(CMR) Twenty-six youth aged 14-20 years from local institutions are busy working in preparation for the prestigious annual Youth Parliament, which will be held for the 16th time in the Cayman Islands on Monday, 13 March.
This event is generally the high point of Cayman Islands’ annual Commonwealth Day celebrations and is organized by the CI Branch of the London headquartered Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The theme for this year’s Commonwealth day is “Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future”.
The sixteen girls and ten boys have been busy gearing up for their big day when they will take over the people’s House for a day of parliamentary action. They represent John Gray, Clifton Hunter, Layman E. Scott high schools, St. Ignatius Catholic High, Triple C, Cayman International School and the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Encouraged, advised and trained by the House’s Youth Parliament Organising Committee, which comprises MPs and the House staff, led by Clerk of the House Mrs. Zena Merren-Chin, the youth considered several topics and chose the topics for the two debates they will participate in this year.
After careful selection, the youth have come up as topics to be debated as Private Member’s Motions, two lively and timely topics: “Implementing a new public transportation system in the Cayman Islands” and “Implementation of a Progressive Income Tax System in the Cayman Islands”.
A number of other resource persons have also helped coach and train the young debaters, representing both the public sector, including senior government officials and the private sector and NGOs.
For their part, the youth have displayed their dedication by being at work after school hours from mid-September 2022, starting with meeting once a week and then graduating to twice a week. To ensure students from the Cayman Brac high school are able to participate, the two participants attend all training sessions virtually on Tuesdays and in person on Saturdays as of 4th February.
This year, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport, along with Cayman Airways, sponsored the airfares for Cayman Brac students to attend YP meetings on Saturdays and the debate on the 13th of March.
Equally significantly, once again, local law firm Harneys has generously sponsored the Youth Parliament, picking up the tab for the seventh consecutive time.
Speaker Hon. Katherine A. Ebanks-Wilks commented: “As Speaker of Parliament, I would like to publicly thank Harneys for its continued support of Youth Parliament. We are seeing many past participants now thriving in society. Youth Parliament serves to strengthen democracy, promote healthy habits of discipline, and enables the student community to know about practices and procedures of Parliament, which will undoubtedly foster a new generation of Members of Parliament.”
Harneys’ partner Mr. Andrew Johnstone, responded: “Harneys is delighted to continue to fully sponsor and support the CPA Youth Parliament for seven years in a row as we thrive to support the local community, in particular youth programs. I look forward to witnessing this next generation of parliamentarians as they learn key skills that will allow them to develop into future leaders. We wish them all the best on their course of their voyage in this program.”
This year’s Youth Parliament Premier Lili Anne Aleria said, “At Youth Parliament, I feel as though I learn something new every week. I’ve learned a significant amount about the politics and government positions of the Cayman Islands, and, most importantly, public speaking strategies that will be useful for the upcoming debate in March. Youth Parliament has also helped me develop new skills.”
“I’ve recognized that my confidence working with others and organizational skills have grown ever since I joined this program, which is helpful for my future in university and eventually in the workplace. I’m grateful to have been elected Premier for this 16th Youth Parliament, and I hope to utilize the skills I’ve learned so far to succeed in this year’s YP debate,” she added.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Joey Hew, MP, who outlined for the youth this year the role of Government and Government backbench as well as Opposition and Ex-Officio Members of Parliament, noted: “It is truly gratifying to see bright young students, some of whom are in Parliament for the first time, grasp, learn and understand how actually Parliament works.”
YP Leader of the OppositionJhenelle Colquhoon said: “Youth Parliament is a great opportunity for like-minded young people to come together and share their opinions and thoughts on matters affecting Cayman. It is inspiring to see so many young Caymanians interested in the ways we can impact our future, our community, and most of all, our Cayman.”
She said the experience has broadened her horizons and improved her oratorical skills and speech-making.
This year’s Youth Parliament participants are: Shanell Martinez (Speaker); Jordan McDonald (Deputy Governor); Alicia Faulknor (Attorney General); Brittania Rowe (Clerk); Madison Chin (Serjeant-at-Arms); Lili Anne Aleria (Premier); Alexander Harris (Deputy Premier); Amani Ebanks, Keira Bodden, Ashley Ebanks, Chloe Reid, Jelani Hanson and Chad Powell (Cabinet Ministers); Elizabeth Thomas, Pranav Anu and Mia Groves (Government Backbenchers); Opposition bench: Jhenelle Colquhoon (Leader); Abbey Walton (Deputy Leader); Bethany Mitchell (Deputy Speaker); Raldayne Thomas, Raeann Matute-Scott, Christian Campbell, Abygale Elliott, Lorlie Bryan, Christopher Sanchez and Zachary Allen (Members).
On Monday, 13 March, from 10:30 am, this year’s Youth Parliament will commence with an opening ceremony at the House of Parliament. The entire event will be live-streamed on CI Government’s CIGTV and YouTube channels.