Members of the Commonwealth Youth Parliament delegation at the media conference with San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein. – Nicholas Maraj
As part of their simulation, members of the 11th Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP) fielded questions at a media conference on Wednesday.
Since Monday, delegates from 56 Commonwealth countries and territories have been debating the Remote Work Bill 2022 at the Red House in Port of Spain, for the fictional territory of Kairi and Chaconia.
Unlike real-world governance, the prime minister and opposition leader sat side-by-side and fielded questions.
Asked whether they would like to see leaders of government and opposition working together on issues of national importance in their home countries, the delegates had a lot to say.
The Jamaican delegate, and prime minister of Kairi and Chaconia, Deshawn Cooke, said: “Most definitely. It’s all about collaboration. You have to put your selfish desires aside when you enter certain offices.
“When you are PM, it not just about being PM, the opposition also serves a purpose, so that the needs of the citizens are put first and at the heart of all policies put forward.”
Fellow Jamaican, and opposition leader, Jiniel Gordon said, “I too would like to see the prime minister and opposition leader of a country sitting together. It shows that the government and opposition are able to put service above self and to show that we are here for the common good – for the people.”
Fom left to right, Sri Lankan Pathum Ranasinghe Arachchige, Jamaicans Deshawn Cooke and Jiniel Gordon, and Australian Christian Martinazzo. – Nicholas Maraj
Another member of the media asked, “We hear a lot of idealism and optimism. I know the parliamentarians now were youth at one point and had fire. What guarantee is there that you will not become just like them, driving your Mercedes Benz, fattening your pockets, not worrying, serving your self-interest?”
Representative from the Turks and Caicos Darron Hiliare said, “That’s a lovely question. We need to act with passion and a sense of conviction. Sometimes conviction comes from proximity to the right kinds of issues affecting a community. I think when leaders assimilate into these roles that give them a different lifestyle than they’re accustomed to, or grew up having, it takes them away from the communities and people they are meant to be serving.
“I think if they could find ways to stay engrained in grassroot programs with people in their communities, finding out their stories and keeping close to the issues that affect people, I think it keeps them grounded and connected to the things that actually matter.”
Asked what presented their biggest challenge during CYP participation, Australian and opposition whip Christian Martinazo said his was public speaking.
Sri Lankan Pathum Ranasinghe Arachchige, who acted as leader of the House, said English was not his first language so he thought he made a few mistakes.
Arachchige said, “I think my colleagues always helped me to defeat those challenges, so I think it’s a good opportunity. I want to invite all international youth colleagues to attend these kind of forums. It will be a good opportunity for them.”