Friday, May 30, 2008

PPM 2008: Thoughts In Parallel

I give the freedom to readers to choose which entry is most appropriate for this year’s PPM adventure for MCKK debating teams; which concluded this week.


By the time I finally decide how to start this entry; it would have been the tenth deletion. This is the problem when you decide to write on what has become an annual entry around this time of the year – a reflection of the year’s PPM.

We lost at octofinals for English and BM categories yesterday. I could have written about how the poor adjudication is a reflection of our society which rewards mediocrity – but I had written it in 2005. I could write about the length that we went through to prepare and that no other schools even has the capacity to even dream of copying the level of our preparation – but I did this in 2006. I could write about how much our boys had changed from the time we picked them up – but I wrote and said this in almost all entries to the point that I myself found this rather self-delusional.

This time I just want to write what I feel – not to analyse, not to reflect, not to make sense. After 5 times going through the nightmare, there’s nothing much to analyse or reflect. Nothing would ever make sense.

And I feel tired. Not even sad. It is a resignation that PPM championship is beyond me, or Cikgu Umi or Miss Sherry. This time around I finally come to the realization that there are things in life that you cannot achieve. I concede defeat – to the system out of which PPM has deteriorated to become, to the school, to the boys, to MCKK old boys in general and to myself. They (the system and the mediocre society) have won and I have lost.

Conceding defeat is not as horrible as I thought it would be when I was younger. In previous years from 2004 onwards, each time we lost I quickly picked up the pieces and within 2 weeks (at most), I would have thought of what else needed to be done, put this in a piece of document and began the planning for next year in earnest. Year in and year out; because each defeat just strengthened our resolve to come back with a vengeance so that we can claim our justice.

So when I finally conceded defeat this year, it was a relief that I feel (not fear, sadness or feeling of great loss). That finally, I don’t have to worry about what I have to do with the boys anymore, or the training that I need to conduct – or which debaters I have to fix. I don’t care how they behave; I have no concerns of their actions or (usually) inactions anymore. I feel I am absolved from my responsibility.

If Arwah Ben is alive, I can stare into his eyes and proudly tell him that I have done my best and never once I put a half-hearted effort – I put more efforts in the last 5 years than what I put in back then in 1992 and 1993. I won twice back then, I lost 5 times in a row now.

I would have told Ben that I delivered on my words now the same way I delivered on my promises on that candle-light night in 1990. And pray that finally despite his feelings in the last few years of his life (and our friendship) that I was wasting my time; he would have approved my venture.

I really wanted to win this year because I want it as a gift to Ben, even posthumously. It would have been a good closure, so that I can move on as so much has changed since we started out 5 years ago.

It felt very different now compared to when we started out back then. I started out with 9 old boys (mostly my seniors and contemporaries) but now I am the only one left. Each year when we were defeated, I had someone to look up to or to comfort me. We usually have a post-PPM dinner or holidays just to recover and to reassure each other.

But now I am the comforter, the driver, the coach, the housemaster, the financier – I am the reason they lose or win; and after a while it feels so lonely and tiring to switch from a driver (shuttling the boys around) to a debating coach and to multi-task as a counselor and housekeeper. And worst, when there is nowhere to turn to make sense of each defeat unlike before.

I read the writing on the wall very clearly. The time has come to move on and seal the transition. It is not as perfect as I planned it to be, but being a perfectionist has always complicated my work all this while – so this time around, I shall not look for perfection.

The time of my generation has come to an end; it is now the time for the generation of the millennium batches to continue the work.

As to where or what “West” is – I now have the leisure of time and peace to decide.


The routine that we go through each time we face a defeat at PPM is to review what went wrong. The first thing is to validate whether we should have won or not; because the manner adjudication has been carried out at PPM has always been a cause for great concerns. There were the years that we accepted defeat; there were those we admitted there were minor mistakes but if the debate had been judged holistically; we shouldn’t have lost. Usually we took the minor mistakes very seriously and went on to institute changes so that we wouldn’t repeat the minor mistakes in future debates.

The validation and review process is more rigorous this year, involving internal and external parties. Even Syed Asrul (who had kindly agreed to help me looked after the boys throughout the tournament) participated actively by playing devil advocates to ensure the process is carried out impartially without sentiment.

Unfortunately, for each reason discussed that supposedly could have led to the defeats, there are a plethora of other reasons how we had managed it much better than the opponents and therefore had adequately nullified the factors.

In short – we had covered our grounds too much this year that Cikgu Umi, Miss Sherry and myself are now out of our depths to figure out what else should we do to win. If a preparation like this is not worthy of PPM (compared to other teams which went to semi-final which were not even half as prepared as us) with an array of debaters that other schools can only dream of – I don’t know whether even a miracle can win us a PPM.

We went through the notion that maybe our arguments are too high level and matured that the ‘poor’ adjudicators (‘poor’ not in the sense that we should pity them; but that of someone “poor” in knowledge, wisdom, language commands and maturity) cannot understand the arguments compared to the most simplistic arguments given by the opponents.

But time and time again, we come to the understanding that we shall not dumb down for the sake of winning PPM, because our real prize is the boys who one day will grow up and do wonders (and not the trophy that I can commission and pay anytime, if the boys really want it!). It is in their best interest to reach a level of maturity ahead of their peers so that they can reach their potentials.

So, torn in between all these factors, we fall back to the most reassuring and safe justification – that it has been pre-ordained that PPM shall not be ours, for reasons only Allah SWT knows. It is not my, or Miss Sherry’s or Cikgu Umi’s rezeki to win PPM during our tenure as coaches/teachers – and I accept this justification with humility.

The next question is – if this is the justification, logically all three should excuse ourselves so that the boys can stand a better chance of winning PPM; given the level of preparation the boys had gone through; under different coaches and teachers. Fresh breath of perspectives is always better.

In the coming weeks, we shall come to a conclusion and closure on this.


Our boys were taught from the beginning that the measure of their success is not how many championships they win – but whether in the final analysis, they live up to the badge and expectation of a MCKK’s debater.

In our simple words – it is about making men out of the boys. Of the so many coaches from among the ex-debaters whom they have come across, I am the only one who actually won PPM. The greater among us – like Arwah Ben – actually never had the opportunity to lift the trophy. As you grow up and reflect, you would realize that PPM is but a small event in your life; because by then we would have come across much bigger things.

So each time we conclude yet another disappointing season – the first question that I ask: to the coaches, to myself and to the teachers – what is the objective of this? Why do we go to this extent for a mere trophy, in a competition where everyone knows we are better; it’s just that by design we didn’t win (to the cheer of the rest)? Why not make a drastic move of ignoring PPM because we are one class above the rest and start our own elite debate? Why not concentrate on international competitions? With the amount of money we spend on the boys each year, we can easily send them to regional competitions.

Fortunately, the answer to that very vital question has been consistent and has never failed to remind me that unlike other schools; or other teachers; or other coaches – we are in it for a different reason.

These boys will go through tournaments after tournaments, having put the best efforts that other people do not come close to match; only to face defeats. In the process, they know the reality of the world – that increasingly we are ruled by our inferiors. They learn that life is about giving our best shot (in almost an engineering precision manner) in whatever we get our hands on – because this is how other people (from other cultures and more successful civilizations) have done it before us.

They will also learn that at the very heart of it, is the HEART itself. That each and every single MCKK debater knows that what they do today is not for their glory, but to make sure the people after them inherit a purpose in life in and out of MCKK that defies age, time and defeats. A life of service, a life of giving so that people after us will always be better than us – for what is life without giving; as we have drummed in their head from the first day they are accepted to the group.

By this objective, we have been pretty successful.

Over the last few days, talking to the debaters (especially the junior English debaters) strengthened our resolve that we have not wasted our time.

“But we should not dumb down just because we want to win, that defeats the purpose. It is about doing the right thing, even if the rest disagree with us” – Adam, a F3

“It doesn’t really matter if we don’t win PPM, so long we become successful in life later on” – Fauzan, a F3

And they said this in the most innocent manner yet full of conviction.

My only regret in this department is my failure to prove that the “formulae” works. We have trained them to appreciate values and hard work. That they should never take anything for granted and lead their life with humility.

That’s what I practice, that’s my belief. It worked for me – from my MCKK days to this day; comparatively I have done better and I have got most of the things that I set my eyes and efforts on. It was quite easy for me.

Yet despite emulating the same thing, they have not managed to get the single thing they have worked so hard for. It will not be long before they begin to have doubts on the “formulae”. With doubts come wavering and eventually they bring themselves lower (to the level of others).

It is in that perspective that PPM and the mediocre culture that it propagates is very poisonous and counter-productive to the very objective of PPM. Instead of creating world class future leaders, we create petty teachers and petty students thick with narrow-mindedness; who relish seeing MCKK defeated (even when they know MCKK should have won) and thought they had won the day. Yes, a winning for a day only to suffer for many years to come; from the mediocrity that defines their character.

From a different side of that perspective, we are doing well in producing a group of intelligent young boys who know the value of the brain and hard work – and are confident enough to defy the norm and reach new boundaries; knowing the limits and reaches of their abilities and values in life.

Other people call it MCKK’s snobbery; but it is that snobbery that had put many of us before where others can only envy.


“Dear ******, I need to catch up with you. Need a favour – my boys will go through a new debating format so need to accustom them to the new format”

“Miss Sherry, I know we are all still tired. I was thinking that we should ******** that should put us ahead of others. Had contacted some people. ***** then we can see whether there was allocation”

“I am up for it. If we plan early, we can do it. Not just ******* but workshops and *******”

“I am worn down and tired. But I want my revenge too”


Thank you so much to Saudara Syed Asrul Shahrim Syed Abdullah (Class of 94), without whom the entire tournament was impossible for the contingent. He arranged for accommodation, transport, food, looked after the kids, befriended them (and along the way grew attached both ways to them) and even went on to coach them indirectly.

(Knowing that he is reading this) He is the same person I have known from the early years of MCKK – one of the most reliable and honest people I have met, one whose opinion I value above others.

He is also the person who started out the cheering t-shirt in MCKK (which have become a tradition for a generation). It was the Economics Bureau under his leadership that introduced cheering t-shirt to MCKK.

A tribute to the First-III of English team: Zulikhwan, Fido and Rashad. All three I had doubts when they were in junior forms whether they have the potential to represent koleq – I had confined some of them to a support role all along. But they took my criticism with humility, worked hard and by the time they took the stage early last week – they were at par, if not better, than the teams before them.


  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    rough - udoh2 le kamu dok layan budak2 ni. kawin le cepat2.

    anak mak cik dh lama dh nunggu - noni ada, mat pun ada (kalu citarasa berbeza).

    ghentikan le, mana nya mahu.

    (baca gaya makcik kapet)

  2. Anonymous11:08 PM


    Firstly i detest the fact that u put urself to be blamed for the loss...

    u were there all along despite what others say or think. u provide nothing but the best to them. the rest is up to the boys... however they want to see the defeat is entirely up to them.

    if the boys and the others feel that there are still missing factors that contribute to the defeat then it's their responsibility to figure it out.

    u might be their utmost strength and winning factor but the defeat is their responsibility to embrace

    u gave more than what others could have imagine of ever doing. so congrats to u...

    i can just say u have brought the boys to perfection, the maturity level that can again make MC proud (leaving apart the mediocre culture surrounding 'em)... so there's no defeat for u... i'm sure u have knocked in some sort of senses and maturity also perfection in most of 'em...

    congrats... calm down, u have ur friends with u...

  3. Datuk Connect10:43 AM

    I do not like the thought of my beloved Miss Noni Kapet leaving coachinghood. Its been a tremendous joy reading the account of your hot and spicy PPM romp, and I always look forward to see more of it.

    The biggest problem is this. YOU WORK AS IF YOU ARE TRYING TO CONVINCE THE LAW PROFESSORS OF CAMBRIDGE. I think you focused only on your perceived side of the strategy. You put your efforts on the international level. The arguments, the points, its all international. It is time to get down to the hidden rules of the game. When the Wali Songos introduce Islam to the archipelago, they work to learn the nook and cranny of the local phychology and insert their teachings into those nook and cranny. So at first Islamic faith exists side by side with Hindu customs until it is further refined. Too far an analogy? No matter, you got my Tokyo Drift.

    I suggest doing it the profiler way. I suggest putting your minds inside the actual judges of the PPM, not the way the international judges are doing it. What is the level of their english proficiency? What is the level of their comprehension of basic tenets of philosophy and arguments? WHat is the sort of sources and quotations that can convince them? If they cant understand what the hell you are saying, they might as well dismiss your arguments as mere creative noise. Someone may have told lies that MCKK is using their mystique to create their own sources and quotations and hope people may fall for them. Oh yes, you teach your precious darlings in the values of Times, Newsweek and Economist. Do these judges even know the existence of these magazines? Do they know Economist is not a magazine for people studying economics?

    It is time to go local, in approach, in arguments and in sources. At this point you cant go anywhere higher international. Start scouring for local magazines. Start citing Malay magazines; Massa, Dewan Masyarakat. Start citing Malay newspapers. Start citing local preferably Malay scholars and professors. Start making sessions for these teams to meat the local professors. Start compiling quotations by local politicians, they are the current standard of intelectualls and high philosophy these days, not Nietszche. Frame the argument in the holy quotes of Dr Mahathir. Sounds absolutely disgusting? Heck, ALL victories in the history of mankind ARE disgusting.

    And I think its time to start lowering down the curtain a bit. Call it, to condescend. The sultans sometimes "mencemar duli" to get to know what people want. The Last Romanov fell not because he was cruel or tyrannical, its because he never once met the citizens, preferring instead to spend time with his family (actually a sweet guy aint he?). You must sometimes condescend to know what the judges want. Talk to the usual PPM judges. Find out what they want. Get to know their limited world view and scheme of answers in their heads; and then formulate your strategy in and around those net of inferiority. Find the reasons for your defeat. Record and analyse every single battle, not just your own, but also the teams the judges perceived as excellent. You are not trying to convince the law professors of your Cambridge here, you are trying to convince the local english teachers. ENGLISH TEACHERS. if they are any smarter they'd be teaching in colleges, building a law firm, or at least teach in your (this is of course rude and very untrue, but thats the price for hurting my darling Noni). And it doesnt hurt for the boys to mingle more among the "inferiors"; they can get a wider pool of cute girls.

    And this may be the lowest condescension of all. Meet the winners, find out their level, and know the standards and their characters that the judges perceived as the winning point.

    And I totally agree about that international tournament. I can donate all the 2 cents that I currently have. Start that one and blog that one. Now!!

  4. Awang Gochoh10:52 AM

    Noni Kapet wrote " We went through the notion that maybe our arguments are too high level and matured that the ‘poor’ adjudicators (‘poor’ not in the sense that we should pity them; but that of someone “poor” in knowledge, wisdom, language commands and maturity) cannot understand the arguments compared to the most simplistic arguments given by the opponents. But time and time again, we come to the understanding that we shall not dumb down for the sake of winning PPM, because our real prize is the boys who one day will grow up and do wonders (and not the trophy that I can commission and pay anytime, if the boys really want it!). It is in their best interest to reach a level of maturity ahead of their peers so that they can reach their potentials."

    I miss this the first time around. Hey man, I think there are ways you can put more comprehensible arguments without "dumbing down". And sometimes it may be the delivery not the point themselves. I think generally you elf sort of people talk very fast for mortals to hear. Ask your players to slow down a bit perhaps train them in the technique of bullet time mode .

  5. Awang Gochoh & Datuk Connect (one of the same?)

    Thanks for taking time, really appreciate it.

    Ha ha to be frank it's all been done - we made a decision this year to finally succumb to the marking scheme word by word, mark by mark and readjust our points to the level of teachers; so we always check first whether this will be understood.

    That is as laymen as we can get; with examples mostly from local. That is the truth of the subject matter - going away from that is basically lying!

    We have taped and studied the winner (and spotted and laughed at their broken English ha ha), we have also done the same with the judges.

    I have checked whether uni preparation is as extensive as this - NO. I have checked the preparation for Malaysian team - also NO.

    Miss Sherry and I had put ourselves in the shoes of the teachers who become judges - so we think we have covered all grounds this time around.

    That's why some teachers broke down, because throughout their 20+ years in MCKK and teaching, nothing was done this extensive.

    We have a full mock debate for each topic one month before PPM!

    As for the delivery - people always judge MCKK against MCKK. The match is against a different school, not against MCKK standard! Judge us against the other school, not against what you think how good MCKK should be.

    The breakdown of marks is as follows: 30 - points, 30 - performance, 20 - strategy, 20 - language.

    Even if they don't understand our points, we won hands down on performance, strategy and language.

    When up against SMSAH, for God sake SMSAH didn't even follow the format, what more the language. Plus, when it comes to the performance - loud and shouting does not mean good. Performance is about showmanship - ability to interact with audience, participation in the debate, wit etc.

    The reason I sound defensive because we have to be fair to the boys, especially if we know they are doing the right thing.

    And we must have the moral courage to tell them that "be different, even if people disapprove now, because you will know it is right" and defend our model of success.

    In the same way that schools like MCKK must have the moral courage to stand up and defy the madness of straight As and stick to what we do best - "producing all rounders and leaders" even if the whole country thinks we are behind.

    But I agree with your comments - it's just that we have done all this and lowering beyond what it was at PPM is something that we actually need to acquire a skill to do ha ha.

    But point taken, especially on the part they should spend more time mingling around - though on this, actually it's not so much snobbery, it's just that unlike other schools who go for fun, these kids are so focused on delivering their mission - to win.

    Tornado datang pun would not have perturbed them :-)

    But the kids do read these discussions, so I suppose they'll decide as well how to approach next.

    (I don't sound as if I am finally moving on, do I? Bummer)

  6. Awang Riah12:31 PM

    " t's just that we have done all this and lowering beyond what it was at PPM is something that we actually need to acquire a skill to do ha ha."

    Hey hey hey, I think thats a new skill to learn and further refined through the coming years indeed. And dont forget the international tournament. Seriously. Presently, its the only way I think you can get back at the ignorant preponderance. In fact I think It might just change the stagnant air. Just imagine this scneario. "The three times champion of international law debate is defeated by SMSAH at the PPM octofinals". What does that reflect on the standard of judges and Malaysian Education? The resulting shame might just prompt the booting of those rotten roster and introduce a healthier line of referring. Hey hey hey I smell a revolution here. I'd like to see the rough (pun intended) outline of that Master Plan right away!

  7. ha ha ha ok i get the boys to begin compiling other tertiary level debates.

    i'm thinking of singapore first. so maybe we'll bring the boys to singapore first. then thailand.
    air asia is cheap ha ha ha.

    but i really need to withdraw, soon. ben is no longer around, someone needs to cover the vacuum - if you know what i mean.

    and hopefully the boys (and junior coaches) have learnt enough to do this on their own.

    i'll bring them to the regional level - and 2010 is the final year. cannot go beyond that.

    deal? then i can exorcised the ghost of the past.

    (ha ha when am i going to uitm again?)

    ps: but please remember the hassle to pass through the administrative part at mckk. finances tu satu benda la, but to get a leave for the boys to go to tournaments is not easy. got to pass through the school and parents.

  8. Anonymous1:24 AM

    suara syed asrul kaaaa dlm video tu? lepas ni jadi juri AF la kau pak tuan!

    memang perangai budak koleq bila kalah - samada membatak, atau melalak (karaoke atau tidak) or membuta.

    nice video. and rough, take some rest lah. macam mana nak kahwin mcm ni. kepala kau makin botak, nnt tak de orang nak. kalau kau kaya macam mukhriz tak pe lah kepala botak.

  9. Abe Im8:02 AM

    2010? I thought you promised me forever. I heard Petronas staffs are inhuman multitaskers. You can be a disgustingly powerful PM and (if that didnt strip their respect) still train the team and ask them to quote you . If not for the obvious foulplay, i do not think you are at all tired. But unmarried 35 year old nice gals such as my sweet Noni are indeed sad. 2010? Its a deal.

    going back to the delivery part its sad but true that majority of judges still equate loudness and shouting with good delivery

  10. ha ha these kids cost too much. very low ROI ha ha.

    they'll be fine after 2010. the junior coaches would have started working by then. 8 PPM is a lot you know :-)

    ps: talk abt PM usually get people in trouble. Ask KJ. Ha ha.

  11. salam...abg rough..
    prefer version 1 nye entry..x de rezeki mmg akan treat MCKK macam MCKK..hmm..takpe2, but what i heard, those kids dah perform habis-habisan da..

    anyway, thumbs up kat korang sume..

    p/s : kesian fendi ;(

  12. Anonymous10:39 PM

    TMP, pesal minyak naik banyak sangat???

  13. ha ha minyak naik pun nak tanya aku. itu kena tanya orng politik la...

    kalau nak tanya ubat2 dari jakarta yg boleh bg naik bangat - that one i can help :-p

  14. muka mcm david archuleta pun ada..

    rough, aku malas nak baca aa.. panjang benorr... aku flip gambo jer hehe

  15. yg mana pulak muka cam david ar-what-payah-nak-pronounce-lata ni?

    ha ha aku salah jadi coach kot, maybe they shud be in msian idol?

  16. Anonymous12:41 AM


    - One nite in 1994
    - Chibix to Badut and Apai before die gi West Wing nak usha 'bunga' di dorm Noni

  17. noni malas sign in11:55 PM

    ha ha ni mesti personal account bobo.

    maka hobbit tu pun pergi lah mencuba nasib dengan bunga di dorm 21.

    berjaya ke tak - depends mcm mana kau nak evaluate 3 syarat yang ditetapkan. he he

  18. Great photos. I know the boys will become great men someday because they have the determination. Always glad to see photos like these which is so heart-warming.