Some of Cayman’s brightest high school students gave a glimpse of what could be Cayman’s political future during the Forth Youth Parliament on Monday.
Held in the Legislative Assembly building with scores of parents, teachers, students and others in attendance, the Youth Parliament is part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s observance of Commonwealth Day.
The proceedings opened with remarks by Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour, chairman of the organising youth parliament subcommittee, and was followed by addresses by Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence, Opposition MLA Arden McLean and Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.
Mr. McLean noted the importance of the youth parliamentarians and their peers.
“No country can survive with just one generation,” he said. “You’re next in line to lead this great country.”
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly told the participants this was their chance to occupy a very important piece of political real estate – the chairs for members of the Legislative Assembly and she urged them to “show you have been listening” to national debate.
“This is your time, your place, to make history,” she said.
The deputy premier noted that at the core of democracy were the needs for negotiation and consensus-building, but she also noted that Parliament is also adversarial in nature. However, that doesn’t mean debate should lead to personal animosities.
“To leave these hallowed chambers and to shake the hand of the person you just whipped takes a great statesman or stateswoman,” she said.
Just like the real Parliament
After the opening addresses, the Youth Parliament was conducted in a way to mimic Cayman’s real Parliament closely. The participants were chosen from all of Cayman’s high schools, both public and private.
Youth Parliament Sergeant-at-Arms Corey Christian knocked three times on the chamber door before entering and announcing the arrival of “Her Excellency the Governor of the Fourth Youth Parliament”, Alexandra McRae.
Youth Pastor Felix Manzanares delivered the opening prayer and then Miss McRae administered the oaths of office to two official members and 16 elected members of the Youth Parliament.
In her remarks that followed, Miss McRae said the education of Cayman’s youth and their participation in programmes such as the Youth Parliament was important because “our generation is the future of this country”.
“Our current political leaders are faced with many challenges, ranging from ecological to economical, but one day we will be left with these problems and it will be our turn to create viable solutions.”
Later, Father of the House Michaiah Bodden presided over the nomination and election of Youth Parliament Speaker Diana Tibbetts.
In her subsequent address, Miss Tibbetts, noted the difficult times in Cayman were having an effect on the youth.
“No one is giving us the opportunity to voice our opinion, our concerns, the knowledge that we have and solutions we have to the current problems of Cayman,” she said.
“If you listen to us youth, you will hear amazing things that we have to say and the ideas we have for this country of ours as we know we all live on this wonderful Island and we all want the best for Cayman.”
Concerns of youth
Miss Tibbetts said that during the Youth Parliament people would hear the concerns of youth and various solutions.
“Don’t look at us as teenagers all dressed up nicely and just ready to debate against each other,” she said. “But look at us as Cayman’s future politicians, leaders or great people who want to make a change for Cayman.
Listen to our opinions for you may be astonished at what we have to say and how we present this.”
Other members of the Youth Parliament included official members Soneil Gomez and Manuel Quintana; elected members Julian Solomon; Alexandra Anglin; Moya Williams; Kenval Bryan; Alejandro Ossorio; Sydonie Barrett; Jasmin Ebanks; Alexandra Franklin; Justino Rodrigues; Ann-Alecia Moore; Dushun Wilson; Joshua Dilbert; Fraulein Whorms; Joash Hyde; and Winston Williams. Amber Caum served as the clerk of the Fourth Youth Parliament.
After the lunch break, the youth parliamentarians debated two motions, one involving the establishment of a new landfill and waste-to-energy facility and one to amend the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code with respect to sexual crimes against minors.
In the evening, Governor Duncan Taylor hosted a reception for the Youth Parliamentarians and their parents at Government House.
Mr. Taylor said he was impressed by the performance of the young people during the morning session and he jokingly noted that he had better make sure he did a good job because if he slipped up, there was someone waiting in the wings to take his place in Miss McRae.
Premier McKeeva Bush and Mr. Taylor then presided over a presentation of plaques to the young people acknowledging their participation in the Fourth Youth Parliament.