The Faculty of Law students at the University of Colombo apparently have a reputation for being loud and assertive. ‘Not good’ one might think, but fantastic really, once the results are considered. Vishaka Wijeynayake, Galusha Wirithamulla, Sachintha Dias, Rhadeena de Alwis, Sanjayan Rajasingham, Anushka Gunawardena, Shanil Wijesinha and Michael Mendis are a group of class-toppers and speakers who have achieved success abroad.
This year’s Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (Jessup) and United Asians Debating Championship (UADC) held in Washington and Macau respectively, saw these young undergraduates make breakthroughs that brought not only the Faculty of Law but also Sri Lanka pride. They’ve evidently not forgotten how to have fun though, since our conversation, which was full of laughter and “off the records”, flowed in with colourful vocabulary.
Jessup- the foremost mooting competition in the world, witnesses the participation of some of the worlds’ best law students. This year’s Law Faculty participants qualified for the knockout rounds, becoming the first Sri Lankan team to emerge within the top 32, while Sachintha Dias and Sanjayan Rajasingham were both placed within the top 40 in the individual speakers ranking. UADC is one of the largest debating tournaments in Asia, at which two teams and two adjudicators from Sri Lanka participated this year. One team advanced to the knockout stages, becoming the only South Asian presence within the top 16, while Shanil Wijesinha ranked 35th on the individual speakers tab, the first Sri Lankan to rank within the top 50.
“The competition is quite intense” shares Sachintha, explaining that some universities allocate extra credit for students who participate. “Everyone sees us go abroad and then come back with these awards,” Vishaka adds, “they don’t see the six months of preparation.” For most of the participant, this semester has been a hectic sequence of assignments, upon competitions, soon to be followed by end-semester exams – not a feat everyone can handle!
Rhadeena described how the alumni help by giving continuous guidance and support. “There are those who have taken part in the same competitions in the past,” she says, adding that they decide on the teams since, “they know what happens and what’s required of the speakers.” Although usually the teams prepare themselves, Niran Anketell coached this year’s Sri Lankan participants. All the students agree that his support was essential to their success. The Faculty of Law itself provides the students with immense support, allocating nearly half a million rupees for the MCDS fund, what must be by far the largest sum allocated to such a society within the Sri Lankan university system.
Speaking of the experience itself, Sachintha says that “debating is a lot more fun than mooting.” “Mooting gets a little crazy at times,” Sanjayan explains, adding how thorough knowledge of case histories is required to perform well. Galusha protests that she prefers mooting since it involves a lot of research, but is overthrown by Vishaka who describes mooting as a“stress dragged out”.
Sachintha finally admits, “we are all very competitive, and the achievements at the competition were the best thing,” to which everyone nods in agreement.