National Youth Parliament
President urges young parliamentarians to change country’s political culture
By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
May 31, 2003

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The fourth National Youth Parliament (NYP) kicked off at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara on Thursday afternoon with President Bharrat Jagdeo urging the young parliamentarians to change the political culture of the country.

More than two dozen young people, in a sitting mirroring the National Assembly, engaged their audience in a debate on whether a “Bill of Rights should be enshrined in the Constitution to further enhance the quality of lives for young people”.

NYP Opposition leader Rosalinda Rasul’s high-energy arguments paved the way for an interesting, and at times, amusing session from the young parliamentarians.

Marissa Massiah, NYP Prime Minister, led the debate for the government side, arguing that youths of Guyana have been benefiting tremendously in every sphere of life, despite the Opposition’s argument that only 10 percent of the Constitution specifically represents the interests of youths. She was supported by Muaz Yusuf as Finance Minis-ter, Gail Roopchand, Educa-tion Minister, Saidy Moore, Minister of Human Services and Legal Affairs, Anton Rocke, Minister of Housing and Water, Safia Varswyk, Health Minister and Jason Fields as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.

And supporting Rasul on the opposing side were Ro-meo Seenjan, Nicola Jeffrey, Sherod Duncan, Elizabeth Dyer, Andrew Sam and Afeefah Stuart.


By the time the curtains came down at the Umana Yana in Kingston that night, Sherod had copped the prize for ‘Best Parliamentarian’, while Rasul was basking in the glory of being awarded the prize for ‘Best Knowledge of Subject’. Other prizewinners were Rocke for ‘Best Presentation’ and Jeffrey for ‘Best Reasoning and Skills’.

In true parliamentary style, some of the NYP members copied the mannerisms of so many veteran politicians, heckling their opponents as the mood dictated and, on one occasion, resorting to personal attacks.

In his feature address preceding the start of the debate, President Jagdeo had urged the young parliamentarians to move away from the confrontational political culture, so as to push Guyana forward.

“Here in Guyana, we have had a very confrontational political culture in the past. We have to change that...[Our fore-parents] struggled very hard [for] political freedom, that is, independence for our country. But they did not leave us a political culture that allows people to differ without seeing each other as enemies. There could be many differences...but it does not mean that you have to hate each other if you have differences. And that is the tragedy of our politics and you young people can change this,” the Head of State said.

According to President Jagdeo, the involvement of youth in the political arena is important, as it sows the seeds of tolerance and respect. He said although the government may not agree with their positions, the bigger concern was whether the country would listen to them.

“It is not just whether the government would listen, [but] would the country listen...? [For] too long in Guyana, much is centred around government [and] as a nation, we have developed a dependence too much on politicians and government. In many ways, this is the hardest challenge for me as President...It is not fixing the roads and the water supply and electricity...or it is not changing and modernizing various legislations in the country to create a modern society, it is a change of attitude. Change in attitude where people realize that they will fail or succeed by their own effort; and that the government is not the source of everything or the end to everything. The government is here to facilitate, to create a level playing field to ensure that people are treated fairly and are protected, but it depends on you as individuals and your initiative and your ability to take risks...”

He congratulated the members of the Guyana Youth Development Association, not just for bringing the young people together, but also for what he described as making a contribution towards changing the political culture in the country.

“We have to work together as a country; we have to ensure that as Guyanese that we re-charter a way for our country...You have a very important role to play, not just in developing a new political culture, but, hopefully, many of you would enter into politics and would be leading this country in the future and you would take the lead in setting the agenda for the county,” the President told the youth.

The judges at the session were attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall, St. Joseph High School Principal, Ingrid Fung, former NYP parliamentarian Lester Paul and television personality Annalisa Bahadur. Robert Forrester represented the Speaker of the House, while Rashad Mohamed and Laura Obermuller acted as clerks.

NYP started four years ago as a project of the Guyana Youth Development Association with the aim of facilitating the all-round development of young people in Guyana, NYP coordinator Kwame McCoy explained on Thursday.

“Since then, we continued to work hard on developing and maintaining NYP in Guyana, because we find it one of the most useful forums through which young people can express their views and their ideas and their opinions in an unrestricted way, and at the same time, in a constructive manner. [We hope] that through this process we can help them to build patience, tolerance towards each other, discipline...[and] respect for each other, based on our positions, based on our arguments. Over the years we have seen this coming out from the NYP. The rigid grooming exercise itself, which involves research, learning parliamentary ethics and learning how to socialize with each other...learning more about each other, we find this to be a very useful exercise, something certainly that we would want to continue with in years to come and we do believe that NYP has a far way to go,” McCoy told the gathering.

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