SL takes top spot at Tilbury House Debating Championship 2020

The national English debating team nominated by the Debaters’ Council of Sri Lanka has won first place at the Tilbury House Debating Championship 2020, which took place last weekend. 

Sri Lanka was represented by two teams of three students from Sri Lanka with Team A winning first place, and Team B coincidentally lost to Team A in the semi-finals, with a 3-2 split in favour of Team A among the judging panel. 

The teams comprised students from schools in Sri Lanka, who were each chosen and mentored by the Debaters’ Council of Sri Lanka, following a rigorous process. The students participated in 10 debate tournaments locally, being narrowed down to a pool of 15 to 20 debaters who received training from the Debaters’ Council of Sri Lanka, before six debaters were chosen to represent Sri Lanka on the world stage. 

Team A, which won first place in the championship, consisted of Shalem Sumanthiran from Royal College, Chanidu Ratnayake from Ananda College, and Jasmine Markandu from Colombo International School. 

Team B, which placed in the semi-final of the championship, comprised Janul De Silva from Royal College, Rahul De Silva from Colombo International School, and Reiha Wimalasekera from Ladies College.

From left: First row: Sanjit Dias (Technical Coach), Kithmina Hewage (Head Coach), Reiha Wimalasekera. Second row: Shalem Sumanthiran, Jasmine Markandu, Janul De Silva. Third row: Chanidu Ratnayake, Rahul De Silva

The team was initially selected to participate in the World Schools Debating Championships 2020, which was set to take place in Mexico in July but was postponed to January 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. The team has since been participating in virtual debating tournaments including the Tilbury House Debating Championship 2020.

The Tilbury House Debating Championship is organised by the University of Cologne and took place over Zoom, with 40 teams from around the world taking part, including 15 national teams. The tournament consisted of five preliminary rounds, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, and the final round. Two of the preliminary rounds and the final round were based on topics that had been announced in advance for teams to prepare arguments. All other rounds were impromptu rounds, where teams were given one hour to prepare amongst themselves with no external support or informational resources, online or otherwise. 

The Sri Lankan team went up against the national teams of Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic, and Romania over the course of the tournament, winning over Wales in the final round to become champions with a 4-3 majority vote from the panel of judges. 

The topic of debate in the final round was as follows: “THBT feminist movements in deeply religious societies should integrate religious messages and institutions into their advocacy, rather than distancing themselves from them.”

In addition to the Sri Lankan Team A winning first place in the championship, Shalem Sumanthiran of Team A won Best Speaker and Janul De Silva of the Sri Lankan Team B was ranked the eighth best speaker of the tournament. 

The team was mentored by their Technical Coach Sanjit Dias and Head Coach Kithmina Hewage, who also serves as this year’s President of the Debaters’ Council of Sri Lanka.