End Where I Began: The De Lanerolle Silverware Returns to Randles Hill

The 10th Annual KM De Lanerolle Memorial Debate Competition conducted by the Past Debaters of Kingswood™ was concluded at the College Main Hall on the 28th of June. Kingswood College emerged trumps for 2014, in this month long competition, after a final inter-locking of wit with Kandy Girls’ High School. The Kingswood-Girls’ High School finale was a replay of the tournament’s inaugural final ten years ago, where these two schools met for a similar result. This was Kingswood’s first De Lanerolle triumph in seven years, and Girls’ High School’s first final in the same number of years.

A pre-semi final pose by the top four teams for 2014: Kingswood, Girls' High School, Good Shepherd Convent and Dharmaraja
A pre-semi final pose by the top four teams for 2014: Kingswood, Girls’ High School, Good Shepherd Convent and Dharmaraja

Kingswood’s victory, however, should not pale into insignificance their weaknesses, as some of us felt that the debate would not have been plain sailing for the home boys had their opponents been a bit more thorough with their homework. Kingswood, to do them justice, had a comprehensive four-part base in opposing the topic – whether “Religious Persecution in Sri Lanka can be controlled with the existing legal framework” – and mediated in a logically thought out argument process. Girls’ High School, however, seemed to lack an impressionable thesis upfront and were caught defending a ill-fortified bastion. Indeed, they were more eloquent in their delivery and persuasive in speech, but lacked conviction in their countering: a cardinal sin in debating.

Kingswood’s subsequent Facebook celebrations, however, do not even stress on the fact that their 4th Speaker – arguably the most crucial position of the debate – looked as if he was standing on a mound of sand all the time he spoke, and that their 2nd Speaker needs better clarity to do justice to the depository of facts and figures from which he belted out. The 3rd Speaker was in such a mighty hurry that he almost ran the risk of choking his own words, while the Leader’s summing up stressed on way too many secondary and redundant facts: which, on another day, may have caused the debate. In summary, Kingswood is not a foolproof unit and they have their shoes to shine before going cyber.

The 10th year of the competition was a food-for-thoughter for the organizers, as they were challenged on all ends by the vermin of ill-discipline to which several contesting teams had succumbed. Pressurizing the organizers to change debate dates, eleventh hour pulling outs, complains regarding panelists (after losing debates), the effrontery to challenge given verdicts were more frequent and annoying than in any of the past nine years. While a teacher accompanying a team, after losing a debate, claimed the topic was too partial, another teacher submitted a charge sheet of eight “complains” – three of them baseless, five of them her personal problems. Three teams that had earlier registered for the competition gave eleventh hour walkovers, while another team – one qualified for the 3rd Place play off – confirmed participation in the eleventh hour and pronounced a walkover with flirting distance to the twelfth. None of these thug tactics are appreciated and are condemned in the name of sportsmanship and civilization.

The winning Kingswood team [Gowthaman Nallaretnam, Bihan Viranga De Silva, Abdul Azeez (Leader) and Akmal Javvad]
The winning Kingswood team [Gowthaman Nallaretnam, Bihan Viranga De Silva, Abdul Azeez (Leader) and Akmal Javvad]
The glamour thus stolen, the tournament, yet, saw the blooming of several intense debates and a few other outstanding moments which will find ready space in our De Lanerolle scrap books. Good Shepherd Convent – who ultimately came third to take home the FAJ Utting Memorial Trophy – caused an upset by turning tables on St. Sylvester’s, and almost caused the plank-walking of Kingswood in the Semi Finals, which they narrowly lost 1-2. This was arguably Good Shepherd’s best De Lanerolle year, with two of their speakers making the top three in the individual prize list. Aysha Wazeer (Best Speaker – 3rd) and Rosemary Fernando (Best Speaker – 2nd) had just 0.75 marks between them. Dharmaraja made a comeback to Randles Hill after 9 years, taking part for the first time since 2005. The Rajans, who came Runners Up at the Lalitha Fernando Debate Competition at Mahamaya in January, fielded a vibrant set of debaters who stood up to impress. Their Fourth Speaker Janith Wickramasinghe showed much promise which we hope will blossom in the next few debates he will speak in.

Nushara Amarasekara (KGHS) won the VD Paulraj Memorial Prize for the Best Speaker for 2014, with a series of stellar performances leading up to the finals. She was also adjudicated the Best Fourth Speaker, being the first speaker in the competition’s history to bag the double.

The tournament also felt the absence of Gateway College, who had earlier won the series four years in a row and had carved for itself a niche of fans as one of the best teams of the recent past. The organizing committee, during the wrap up, acknowledged their own ignorance of the London examination schedules (which caused a clash between the debate dates and exams, forcing Gateway and CIS out): a grave error which they acknowledged would be borne in mind for the future.

The finals were honoured by Mr. Gihan Wijekoon, Kingswood’s Senior Prefect of 1988 – an enigmatic legend is the school’s circuits – and Mr. Delawer Shah, a one time whip crack in Kingswood debating and team leader in 1998. The Main Hall was flooded by an army of Girls’ High School girls, parents and teachers; as opposed to a sprinkling of support for the home team, which struck us as amusing. Kingswood also felicitated its long-serving teacher-in-charge of debating Mrs Jayantha Ranasinghe who was recently transferred in service, after sixteen years at Kingswood (twelve years with the team).

Kingswood’s win is their fourth overall De Lanerolle triumph and their first since 2007. They are joint-holders of the claim to have won the tournament most number of times, alongside Gateway College, who trumped in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Main Prizes:

The 1st Place (De Lanerolle Memorial Prize and Spencer Debate Shield): Kingswood.
The 2nd Place (The P.H. Nonis Memorial Prize): Kandy Girls’ High School.
The 3rd Place (The FAJ Utting Memorial Trophy): Good Shepherd Convent.
The Best Speaker (VD Paulraj Memorial Prize): Nushara Amarasekara (KGHS).

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