Local leaders and youth groups on Monday will mark Commonwealth Day’s 40th anniversary at a flag-raising ceremony from 9:45 to 10 a.m. at the Government Administration Building, part of an annual commemoration among 52 countries.

The George Town public ceremony is part of a worldwide “Fly the Flag for the Commonwealth” initiative, under this year’s theme of “A Peace-Building Commonwealth.”

The  ceremony will be attended by Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, ministers, MLAs, government officials, the Honorary Representative of the Royal Commonwealth Society in the Cayman Islands Lemuel Hurlston, members of the Cadet Corps, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.

Queen’s Baton Relay

Marking the day’s celebration at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II will launch a yearlong global baton relay, carrying the “Queen’s baton” across each continent and British territory, culminating at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, south of Brisbane, where more than 6,600 athletes and officials from 70 nations and territories are scheduled to participate in the event from April 4-15.

In her Commonwealth Day message, the Queen said the effort represents the “Commonwealth family in every continent and ocean.”

The Queen’s baton, she said, “will set out from Buckingham Palace and begin a long and extraordinary journey” during the next year.

“Carried on its way by thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, by the time it reaches its final destination, the Queen’s baton will have brought together through its route and symbolism, almost 2.5 billion people who share the special connection of being Commonwealth citizens.”

RELATED: From Her Majesty the Queen: Commonwealth Day Message

Martin Reynolds, spokes-man for the Commonwealth Games Federation, said the baton would be in Cayman from July 14-18 after an initial 19-nation transit of Africa from March 14 to May 26 and a 14-territory Caribbean tour beginning in Trinidad and Tobago on May 27 in Trinidad and culminating in George Town.

“Contained within the baton will be a written message that will be opened and read at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year,” the Queen said in her message. “However, there is an even more powerful message to be seen and experienced as the baton passes from hand to hand, from seashore to mountaintop, through cities, towns and villages. It is the message of a peace-building Commonwealth.

“The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community. By upholding justice and the rule of law, and by striving for societies that are fair and offer opportunities for all, we overcome division and find reconciliation, so that the benefits of progress and prosperity may be multiplied and shared.”

Youth Parliament

Following Monday’s administration building ceremony, 25 local high school and tertiary students will gather in the Legislative Assembly at 10:30 for the 10th annual Youth Parliament and a scheduled two-topic debate, open to the public.

“It’s going to be a busy day,” Cayman’s Commonwealth representative Mr. Hurlston said.

Representing a population of 2.2 billion, the Commonwealth largely comprises current and former British colonies or their dependencies.

Formed in 1931 with original members the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and Newfoundland, the Commonwealth today boasts three members in Europe, 12 in North America, one in South America, 18 in Africa, seven in Asia, and 11 in the Pacific Region.

The “London Declaration,” marking the birth of the modern Commonwealth under its present name, was signed in 1949. The newest member of the group is Rwanda, which joined in November 2009; the most recent departure is the Maldives, which left the group in October last year.

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