Could you please allow me space to air my views on the above topic?
While I agree that the "youth parliament" initiative has its own merits, I would like to share my views in support of sentiments echoed my some 'wantoks' who thought that the idea was ill-conceived, and a waste of time, money, and energy by those who initiated it.
Like previous commentators on this topic I understand the aim of such initiatives, based on information provided through the media. But, I do not see the logics of spending $1 million dollar on 50 youths who were specially selected just to wear fancy suits and neck-ties, and sit on the pews in the Parliament Chambers purposely to vote on the topic "...should the voting age be reduced to 16...?" To me that topic is a non-issue for SI youths, at least for the time being. How will reducing the age limit for voting to 16 help address the many issues faced by youths in our society today? In my humble view, reducing the age limit for voting would simply mean increasing the number of people for intending candidates to bribe or 'con' during their election campaigns.
Seriously speaking, what difference will it make in a youth's life, if he/she votes earlier at 16, instead of 18? May I ask. Furthermore, how would such an undertaking help the many youths who roam aimlessly day in and day out on the streets of Honiara? Or, the many youths who leave school and just live with their families in the rural villages, with no hopes for tomorrow, but are drowning deeper in poverty?
In the SI voting context, where we "...votem uncle or brother, or man wea luk save lo me and givem me $100 last time...", changing the voting age will make no difference. Rather, creating opportunities for youths to lead a more meaningful and successful life, is of greater importance. I believe that the money spent on the "youth parliament" exercise would be better utilised if it was used to establish "Youth Support Centres and Network" throughout the country. Such centres should provide an avenue through which youths would receive advice, information, and support on opportunities for further education and training, starting their own small business projects, how to better utilise their land and sea resources to generate income, and generally an avenue through which youths can seek advice and support on how to deal with the many issues affecting them in our country at the moment.
I think the above suggestions would promote a more "...positive image of youths as active citizens..." which is one of the three goals of the "youth parliament" undertaking, rather than just doing a mock parliament debate, which is filled with nothing but "empty words!!".
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Felissa Kaye and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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