The Alliance for Change + A Partnership for National Unity (APNU+AFC) government is currently attempting to pick up the slack for not being as accommodating to youths as it should have been, in its three-and-a-half year tenure.
This is according to Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, who said that the government has been in a panic since the No-Confidence Motion was carried on December 21, last year.
During a press conference yesterday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Jagdeo said that he has noticed a surge in public fora being held by the government, targeting youths. He opined that a major reason why the government does not want the General Election to be held before March 19 is because it is looking to get more time to attract support of that demographic for the party, since the most recent figures from the Bureau of Statistics showed persons aged 18 to 35 accounting for more than 60 percent of eligible voters.
Asked whether a PPP/C government would assume and execute the guidelines of the National Youth Policy as introduced by the Coalition Government, Jagdeo said that his party is more concerned with practical aspects of youth development and involvement.
The National Youth Policy, which was adopted late 2016 by the National Assembly, had been produced after widespread consultations with youth groups, non-governmental organizations, civil society and other stakeholders. Minister Nicolette Henry, who was responsible for the policy at the time, said that the policy is in-keeping with the Coalition’s promise to focus on the welfare and wellbeing of youths, as the policy’s guidelines seek to give youth a greater role in the affairs of the country.
At the time of its adoption, the opposition, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had given some resistance to the policy, arguing that the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO), its youth arm, had not been consulted. The party also questioned how much money was spent on the policy and what level of consensus was obtained, as it made no specific mention of support for Indigenous youth.
In 2017, President Granger had announced that responsibility for the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport would be shifted from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Social Cohesion, under the control of Minister George Norton.
When talk of the policy re-entered the public sphere in December, last year, Interim Chairman of Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC), Derwayne Wills, said that, since that shift in responsibility for the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport, the policy has not been owned by any official since Minister Nicolette Henry.
The policy also has not been published by the government, so it is unclear whose office is directly responsible for the policy, its execution, and the review process that it outlines should be facilitated to represent relevant developments such as a shift in responsibility.
It was pointed out, during Jagdeo’s press conference, that the PPP/C “squeezed out” a young candidate who was interested in vying for the presidential candidacy, referring to Charles Ramson Junior. Jagdeo said that the persons vying for the candidacy come from age groups, ranging from 30s to 60s, who all have years of experience.
“They had worked themselves up to the leadership of the party already. They had, not just government experience, but they went to the Congress, they got elected, they got into executive, etc.”
Jagdeo said that when he was president, more than half of the Cabinet members were in their 20s, 30s and 40s. “So we have a track record on young people, and it is unassailable in this region, in the entire Caribbean.”
He said that persons [in the international community] were very surprised that the party, while in power, had such young persons managing key sectors, such as Dr. Ashni Singh, Carolyn Rodrigues. “So we are a party that gives young people an opportunity. I was in my 20s when I became a minister. I was 35 when my party selected me to be the presidential candidate.”
Jagdeo said, “Our youth policy will have a more practical focus, on real things, not telling young people what time they should go out at night and come home 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s not the government’s business. If they want to stay out all night, that’s their business.”
“Once you’re over 18, the state has no business looking into your bedroom or how you spend your money, etc. No more lectures about Guinness Bar or where you spend your money. That is the approach we bring to people.”
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