A motion calling for the development a framework for the transfer of knowledge between seniors and youths in the workplace took centre stage on Thursday as a mixture of senior citizens and youths took on the difficult issues affecting Tobago in one mega debate at the Assembly Legislature.
The annual debate held at the Assembly Chamber was hosted by the Assembly Secretariat as part of the Tobago Day 2019 celebrations. Traditionally a debate between youths and the older generation, this year the opposing sides were mixed.
"Minority Councillor" Patricia Nicole Whiteman moved the motion, highlighting that human capital is critical to the development of Tobago. She made reference of the Singaporean model indicating that Straits Times, an English-language daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore, currently owned by Singapore Press Holdings, in an October 2018 issue said the human capital index launched by the World Bank placed Singapore as the number one country for investing in human capital.
“Tobago has petrol, rich agricultural lands, magnificent tourist attraction, just to name a few along with human capital, consisting of spicy seniors bubbling over with a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and understanding of things from yesteryear, eager to share with yearning, vibrant, tech savvy juniors…
"Mix all this together and together we aspire, together we achieve as is stated on coat of arms, perfect blend for any country,” she said.
In response, "Chief Secretary" Joeshel Dann, "electoral representative" for Goodwood/ Belle Garden supported the motion, noting that there is a division within the youths and the seniors to date, which can affect the island economically, as well as culturally.
“In their absence we would fail to exist, as they are the pillar of our society, our traditions, culture, along with religion, and history gets passed through them to this oblivious young generations. Their skills, knowledge and other intangible assets can be used to create economic value for our community.
“Developing an intergenerational programme benefits the older adults who participate and also benefits the youth participants and the community at large. Children who are involved in intergenerational mentoring programmes develops skills, values along with a sense of empowerment, leadership, citizenship, communication skills, problem solving abilities, a sense of purpose and community,” she said.
"Assemblyman" Joshua Fraser, "electoral representative" for Plymouth/ Golden Lane said the motion was discriminatory and must be balanced by providing opportunities to encourage the retention of youth skills on the island.
“I find the motion to be very biased because it only highlights the experience of seniors and that they continue to be an invaluable asset to our development.
“What about our experienced youths, aren’t we innovative, creative and knowledgeable just like the seniors? It would be remiss of me if I do not recognise the vast contribution of the seniors, however it would also be irresponsible and disheartening to neglect the crucial contributions that the youths have made towards the development of Tobago,” Fraser said.
After two hours, the motion was passed.
Head judge of the debate, Michael Stewart described the task of the judging panel – Julien Skeete, Yvette Parks-Caruth and himself – as a Herculean one.
“This debate was one of the most exciting that I have had chance to participate in. It was a common blend of the seniors who have common sense and the young people who have energy and passion. Also, the presiding officer needs to come in for a special commendation for his calm and his ability to manage the house. We felt that the quality of the debate was quite good, we did not have too much reading as persons ad lib, they allowed their passion to flow and some of them got into the very character of the role which was very impressive,” he said.
In announcing the results, Stewart said all should be commended. The top three debaters – Jahmone Madden, Kayleigh Lewis and Jenae Campbell – were given special recognition and a token, while all other participants were presented with certificates of participation and relevant text to enhance their development.
Deputy Presiding officer Ancil Dennis said he sat through the debate and was reminded of himself, to some extent, noting that the sitting rivalled other sittings in the house in terms of the level of interest and debating.
“What was in fact interesting is that we didn’t have a situation where it was youth versus seniors but there were some seniors who were for the argument and some were against, and likewise there were also young persons and seniors as well who supported the other side of the argument."
This, he said signals that as a people of Tobago, “especially when we consider the operations of governance and we consider the operations of this House, collaboration is important, the spirit of unity is important if we are in fact serious about Tobago’s development.”
Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles also commended the debaters, describing it as a good afternoon.
“I was particularly interested in two persons; the person acting as Chief Secretary and the member for Black Rock/ Whim, but I am happy for the opportunity given to all persons.
“I think the essence of the motion is quite instructive and that it really seeks to interrogate the value, if any, of building or forging a relationship between those persons who are considered seniors and those persons who are considered young persons.
"What was particularly interesting as well was the context, because the context talked about the workplace, thereby implying among other things that there is an institution of knowledge that the older persons can pass on to the young persons particularly in respect of how one conducts one’s self in the work environment,” he said.