term. Whilst both pairs acknowledged the very real prospect of corruption, both were on the same page in agreeing that paperwork is key in avoiding such cases within MUSA. Someone from the audience then posed a question for the pair from the Vox on the possible leniency in regards to their 2-months prior notice policy as some events are done in typical last-minute fashion. Without breaking a sweat, Minal and Marium explained these situations would be evaluated on a case-to-case basis, therefore encouraging clubs to use their own allocated budget first; with the 16% reserves only coming into play if they were to have insufficient funds for the event. Skylar from the school of IT then asked Sharikul and Shania of the Spero for their opinion on the purpose of cutting down on food expenditure, as stated in their manifesto. Shania felt that food is constantly wasted during events, and if they could reduce the wastage of food during said events, hence allowing the money to be channeled into something more useful, it would benefit the general population of students in Monash.
To summarize the day, both parties elucidated their reasons and policies on why each were the best candidate well. However, if Monashians do not take up their rights to vote, all the candidates’ hard work, time and effort would, to put it figuratively, be going into the familiar R2D2 bins around Monash. Just like how Malaysia is going through some much-needed change; if you want to maintain and/or even improve your livelihood in Monash Malaysia, please do vote. Get to know your candidates, and vote for the candidate you think will bring the change you desire to happen in Monash Malaysia. Without your support, the HOPE of having your VOICE being heard by the Monashian population will never materialise.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
If you are not brave enough to cast your vote, let that quote from Albus Dumbledore remind you that your vote is more important than you think.
Article by Matthew Chin
Photos by Nalau Nobel