Members of Cayman’s Youth Parliament, from public and private schools throughout the Cayman Islands, met at the chamber of the Legislative Assembly on Monday to mark Commonwealth Day.
They took part in two debates, one on amending the Sunday Trading Law and another on a mentoring program in local high schools.
The Youth Parliament debates are organized each year by the Cayman Islands branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to give high school students the chance to “sit” as members of the Legislative Assembly for a day.
Students nominated and then selected to participate often spend weeks or even months working on the arguments they put forward as parliament members.
Speaking at the start of the sitting, Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is joint vice president of the Cayman Islands branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, said he was looking forward to hearing spirited debates by the young members.
“Speaker of the House” Henry Hill and “Opposition Leader” Shaquille Henry shadowed the premier over the past week as he carried out his work.
The Youth Parliament’s premier was LeShontae Missick and Grace Grant was deputy premier. Ministers included Gabriella Castillo, Callhan Studerhofft, Matthew Welds, Jerome Bailey and Marika Scotland. Backbenchers were Aquinnah Ebanks, Kent Green, McKayla Cupid and Andre Mena-Hebbert. Loshana Lopez-Francis was deputy governor and Bryan Ryan was the attorney general. Opposition members included Bianca Tibbetts, Jared McGill, Danyelle Williams, Daniel Nicholson-Gardner, Kevin Redden and Bryce Ebanks. There were also roles as officers of the House, with Geovanna Dominquez as clerk, Haileigh Moore as deputy clerk and Kieron Watler as Serjeant-at-Arms.
Premier McLaughlin also acknowledged past Youth Parliament participants Jamal Young and Amber Caum, who are representing Cayman at the Commonwealth celebrations at Westminster in London.
In a speech opening the 2014-15 session, Speaker Hill, pointing out that as the theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day was “A Young Commonwealth,” then it was fitting that young people in Cayman were taking part in the parliamentary meeting.
“We as young Caymanians have what it takes to be strong, successful young leaders who will strive to do whatever it takes to most definitely succeed. Because the real truth is, that one day we will be the leaders of this great country, and we will take our rightful place in this honorable House,” he said.
He said the young people of the Cayman Islands are often labeled as delinquents, lazy and unintelligent. “What makes this most unbecoming, we have all been labeled with these generalizations and many people believe that it is OK to label the Caymanian youth in this manner,” he said.
He continued, “We are knowledgeable and have a firm understanding of what we have to offer … We are not just teenagers debating for recreational purposes. We too are concerned individuals. We know about the issues that affect the country; we want to see change and enrichment to the fullest extent because we love Cayman more than we can express.”
The serving Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly told participants this was their day to show their skills but was also an opportunity for them to become active participants in Cayman’s democracy. “All cameras, all ears and eyes are on you. It is your chance to be on the receiving end to get a little taste of what it means to serve the public,” she said.