KM De Lanerolle Debates, 2013: A Gateway Get Away

The 10th KM De Lanerolle Memorial Inter-School Debate Competition conducted by the Past Debaters of the school was concluded at the L.E Blaze Main Hall today. The month-long contest, which brought together 10 debate teams from Kandy’s school circuit, was won by Gateway College, Kandy — which extends their winning streak at the De Lanerolle debates to a fourth successive year. Gateway now stands not only as the team which has won the tournament running for the most consecutive number of years, but also as the team to win the tournament most number of times (earlier Kingswood had won the event in 2004, 2005 and 2007).

Gateway defeated Hillwood College in the finals before a packed crowd (for a poya day), successfully opposing the topic whether “Federal Devolution of power is a better solution for cohesion in a multi-ethnic society”. Hillwood, who went into the debate with two changes to their team, could have made an error in judgment in team selection — or so our blog team felt. However, even in spite of strong countering by Hillwood’s Third and Fourth speakers, Gateway managed to hold their fortress and won the finals on a 4-1 majority vote.

The winning Gateway four with their teacher of debating Ms. Iyanthi Rajadurai.
The winning Gateway four with their teacher of debating Ms. Iyanthi Rajadurai.

The Third Place of the competition was won by Mahamaya College, who defeated Kandy Girls’ High School (2-1) to round up a tournament of mixed fortunes. Mahamaya, in fact, showed much intent and aptitude throughout the competition, but was edged out in the semi finals: a decision which shocked half of the audience and prompted animated kutukutufying among little pockets, including the organizers, who were seen looking for words among the scoresheets. However, in today’s debate for the Third Place, Mahamaya looked a pale ghost of their usual vigour (as shown in the earlier rounds). In fact, both Third place finalists looked under-prepared and lacking in iron.

Kandy Girls’ High School has much to look forward to in the coming months, or so we felt, if they balance out the team and find a  formation that can “click” like a pistol. There seems to be much experimentation going on within the team, as well as an element of uncertainty as to whom is whom. Arguably, the strength of the High School team was more in their countering which they must balance with an effective tabling of arguments upfront. Being a young side, they have enough time to work around these issues.

This year saw the entry of quite a few young teams which showed much passion and persuasion, and Pushpadana College is one team — we felt — that could cause a few ripples in the coming months. Closely resembling the aggressive debating style of the Pushpadana teams of the mid 2000s — if at all, more organized and skilled — they were one unit that showed much commitment and organized preparation in each outing they made. Among the four speakers, there is a consistency and harmony in delivery and they gave the positive vibe of an act with “close team work”.

CIS Kandy and Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy had their under-preparedness and juvenile approach to blame for, specially given the tact and effort these schools invested in 2012. Understandably, teams change and people come and go, but it is important to bring in some consistency into the teams and to pass the torch down from year to year.

The Runner Up, 2013: Hillwood College
The Runner Up, 2013: Hillwood College

Kingswood — the home boys — failed to impress us once again and shoddiness of work was amply reflected in their first round exit, debating Gateway. Lack of preparation and an absence of resonance among the debating four was more than visible, as neither continuity, clarity nor a proper organization could be seen. It is another debate as to whether the “best” at school are currently debating for the team; or rather, whether the team is made of the “best” the school can offer (A co-blogger — who is a livewire in the debating circuit of the school — insists that Kingswood debating can have hopes of a “pleasant 2014”, but we would urge the boys to start with the basics: starting from commitment and a clear head).

The finals were presided by Ishan Ranasinghe — a past Kingswoodian and an executive at Nike Incorporation — which, some felt, was a positive move. It is always better to invite for a school function a fellow for whom the school matters and who could connect to the culture and vibe of the institute than a total alien, as is the generally ambitious practice. Mr. Ranasinghe’s speech was short and fit the situation well and urged the floor to encourage debating — no less to grasp the significance of what debating, in the wider sense, means — in a time where critical thinking and analysis is discouraged; if not hampered.

The absence of school teachers, the teacher for debating and the administrative top brass was noted. Whether this is a consequence of holding the finals on a school holiday or whether it is a shortcoming on the part of the organizers is to be known. Non-Kingswoodian participant schools had a full wagon of administrators, teachers, parents and well wishers; while the significant number of past Kingswoodians — debaters and not — and the three-piece suits of the organizers, too, added glamour and weight to the atmosphere.

The Prizes and Awards won / awarded in 2013:

Special Prize for the best team performance in any given debate (awarded by the Organizing Committee, 2013): Mahamaya College

FAJ Utting Memorial Trophy for the 3rd Place: Mahamaya College

PH Nonis Memorial Trophy for the 2nd Place: Hillwood College

KM De Lanerolle Memorial Trophy and the Ernest Spencer debate shield for the 1st Place: Gateway College

Best 4th Speaker: Raveen Senanayake (Gateway)

Best Speaker (2nd Runner Up): Taruki De Silva (Mahamaya)

Best Speaker (1st Runner Up): Senura Randeniya (Gateway)

Best Speaker, 2013: Imani Bakmeedeniya (Mahamaya)

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