Commonwealth Young parliamentarians are hoping they will not eventually become like some disgraced politicians in recent times. Speaking at a press conference during the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament 2022, at the Red House yesterday, one member, Shakiah Tylea Lewis, representing Turks and Caicos, said she will constantly remind herself of her purpose, to trying not to lose sight of what is important.
“It has to be my love for my country. And, to say that I want to go into politics with the mindset of five years down the line, I’ll be driving a (Mercedes) Benz and I wouldn’t be really caring for the people who elected me, then, why did I go into politics? If you don’t have that passion, that drive for your job, it then becomes work, and when it becomes work, then you know you didn’t go into this for the right reasons,” Lewis said
Deshawn Cooke, from Jamaica, added:
“We are youth right now and I'm not telling you that things are going to remain the same 20 or 30 years from now should I become a politician, and what I have to do is not play hypocrite, because I am calling on politicians now to listen to youth,”.
The young people also called for more youth involvement in parliamentary and political processes.
“I think youth parliament should move from just being a set of young people just speaking on issues but being able to put Bills into place when the government is making decisions re youth, they should involve the youth parliamentarians. And so, the decisions the youth make are decisions that will help other youths,” said another Jamaican member, Jinel Gordon.
“If we are not involving the youth in the decision making then why are we speaking about the future? How are you able to adjust or keep in touch with situations that the youths are going through? I think that youth participation is important in decision-making because it also helps them to grow over time and after a while, the older parliamentarians will be gone, and it’s up to the next generation to step up to the plate and step up the legacy...of the country or a party,” Gordon added.
Cooke added that more seasoned politicians should welcome opportunities like these to have the youths more engaged and mentor them.
“It’s one thing to have youth at the table, it’s another thing to use them as some sort of tokenism and it’s another thing to actually listen to the youth, and that is what I would love to see. Not just having a table, not just providing a table, but ensuring that once they are around that table, you listen to the perspective that they bring and use the experience that you have garnered from your years of service to see how best you can put those two together and have a phenomenal parliamentary system or a phenomenal government,” he said.
When asked about Kilisitina Moala’s impassioned contribution about the topic of climate change and its effect on her homeland, Tonga, the young members echoed her sentiments.
“Seeing her break down showed me that youth are not really in this just because they want a seat at the table, but it’s because they really have a passion for what they’re doing, and they’re in touch with the realities and the crisis that is going on in the world and want to be the change,” Gordon said.
Christian Martinazzo, from Australia, which is located a few thousand kilometres west of Tonga, said it was a powerful moment.
“It was quite emotional even more so because Tongo is widely considered part of Australia's pacific island communities. So, to see members of what we consider our family have that reaction was very powerful. I think the theatrics that usually happens in politics and in youth parliament, when you actually look down to the core, it’s an opportunity for us to voice an issue that is very personal to us and member Moala did a very fantastic job representing her country for it, and I think it’s an opportunity for members of smaller and developing states to continue that advocacy for their states in whatever medium is available to them,” Martinazzo said.