(CMR) Twenty-four students from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac are hard at work preparing for their big day in Youth Parliament at 10:30 am on Monday, 14 March 2022, which is World Commonwealth Day.
Once again, local law firm Harneys is picking up the tab as the sole sponsor of the 15th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Youth Parliament that is being organized by the local branch of the CPA.
This year’s Youth Parliament is also part of events for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which are underway in the Cayman Islands to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Her Majesty’s ascension to the throne.
The students, aged 14-19 years, are from local high schools: John Gray, Clifton Hunter, St. Ignatius, Cayman Prep, Cayman International School, Triple C and Layman E. Scott High School and tertiary institutions – University College of the Cayman Islands, University of Sussex and Florida Tech.
Participating as government and opposition bench members and official members and parliamentary officials, the youth parliamentarians will debate two timely topics.
One will be introduced by the government bench proposing a comprehensive “bill” on criminalizing sexual harassment, including hefty fines and jail time for persons committing sexual harassment, as well as for falsely accusing someone of sexual harassment. The call is also for educational institutions to formulate a sexual harassment policy.
Equally importantly, the students will debate the challenges that the local real estate market poses to land and homeownership by Caymanians, in particular young Caymanians.
They have had pointers on debating, researching, presentation, their conduct in the House, the rules of the House and how Parliament works as well as information and guidParliamentOrganising Committee members, Hon. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks – Chair and Deputy Speaker; Minister Hon. Kenneth Bryan; MPs Mr. Joey Hew and Ms. Barbara Conolly have helped the students prepare for their debates with presentations.
Additionally, they also received input for their debates from former MPs, Mr. Ezzard Miller, Mr. Arden McLean and from local government, business and industry: Ms. Cheryl Neblett, First Legislative Counsel; Ms. Mariesha Spencer, Cayman Islands Crisis Centre Outreach Coordinator; Dr. Josette Lawrence and staff – toastmasters; Mr. Uche Obi, Chief Valuation Officer, Department of Planning; Mr. Haroon Pandohie, Director of Planning; Mr. Tristan Hydes, Deputy Chief Officer, Ministry of Planning; Mr. Charles Brown, Senior Policy Advisor, Planning Department; Mr. Michael Joseph, Property Cayman; Mr. Andrew Woodcock, attorney, and former Truman Bodden Law School lecturer; Ms Laura Panades, TBLS law lecturer; and Mr. Julio Ramos, Director, National Housing Development Trust.
“It has been a hectic schedule for the youth parliamentarians so far,” explained Chairperson Ebanks-Wilks. “We have a bright and eager group of young individuals who are preparing and getting ready for their big day. We, as MPs are happy to be able to impart information to them, in particular the senior, more experienced MPs in the House.
“They, and we, are looking forward to a great day on Monday, especially since the Youth Parliament provides an insight into the minds and thinking of our younger generation on some very relevant local topics,” she added.
Organizing coordinator and facilitator and clerk of the Parliament, Mrs. Zena Merren-Chin, said, “The youth selected the topics themselves and have been preparing for them for some time. From 5 October 2021 to 5 February 2022, they attended one weekly session, and since early February, they meet Tuesdays and Saturdays.”
Presenting the sponsor’s cheque for the sixth consecutive time, Harney’s Partner, Ms. Jessica Williams, said: “Harneys are thrilled to continue their involvement and to sponsor such a great program with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It is always fantastic to meet the bright young students who take part in the Youth Parliament program, and we wish each of them all the best for the future.”
Ms. Williams noted, “Participants gain insight into the operations of parliament and learn public speaking skills Parliamentciating with peers from other schools. By providing them with a platform to voice their opinions, they have an opportunity to debate on topics that affect their lives. By supporting this important endeavor, Harneys helps provide the resources required to ensure that future leaders of the local community benefit from a successful program.”
Participant Ms. Sherika McPherson, who is the Speaker of the Youth Parliament, summed up the sentiments of the youth regarding their experience so far: “I have had a marvelous experience in Youth Parliament; it has opened my eyes to the complexities of parliamentary procedures and practices. I now understand the role and importance of the Speaker of the House, and I am thrilled to use this knowledge to manage the debate on Monday.”