Speaker says National Youth Parliament debate first class

Speaker says National Youth Parliament debate first class

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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SPEAKER of the House of the Representatives Pearnel Charles Sr, who last week rapped his colleague Members of Parliament for descending into a shouting match over the proposed separation of Portmore from the wider St Catherine at the local government level, on Monday heaped praises on the members of the National Youth Parliament.

"This is the type of thing that the 21st century needs. I’m very proud of you," Charles told the group after the sitting at Gordon House.

The youth parliamentarians debated motions on youth unemployment, climate change, and psychosocial care of youth. The motions, which were moved on either side of the aisle, got acceptance from both sides and were eventually passed.

"This side of the House will stand with the Government to help better the lives of our Jamaican youth," declared Jevorney Gordon who played the role of Opposition leader.

"I am ready, along with my team, to support the prime minister and his team. I stretch my hand across the aisle to you, Sir," he said, motioning to Jermaine Anderson, the youth parliament prime minister.

Charles was impressed.

"I listened to the entire presentation and it was a class presentation," he said at the end of the formal proceedings. "The material was first class. The presentation was first class. It is a standard that I wish you will keep and take to Parliament if you’re interested (in representational politics)."

Junior Education Minister Floyd Green was also "very, very impressed" and said some of the solutions the youth proposed will be carried forward through the Youth Advisory Council which is to be launched later this month.

The Youth Parliament reconvened Monday, after a six-year hiatus. It was introduced in 2003 as one of the activities to mark Youth Month, observed in November, and is a means through which young people can gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the political process. The cohort comprised over 70 high school and university students, representing various youth and advocacy groups from across the island.

At the beginning of the sitting, youth speaker Dei-Rasi Freckleton, representing Youth for Change International, suspended the formalities to entertain remarks from clerk to the Houses of Parliament Heather Cooke; President of the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson; senior director, youth and adolescents policy division in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Michele Small Bartley; Opposition spokesperson on youth Lisa Hanna; Floyd Green; Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid; and Charles.

They appealed to the young people who took their places in Gordon House for a day not to use their bad behaviour as examples to follow.

"If you have been watching recently, you would no doubt have seen that the speaker had to use his gavel excessively to maintain order in the House. I trust that you will set an example today for the senior Parliament in their sittings," Tavares-Finson said to rapturous table bangs from the youth cohort.

Prior to that, the president of the Senate gave the young people some advice to heed on the road to leadership.

"Bear the following in mind in your quest as future leaders of Jamaica, land we love," he said.

"Know yourself. Make sure that at the very core of your being you know who you are. Having known yourself, be fervent in your belief and unwavering in the face of opposition for opposition there will be. Be judicious in your words. Be determined but let not that determination be an excuse for rash action or ill-thought words. Be willing to yield in the face of opposition that is for the common good...

The line-up of speakers had similar advice.

"I know you have your prepared speeches but enjoy yourselves and remember, Parliament is not Sunday School either. Some of you will have some jabs to throw, throw them. But do so with respect," Hanna urged.

Added Green: "Please don’t take up the bad habits that you see displayed in the Houses. Lead by example so that when we show this people will see that we have a new generation of parliamentarians."

For his part, Minister Reid called the young people to pursue the areas they are passionate about, even after the parliamentary sitting.

"This experience is not a one-off. It must be a call to action, " he told them in a booming, preacher’s voice.

The National Youth Parliament was organised by both the education ministry and the Houses of Parliament. The clerk to the Houses said she was heartened to see its return, particularly because it provides a platform for advocacy and is a baptism of sorts for many of the participants who "will become the parliamentarians of tomorrow".


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