On 15th March 2013, the Supreme Court Auditorium played host to the Rodyk Challenge Grand Finals, also known as the Rodyk NUS-SMU Challenge.

The competition this year involved two draft bills that the teams had to review, improve, and then debate on in a Parliamentary style debate. The tricky task of producing a clear and comprehensive bill was compounded by the stringent 100-word limit that each team was allowed in modifying their draft bills.

Team NUS, comprising Jeremy Lua, Larissa Lim, and Zhang Yi Ting, proposed the Human Trafficking Bill and opposed the Fat Tax Bill. The team was pitched against Jasmine Low, Qabir Singh Sandhu and Annabelle Teo, from Team SMU.

Judges for the competition were Philip Jeyaretnam SC (Managing Partner of Rodyk & Davidson LLP), Lok Vi Ming SC (Litigation & Arbitration Partner of Rodyk & Davidson LLP; President of the Law Society), and Gerald Singaham (Corporate Partner at Rodyk & Davidson LLP).

From the start, the competition promised much cheeky humor. Mr. Jeyaretnam, in giving his welcome speech, jested that it was tradition for the tiebreaker to be held between the Deans of each faculty.

In the first half, Team NUS showed laudable composure in defending their proposed Human Trafficking Bill.  This bill was designed to strengthen existing measures against human trafficking in Singapore, with a focus on streamlining investigation processes and improving victim identification.

There was a slight hiccup when Team SMU pointed out some ambiguity in the bill’s definition of “human trafficking”, but Team NUS showed much grace and poise in their recovery.

As the opposition, Team SMU was vicious in their onslaught, attempting to portray the Human Trafficking Bill as a superfluous paper tiger that did nothing to add to the current state of law.

Nevertheless, Team NUS held their ground well. In her speech, Larissa Lim cleverly played on the paper tiger metaphor by retorting, “This bill has teeth, members of this house. It is not a paper tiger”. Best Individual Performer, Larissa Lim, showed much spunk and wit in her rebuttals.

In the second half, Team NUS appeared relatively more light-hearted and confident as the opposition for the Fat Tax Bill. Essentially, this bill proposed to target growing levels of obesity in Singapore by imposing taxes on certain unhealthy foods, and using the tax revenue to subsidize certain healthy foods.

The team even ingeniously provided the judges with real bananas and banana cupcakes, to highlight the fact that healthy foods, no matter how much cheaper, can never substitute the delightful goodness of sinful indulgence. On this point, this writer definitely concurs with Team NUS.

Naturally, given the Parliamentary style of the debate, many allusions were also made to current societal issues that have bred public discontent towards the government. Especially memorable was Jeremy Lua’s remark (below), which emphasized how excessive the Fat Tax Bill was in the face of much more pressing issues today.

Team NUS was clearly enjoying themselves as the opposition, and even the judges joined in the fun when the time came for them to pose questions to the two teams.

To Team SMU:

“I looked at this bill during lunch today while I was eating at my favourite hokkien mee stall. Then I realised it was a tax not on being fat but on FATS, which meant that my hokkien mee was going to cost much more than the current four dollars! This is really quite distressing to me since houses are out of reach, cars are out of reach, and now I can’t even afford my hokkien mee!

I think it’s extremely unfair because you tax the fats not the fat. Shouldn’t you reward people who exercise? I do my regular exercise; I go walking about once in six months, and do my stretching exercises once a year.”

In their final comments, the judges expressed approval of the humor and informality exhibited by the two teams, which they felt was proof of the speakers’ assurance and showed that they held great promise for the future.

Team NUS was then announced as the winner of the Rodyk NUS-SMU Challenge, with Larissa Lim also clinching the Best Individual Performer award.

Also, Andrew Wang and Larissa Lim shared the Best Speaker award for the NUS Rodyk Challenge Finals.

This writer was also most pleased by the abundance of quoteworthy quips dished out by Team NUS, which admittedly made her job much easier.

Jeremy Lua, potential Member of Parliament: “I thank the opposition for pointing out the problems in definition… this was clearly a case of legislative oversight”

Jeremy Lua: “When the Singapore population raised concerns about the white paper, the government misread it as “let’s make everyone thinner so that we can fit 6.9 million people into our trains!””

Zhang Yi Ting, referring to Team SMU’s argument that a similar tax has been proven effective in Hungary: “They want to follow Hungary’s example; well, we are pretty sure that Hungary is hungry right now!”

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