The finals of the KM De Lanerolle debate contest was concluded today and Gateway, Kandy managed to defend their title against CIS, Kandy in a final that didn’t live up to my expectation. As jurist Pramuditha Perera in his final comments most correctly observed had CIS been more tactful and thought of in their argument the debate could have taken a different path altogether. CIS’ loss was marked by two cardinal sins: the lack of a solid base and their lethargy in countering with purpose. Gateway deserved the cup and were clear victors on the final day — but, lacked stiffness in their opposite ranks, who could have done much more — based on ‘pure logic’ — where their topic whether “the middle path is the best” stood.
For me, the pick of the competition’s teams are as follows:
3. St. Sylvester’s
4. Good Shepherd Convent
St. Sylvester’s was unfortunate enough to be edged out in the preliminary round itself, for a knockout contest offers no second chances. But, several colleagues observed the compactness in what they termed was the “best SSCK debate team” they have witnessed in recent years. Good Shepherd was a revelation, fielding what was arguably their best team in 5-6 years. GSCK has been an inconsistent participant in the De Lanerolle debates, but came guns this year to reach the semi finals.
To say the least, Kingswood failed to impress me; and I am disillusioned at seeing the present four of a school which was once the undisputed bastion of Kandy debating not more than 6 years ago speaking way off their (predecessors’) mark. In fact, as a past debater of the school who has witnessed the teams of Shashika Bandara, Marlon Ariyasinghe and Inosha Alwis between 2004-2007 the quality of debating, the commitment to the game and the approach to argumentative discourse of the quartet in question were “less than average”. Mind you, KCK’s debate standards have been high over the past decade or so and have been jealously guarded and maintained.
It was my worst nightmare in a 11 year connection with the college’s debate discourse when 3 speakers of the home team made personal comments on their opposite numbers in their preliminary bout. It is sheer irony that I was presiding this very debate on the very floor where Kingswood over the past decade had made their opponents reel, but with logical argument and persuasive delivery.
This is a blog primarily aimed at a Kingswood audience and I strongly feel that a revamp of debates at Kingswood is a timely necessity — and fast. The pampered, teacher-dependent, “change me nappy or let me rot” ethic towards which Kingswood debating seems to be heading has to be arrested now and with effect. A leader has to come around whom four committed and frantic speakers should rally; and who can make sharp, critical, creative thinking their bastion. “No room for trimmer, coward or fool” should not merely be a line of the Kingswood song; it has to be the punch line for Kingswood debating to live another day.
So much so for Kingswood — what we saw this year is a surging spirit and desire in teams such as Gateway and CIS to ford ahead in their performances. They picked up a gear, one might say, each debate they held forth in. Teams that were there just to make the numbers — who were willing merely to be there so as to earn the shirt alone — were folded out to oblivion. But, against a backdrop where Kandy’s once rich debate circuit is now rot and without much activism it was encouraging to see 12 teams promptly responding to the call of wit. It is our hope — and this was stressed more than twice in the course of matters — that schools with the mete for debating will take up the call for more forums for quality debate activity: competitions that will provide the teams with “fair ground” for “fair debating”.
In 2001, when I led Kingswood for the first time against Alethea College, Kingswood was without a proper teacher-in-charge or a regular 4. The initial task back then was to get the “right mental frame” into the setting where a professional outlook had to be nurtured. In the process, we had to hurt the sentiments of some — teachers and students alike — but it had to be done for long term objectives to be achieved. In mollycoddling a quartet with a dispersed focus we merely kid ourselves further. KCK debating has to have a reawakening. An igniting force has to come through.
Debate matters at Kingswood, however, have evolved since the current competition was first held. The final, for instance, hosted a packed house with digital intros, witty speeches by show hosts and so forth. A solid staff representation was also noticed in an arena which was habitually seen as a “by the way” by the largely Sinhala activity-oriented Kingswood mass. Yet, the quantitative measures are undermined by the let down by the school’s team. The call here is not to win by all means — but to be dedicated and purposeful in your strike.
The individual prizes at this year’s contest were shared among the finalists. The winner of the Best Speaker’s Prize was the leader of CIS, Tharindri Wijekoon. A close 2nd and 3rd place in the same category went to Gateway’s Arshana Rajadurai and Samantha Modder. Modder also adjudicated the Best 4th Speaker. Among some of the other speakers who had an impact on me as a viewer are the leader of St. Sylvester’s Mr. Zumri, the leader of Good Shepherd Sarah Wazeer and the leader of Kingswood, Sachith Wijesekara. Perhaps, had SSCK remained in the contest Zumri would have had a better space to wield his wit in; for, from the glimpse I had of him he was of solid class ‘A’ material.
For the future, the Past Debaters of the school has to think what they can do to their alma mater in giving an injection to KCK debating: whatever the capacity is for them to do so. It is learnt that this year’s Inter-House Debates, too, were not “properly” held; which, to say the least, is an amber light before the red.