Year after year, a multitude of debates are organised on campus. Debates about everything and anything. However, how far do most of them manage to get by asking vague questions? Insite together with The Yuppie wanted to set the bar high this year by opting to deliver a set of debates surrounding KSU elections, Pulse and SDM, KSU executive, and upcoming KE/KPS candidates that asked all panelists questions that not many dare ask. This was done in order to make sure that the student population gets the opportunity to see in action the people that will be running the council for the upcoming term.
Elegantly moderated by student activist Christoph Schwaiger, the KSU Executive Grilling debate sought to put on the spot all elected 10 members of the KSU executive and grill them both on their previous record and experiences as well as the manifesto that SDM based its Il-Pass li Jmiss electoral campaign on. The manifesto received a large number of varied comments starting from the very positive ones saying that it includes “very good proposals which will make university better” to being labelled as “one of the weakest manifestos seen in a while”. The 10 candidates were then followed by Harley Mallia and Nicholas Martinelli where both of them were asked about their respective manifestos prior to the election held on Thursday.
Upcoming KSU President, Robert Napier, opened the debate by saying that “it is very important to bear in mind that being in KSU is not related to being popular. This year’s team is proof that the way forward is to choose the best candidates according to what they are capable of.” This implies that the SDM chose people who according to them were the best candidates for each office. However, questions directed to a variety of the elected council members seemed to show otherwise. In fact, all present got the opportunity to see how certain council members had little to no clue as to what discussions are currently ongoing with the University registrar. Others had little to no experience in relation to their offices, as can be seen with the newly elected International and Culture Offices. Despite these members wholeheartedly showing the willingness to learn while fulfilling their duties within the council, it does make us question whether this approach taken by SDM for what is considered to be the most important student organisation on campus, is the best one in the interest of the whole student body.
Despite this, I can’t deny that some members did actually surprise us with their determination and will to work, one of these members includes upcoming Social Policy Officer Celine Talbot. After a question pointed out that throughout the past year, Talbot has never contributed to the discussion even though she had been present to KPS meetings, she immediately expressed how “during KPS meetings I was representing TDM, where I had to present ideas backed by my executive.” Despite this, Talbot insisted that her main aim will remain that of bringing KPS closer to students by showing them that KPS is the place where they can give their opinion on current affairs and things that they may be passionate about.
Another issue tackled during the debate was the fact that when going through SDM’s manifesto for the upcoming year, many proposals seem vague - to say the least. While many of whom say that KSU will keep on working on initiatives and events undertaken by the previous council, others simply state that ‘SDM in KSU will look into’ this and that, with no concrete proof as to when work will start, or how it is to be done… leaving us asking whether these kinds of proposals should even be mentioned in a manifesto or whether they should be at least grouped into one proposal. Answering this, upcoming Vice President Steve Zammit Lupi said that “there are some proposals that can be interpreted in a vague way, but we left them vague because we are welcoming proposals from all students. If you wrap it all up, we have to perform over 80 proposals in 52 weeks, on a voluntary basis. This is quite an achievement. We will continue things from the past that we believe are good, but also develop other initiatives we believe can improve.”
Keeping in mind the main reason for the debate, that of asking the questions that are on the mind of many but very few dare to ask them, by no means did this debate want to discourage or taint the reputation of KSU or SDM. However it is intended to show that despite the efforts, more needs to be done and SDM shouldn’t be the only ones participating in these elections. Whilst taking away the competition of who is the most fit to run the council and the students’ rights to make an informed decision, having no competition whatsoever does tend to pass on the message that one does not need to try hard to bring to the table something innovative, controversial, and new - especially if coming from the reigning party. Nicholas Martinelli was a stepping stone towards a well needed change, encouraging other students to eventually take a leap of faith and try to challenge the one party system that has taken over University.
Nicole Borg is a currently a 4th year student studying Communications and Theatre Studies. She joined Insite as a writer and editor in 2014/2015. Following she progressed to join the media team as Publications Officer in 2015/16. Currently she is the Executive Editor of Insite Malta for the term of 2016/17.