Inaugural Speaker’s National Youth Debating Tournament launched

Speaker Manzoor Nadir

Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, in keeping with his belief of involving youths at every step of the democratic processes, on Tuesday launched the inaugural Speaker’s National Youth Debating Tournament in the Parliament Chambers.

The competition is as a result of a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport and would see 16 youth groups from across the country participating in a mix of virtual and in person clashes. It will run from June 15 to July 19.

The Speaker said that the tournament is in keeping with his vision to promote the culture of democracy and the work of democratic institutions among all Guyanese. He added that the competition was birthed out of his belief in having youths participate in the democratic processes of the country.

Speaker Nadir said that the inaugural debating competition falls in line with the other Parliamentary youth initiatives namely the National Youth Parliament involving students from the University of Guyana and the National School Parliament initiative with students from the Public Education system across the 11 school districts.

“Youth Parliament’s and debating competitions are not new to our society. In 1993, I remember as a young person then being very involved in organizing the Caribbean Youth Festival Youth Parliament here in Guyana. The opening ceremony was held on the lawns of the public buildings and attended by then Leader of the Opposition Desmond Hoyte, then Mayor of Georgetown the late Mr Compton Young, and also gracing that occasion was His Excellency, the President Dr Cheddi Jagan, all standing on the same platform in the National Assembly.

“At that time, there were over 300 delegates from 26 countries participating in a youth parliament. The youth parliament itself was held at the Pegasus and names that many persons may recognize today were involved in that youth parliament, the Honorable Attorney General Anil Nandlall was the delegate, Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud was a delegate, former president of the University of Guyana’s Students Society Jonathan Adams was a delegate and also a member of the organizing team,” he recounted.

He reminded that now Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, Kwame McCoy also organized a Youth Parliament which took on its own life to promote parliamentary procedures among young people. Then in 2015, Speaker at the time Raphael Trotman introduced the National Youth Parliament which catered for students of the University of Guyana and the National School Parliament comprising of students from the Public School System in the 11 School Districts.

“What was constricting was the Youth Parliament only saw us pulling young people from the University of Guyana and my contention was that young people moving on to the University of Guyana only constitute a very small percentage of the young people who are in our wider population. For example, we know this year, some 13 to 14,000, teenagers are writing CXC but maybe only 10 per cent of them may move on to tertiary education. The others choose different avenues. And so, the thinking behind this National Youth Debating Competition was to reach out to youth clubs, youth organizations,” he explained.

“One of the really one of the rationales behind the selecting of the groups and the locations will have to have to be availability of internet access, because the competition will be a hybrid one between in person presentations, and also virtual presentations. Our team, they are assiduously working to ensure that we can have both virtual and persons who want to do a physical presentation using facilities that we will make available, that that can happen,” he added.

The participating youth groups are: Oronoque Sports Group, Queens Town Youth Group, Anna Regina Youth Group, West Bank Young Achievers, Small Steps Big Impact Youth Group, Young Professional, Grove/Diamond Youths in Development, Berbice Development Youth Group, Golden Om Youth Group, No. 58 Swing Star Youth Group, Angoy’s Avenue Youth Group, Mahdia Youth Group, Linden Super Star Youth Group, Kast Talent Management, Cummings Lodge Youth Movement and University of Guyana Student’s Society.

The teams were randomly paired using a software. They will faceoff in in four rounds – round one will see 8 groups going home after their loss, round two will serve as the quarter finals, round three semi finals and round four finals.

There will be a lot of prizes for everyone participating with the best debater claiming a “high-end laptop”.

The competition will be judged by 9 judges – Dr Valarie Goorsammy-Smith, former Lecturer, University of Guyana (Chief Judge); Neil Marks, Editorial Consultant, Journalist; Breanna Ramnarain, former Youth Parliamentarian and Best Speaker (Junior Category); Delon Fraser,  Distinguished Toastmaster, Cacique Toastmasters Club (Chief Judge); Monette Garnett-Christopher, Chief Administrative Officer, Parliament Office; Melissa Dow-Richardson, Assistant Director of Sports, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; Nazima Raghubir, President of the Guyana Press Association (Chief Judge), Juournalist; Sonia Maxwell, Head of the Committees Division, Parliament Office; and Rayon Miller, former Youth Parliamentarian and Best Debater (Senior Category).