The KM De Lanerolle Memorial Debate Competition gets underway today for the 8th successive year. This was an initiative taken in n2004 by the Past Debaters of the school to enhance opportunity and grounds for the debate-friendly schools of Kandy. This year’s contest will take off with Kandy Girls’ High School crossing swords with Pushpadana Girls’ College on a highly debatable current issue: whether the 2018 Commonwealth Games should be held in Sri Lanka.
The competition, in its 8th year, remains the only one of its kind in an art that has had a negative glide in Kandy over the past few years. Back in the early 2000s, when the writer was in his senior years at college, there were no less than 3 annual debate fixtures in Kandy, which drew from schools a competitive participation. The TCLA Debates (held by Trinity’s Literary Association), the Roteract Debates (organized by District whatevs of that club) and the debates organized by St. Anthony’s have all, with time, died and faded away.
Several other debate events began but couldn’t hold on — notable among them is the debate competition hosted by Dharmaraja between 2003 and 2005 (In its last year, I remember, Kingswood was compelled to give a walk over to Girls’ High School in the final, when a single influential member of the organizing committee was using two different spoons to serve the two schools).
This year’s KM De Lanerolle contest is partly committed in taking a message to its fellow debaters — to promote and to inject some minerals into the debating culture in Kandy that is in tatters. One should not be overly upset about this deflation of debates and such, because the country as a whole, too, is undergoing a phase where debate and discussion are not given all that much of a civilized nod.
However, in the initial organizational phase we were thrilled to see the willingness to participation by the schools — where 12 teams have submitted their entry and are in the process of gearing up for heavyduty debating in the coming week or so. This is another reason why more and more debates have to be organized — for the will or the desire seems to persist; whereas, the grounds for the contest is what has dried up (been dried up).
In the start up line, KGHS and Pushpadana are lined up; the winner set to meet defending champions Gateway College in a week or so. On the 12th October, Zahira College, Gampola will debate St. Anthony’s College, with the winner proceeding to take on Good Shpherd Convent. CIS will draw their wit against St. Sylvester’s, the winner booking a bout with Kingswood. Mahamaya College is set to meet Trinity in their second round.
The competition has been thrice won by Kingswood, and once each by Mahamaya, Girls’ High School, Maliyadeva and Gateway. The title defenders are Gateway (defending champion) and Girls’ High School (2nd place). Kingswood’s last win came in 2007 under Inosha Alwis.