SPEAKER Bridgid Annisette-George hailed participants in Monday’s 18th National Youth Parliament for showing that the TT Parliament is able to sit virtually, the youth sitting being a hybrid of those present and those seen via Zoom.
Senate President Christine Kangaloo hailed the youth MPs as both pioneers towards a virtual parliament and ambassadors for good parliamentary practice.
Annisette-George congratulated the youngsters who had debated a motion on the Government’s efforts to bridge TT’s digital divide, with the youth government endorsing these efforts and the youth opposition querying them.
“This is our first virtual parliament,” she said. “Not even the national Parliament has had a virtual sitting. You are proving it could be done.”
The Speaker said TT was ready for virtual sittings in both a technical aspect and viewers receptiveness.
However she noted the challenges of a virtual sitting, including a possible sense of remoteness of those on Zoom and not in the chamber. She mulled whether a virtual sitting might lose the cut and thrust of debate, how does one enforce the standing orders and how does a remote MP make an intervention.
Nonetheless, she said she had noted a comfortableness among the youth MPs, whom she said have shown the way for virtual sittings.
Annisette-George referred to “recent events in the world”–- a likely reference to the mass incursion into the US Congress – to say parliaments will always face threats but must be sustained as guardians of democracy.
Senate Vice President Nigel de Freitas said the youth MPs were assessed by their debating techniques, accuracy and relevance, and presentation and delivery. “It was extremely hard to judge you,” he said referring to the high standard.
The top youth MP was adjudged to be Khaleem Ali, with Kemuel Pascal placing second and Cobe Sandy third.
The people’s choice went to Shane John, with Shanta Seepersad second and Ruqqayyah Scott third.
Annisette-George said the participation of 2,454 people voting for the people’s choice award had “way exceeded our expectations”
She remarked, “You all have some engaged and very supportive constituents.”
The event was emceed by parliamentary corporate communications officer, Melissa Griffith-Belgrave.