THE Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Lord Fakafanua today officially opened the Tonga Youth Parliament 2021. The Youth parliament will deliberate for two days beginning today, and wrapping up tomorrow.
It aims to provide an opportunity for youth to prepare and practice discussion on motions a petition as well as broadening the knowledge of the 28 MPs and understanding of Parliament, its roles and functions.
The TYP initiative also aims to empower and encourage young people’s participation in politics, leadership and decision making. This is Parliament’s commitment to support initiatives that encourages youth and women’s civic participation and increasing awareness of their roles in society.
In his keynote remarks this morning, Lord Speaker says that a Youth Parliament provides an important platform for Youth MPs to discuss issues that is of national importance and challenging in their lives. It is with much anticipation that such an initiative will also enhance their interest in politics.
Lord Fakafanua also warmly welcomed all TYP 2021 participants tuning in via zoom here in Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u. It is the first time for such a parliament sitting to be held using technology.
The Lord Speaker said TYP being held virtually is part of Parliament’s effort to ensure preparedness for the impacts of COVID-19.
This year’s event follows closely to the Public Outreach Theme, Our Parliament – Bringing Parliament to You. TYP 2021 MPs were selected from different sectors in the society including successful candidates from the outer islands.
On that note the Speaker was delighted to note that Parliament has fulfilled its vision of an inclusive institution where youth are being encouraged to participate in politics and having their voices heard.
Lord Fakafanua said Parliament’s strive for a more inclusive parliament is a true testimony of its commitment youth empowerment. He said youths are talented and there is need to build their individual strengths and recognise their leadership potential as a vital part of preparing them as future leaders.
Tonga Youth Parliament 2021 is the fifth parliament sitting since 2002, and third youth practice parliament held post 2010 political reform.
With general election just around the corner (November 18) the Lord Speaker encourages and reminds young people to go to the polls next month to elect their MPs into Parliament. He said this is a most crucial time to encourage them (youth) to actively participate in politics for sustainable development Tonga.
Tonga Youth Parliament comprised of 28 youths between the age of 25-34 and two reserved seats (one for ‘Eua and Ha’apai) selected from the 14-18 age range.
A three-day orientation program concluded yesterday was provided to prepare youth MPs for discussion on motions and a petition before its parliament sitting today and tomorrow.
Youngest TYP 2021 MP, 16-year-old Jane Langilangi of ‘Eua was assigned a TYP special reserved seat for the 14-18 age group. MP Langilangi said she had learnt about Parliament in school. However, after the three days orientation, it was an eye opening and life changing experience for her. She wants to pursue her dreams to become a female politician in the future.
“I would love to start my career as a lawyer for Tonga Parliament and become a Member of Parliament when I am matured to run for Parliament. My advice for young people in Tonga is ‘‘do not belittle yourself and always stand up for what you believe in.”
TYP 2021 focuses its agenda and discussions on the impacts of illicit-drugs and youth unemployment related issues. Today the Youth Practice Parliament passed a petition tabled by Tongatapu 1 Youth MP, Mele Tu’iano. Its petition prayers are a call for an establishment of a Rehabilitation Centre for people in society who are gravely affected by the use of illicit-drugs.
TYP 2021 also approved a Resolution submitted to Parliament by the Hon. Minister of Education urging Parliament to amend the existing Illicit Drugs Control Act to differentiate the punishment imposed on youth offenders. At the moment the existing legislation provides same punishment applicable to both adult and juvenile offenders.
Lord Fakafanua also pointed out that “as leaders we must help to empower youth and must lead by example so youth can stand the test of time and challenges they face in politics. “I strongly believe there is urgent need to prepare the youth of today for the future and we should support and help them to become good citizens.
Lord Speaker Fakafanua also expressed his sincere appreciation for the continuous support of donor partners including the UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP for making Tonga Youth Parliament 2021 possible in efforts to empower young people for they are our future leaders.