Friday, February 21, 2020

Victory Again (Jessup 2019)

Last year, we finally bounced back from our brief fall from grace to emerge as the Malaysian Champion of Jessup. In the International Rounds, we finished in the Top 16 and 3 members ranked in the Top 100 Oralists.

On 14 February 2020, we took a step closer in our quest to capture the Jessup championship.

Once again, University of Malaya (UM) is the Champion of the Jessup Malaysian National Rounds!

Team UM

* * *

As in any competition, defending the title is typically harder than winning the first time round.

You start as the favourites. There's a target on your back. Every other team is keenly watching your every move and hatching cunning plans to take you down. The expectation and pressure to succeed are heightened. Failing where others have succeeded carries greater stigma.

Since the competition restarted in September 2019, we knew we were in for a tougher ride than last year. Four members from last year's team have either graduated and retired from mooting - the youngest member being the sole survivor. Out of the four new members in 2020, only one was well-read in public international law.

In contrast, our rivals have grown stronger. Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), runner-up from last year, retained the Best Oralist of the National Rounds in their ranks. International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), the host of this year, featured three repeaters.

True enough, as feared, all teams came out blazing at the competition. Most matches were evenly fought. A few upsets of underdogs knocking out heavyweights added to the suspense.

And unlike last year, our path to victory was far from assured. Not all judges were on our side. At times, we edged out by the slimmest of margins. We weren't in dominating form.

* * *

In the end, UM finished as the top team of the Preliminary Rounds after winning all our 4 matches.

In the finals, we faced against IIUM, supported by their home crowd - and prevailed by a unanimous 5-0 decision.

Also, we bagged awards for the Best Memorial and Best Oralist of the Finals (missing out only on the Best Oralist of the Preliminary Rounds).

But the results don't really tell the whole drama that enfolded behind the scenes.

One memorable moment was during the judges' feedback at the end of a Preliminary Round. The judge in the president's seat said: "All the best in bringing up IIUM's name". A stunned silence ensued. From the audience, a meek voice spoke up: "Um, but this is a national competition". And the judge laughed: "Oh, I thought it was an internal moot. I was only invited two days ago".

What's even more ironic is that the same judge had judged another Preliminary Round previously. So even after hearing over 3 hours of submissions, the judge didn't even know that this was Jessup!

Not surprisingly - considering only a single member in our team could pass as a Muslim - that judge gave us the loss...

That's just one plot twist that crept up throughout the competition. Suffice to say, we had to dodge many unexpected curve-balls thrown our way.

Team Malaysia

* * *

We've passed through the first test - shaken, but strengthened.

The International Rounds at Washington DC of the US awaits us in April.

We'll show the world what Malaysia is truly made off!

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