(CNS Local Life): As part of Commonwealth Day celebrations, 19 students from Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman high schools as well as the University College of the Cayman Islands participated in the 11th annual Youth Parliament. Hosted by the local branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), this year’s event, held Monday, 12 March, generated heated debates between the “government” and “opposition” benches on two timely topics.
The young parliamentarians passed the first motion, which sought to amend the Education Law to extend the compulsory school-leaving age to 18 years and to reinstate A-levels in the government high schools, stated a government press relase. One of the ideas posited during the debate was for the establishment of a full-scale technical and vocational school in the Cayman Islands to directly benefit non-academically minded youth.
The second motion, which failed, concerned amending the Election Law to require candidates running for public office to reside in the districts they wish to represent and to live there for four years prior to the date of a general election.
At the opening ceremony, CPA Youth Parliament committee chair and Councillor Barbara Conolly highlighted the importance of establishing regular avenues to elicit young people’s views on important topics, and suggested setting up a forum like the Youth Parliament to meet several times regularly during the year so leaders and the general public may hear their ideas.
In his welcome address, Speaker and CPA Cayman Islands branch president McKeeva Bush emphasised that the local arm is committed to encouraging Cayman Islands’ youth to play their part in public life.
“We want to make their voices heard, we want them to gain a better understanding of the important issues we face as a community but most important of all, we want to elicit a representative viewpoint of our young people when we address these issues,” he said.
Lauding the youth and their mentors for the effort that they had invested in the event, the Speaker noted this ensures “the Cayman Islands’ potential human capital continues to grow strongly to take forward our vibrant parliamentary democracy into the future”.
He added, “As we saw in last year’s General Elections, our democracy is robust and continues to thrive and grow. And the more young people we can get interested in public life, the better for the future of the Cayman Islands.”
Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller encouraged the youth to give their best in their debates, noting that nervousness prior to speaking assails even seasoned public speakers. He advised them to take a crucial few seconds to control their breathing to calm themselves and to focus better.
Premier Alden McLaughlin declared the parliament open, praising the “tremendous effort” put in by all involved, most notably the students, and saying he looked forward to the keen debating to follow.
Participants in this year’s Youth Parliament were:
Destinne Clarke-Falconer – Speaker; Ministers of Cabinet: Richard Weber (Premier), Jaclielie Bonilla-Williams, Kiarilyn Reyes, Tazmar Dawkins, Justin Ebanks, Mark Plowright, and Ashleigh Chin; Jenna Grant and Omar Fellow – ex-officio Members of Cabinet; Jenae Whittaker and Alejandro Whitaker – Government backbench members; Reon Porter (Leader of the Opposition), Daina Levy, Asia Bush, David Swan, Zariah Truman and Diamond Chamber – Opposition members; Chauntae Martinez – Clerk of the LA and Diana DeMercado – Serjeant-at-Arms.