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Youth Parliament for Commonwealth Day
Published 1st February 2007, 12:0pm
"What we see on Monday, 13 March, will be an example of the country's next generation of Caymanian politicians. We trust that, through this experience, many of you will be encouraged to become Members of this Honourable House," the Speaker and President of the CPA Cayman Islands Branch, Hon. Edna S. Moyle, JP, told an enthusiastic group of youth inside the Legislative Assembly Chamber.
Mrs. Moyle was welcoming some 20 youth who attended the first pre-event meeting of the Second Youth Parliament which is to be held under the aegis of the local branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on Commonwealth Day (13 March).
A full day's proceedings of a mock Parliament will take place that day where the youth will take over all the positions in the House from the Speaker to the Serjeant-at-Arms, from Leaders of the House to the MLAs, and from Official Members to the Clerk of the LA. They will conduct the entire business of the House for the day including debating motions, taking positions appropriate to the side of the aisle they sit in -- Government or Opposition.
At the first meeting on Saturday, 21 January, the Speaker set the right tone for the whole experience that should be informative, educational as well one in which they can be comfortable so that it also becomes enjoyable. She explained that enabling this experience for the youth would be the Sub-Committee organizing the Youth Parliament, headed by George Town MLA Alfonso Wright and consisting of MLAs Lucille Seymour (George Town), Osbourne Bodden (Bodden Town) and Rolston Anglin (West Bay), with Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Wendy Lauer as the Honorary Secretary of the Branch.
"This will be a learning experience for you and will provide you with an opportunity to express, with due decorum and respect, your own opinions on the topics that you will select, working within the framework of the democratic rules, practices and procedures of Commonwealth Parliaments," the Speaker told the participants, including high school students chosen by their schools and colleges as well as part participants.
She added, "You have much to prepare for and I wish you all the very best. I will be available to assist you all in procedural matters and trust that I will work closely with whomsoever you select as Speaker of this Youth Parliament."
As the youth arrived, Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Sharon Smith and Assistant Clerk Nana Bothwell were on hand to register the participants and hand over to each a copy of the Standing Orders (the rules by which the House governs itself), the rules governing the conduct of business in the Second Youth Parliament and a draft programme of the proceedings for 13 March.
Inside the House, after the Speaker's warm welcome, Sub-Committee Chairman Wright outlined the procedures involved that day at the first meeting and on the day of the Mock Parliament. The youth learnt that every one of the sitting Members in the Mock Parliament will have some activity to perform. While the Governor, the Governor's Aide-de-Camp, the three Official Members and the Serjeant-at-Arms would be positions the youth would volunteer for, the Sitting Membership would be determined by ballot.
Then from among the Government and Opposition benches, the youth on the two sides would caucus and choose their respective Leaders of Government and the Opposition, Deputy Leaders, and on the Government side, five Ministers.
Since the full complement of the youth was not present at the first meeting, only the positions of the Governor, the three Official Members, the Clerk and the Serjeant-at-Arms could be filled voluntarily. Volunteering for the positions were Stuart Gorter for Governor; Travis Ritch for First Official Member; Alexander Stoll for Second Official Member; Elizabeth Charles for Third Official Member; Calicia Burke for Clerk of the LA and Gabriella Mendoza for Serjeant-at-Arms.
Drawing their positions from the ballot box were: Reshma Nikeeta Seeram, Dustin Bodden, Brian Ogilvie, Kelly Brown, Kimberly Robinson, Sydney Terry and Marzeta Bodden -- all Government bench; Sherie Jackson, Kalesha Edwards, Paige Foster, Mikhail McLaughlin, Marvin Hurlston, Joseph Gracey and Kamaal Connolly -- all Opposition bench.
Chairman Wright also explained that one of the first orders of business for the Youth Parliament would be the election of the Speaker with the 'Father of the House' presiding and once the Speaker was in the Chair, the Members would elect the Deputy Speaker; and five Ministers of the Cabinet.
The two sides each have to determine a subject for their respective Motions, a Government Motion from the Government Bench and a Private Members' Motion from the Opposition. Each side would have 10 minutes to introduce the motion and 10 minutes to reply to the debate on the motion while during the debate itself, each of speakers would have five minutes each to debate. Mr. Wright made clear that they would not be reading from a prepared text during the debate but would be allowed to refer to their notes while making their contributions. The mover would have the ability to read out the motion with the debate ensuing, he said, explaining the rules of speaking in the House. A Member could bring repetitions to the attention of the Speaker who could ask the Member to desist and move on, he explained.
While the composition of the final House was not finalized due to the absence of a number of the participants, those present still got to accomplish much in the three-plus hours they met and enjoying lunch with the Speaker and the Sub-Committee Members.
The participants also learnt that the Youth Parliament is to become an annual feature. Sub-Committee Member Osbourne Bodden told them that the Mock Parliament is being planned to be not only an annual event but perhaps with more periodicity within a year.
Taking a keen interest in the proceedings were Ms Hyacinth Downer, teacher from Cayman Brac High School who chaperoned the Brac participants and Mr. Rajpal Hemraj, teacher at John Gray High who said he is going to work as a coach with the students.
With the level of tutelage and practice planned for the participants, the Islands can look forward to a well-organised Mock Parliament on Commonwealth Day in March where meaningful debate from bright young citizens is likely to be the order of the day.