Sunday, November 20, 2011

[Youth Quake Reaction] Youth Parliament in Singapore?

I attended the Youth Quake discussion on yesterday at the WP HQ, titled: "Youthquake: Is there Space for a Youth Parliament?"

I came in pretty late, but still managed to catch at least 30 mins of the "debate".

There were talks and issues raised about how the youth MP should be elected, what segmentation should be used to select the youths to be represented, many emphasis on representation, talks abt how it could be a grooming ground for future MPs, whether it should be held at the actual parliament house, etc...

I did not speak, as I thought I might raise the same questions as someone else or issues that is already discussed while I was still on my way there. But one stark problem about the discussion persisted and disturbs me the entire time I was there listening: the lack of fundamentals.

Running a country in a macro-scale (read: actual government) involves the most important pillars of life: food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, leisure/rest, education and transportation. As long as all these pillars are fulfilled: meaning everyone can earn enough to pay for food, shelter, healthcare, transportation and lastly clothing and leisure as well as good access to good education- you can be assured you will be in power for a long time to come (thats how PAP under LKY, and subsequently inherited by GCT and now LHL had managed to dominate the Singapore Politics for so long).

Thus for every policy and initiatives set out by the government, its MUST fulfilled one of the above mentioned pillars (meaning it will benefit the citizens) or it must help to boost the economy of Singapore (which in turns boost the earning of Singaporeans - theoretically). So where does having Youth Parliament stands in this context?

If its like what I heard in the discussion - its really nothing more than just a political brainwash of the youth to become more "political" (than politically aware) and for that handful to become egoistic because of their perceived "power" in holding that Youth MP seat (which, in accordance to what was discussed, likely to end up having the same group of youth dominating those seats).

Someone quoted an example of how a Youth Assembly was tested in Malaysia, which was dominated by the youth from the various political parties; to avoid it becoming to partisan, the rule changed it to be non-political - the same group of youth turned up, this time round, representing their schools. <--- this is exactly what will happen if we go down the route of having a Youth Parliament without a anchoring fundamental - What is the purpose of a Youth Parliament?

Some had argued that the Youth Parliament is to give power to the youth, to give the youth the voice to speak out and be heard; for the adults to take the youth more seriously and allow the youth to contribute to the proceedings and policy shaping in the Real Parliament, etc... - I totally DO NOT concur with this "fundamental" of having a Youth Parliament. It does not do economical good, does not keep food price or housing price low, does not make transportation better and cheaper, does not earn Singaporeans more money, does not pay for our ever increasing healthcare cost.... so whats left is education. But what kindda education is there in the above mentioned "purposes" - it more likely to create more Chee Soon Quans than Low Thia Kiangs or Lee Kuan Yews.

But also because the establishment of a Youth Parliament cannot apply to any of the pillars except Education; THEN EDUCATION MUST be the focus of having a Youth Parliament.

So what do you want to educate the youths of Singapore, through having a Youth Parliament?

To me, there are several things youths can learn through a sitting in a Youth Parliament: 
- Critical Thinking (to above to see thru the haze and be constructive)
- Understanding how policies are made and shaped
- Understanding the hidden currents and hidden costs behind every policies that is crafted
- To allow the youth to think for the greater good
- To tap on the youth's creativity, thus to propose creative solutions that can be implemented by the government
- To allow the youth to become more politically aware (not becoming more political. its different)

Youth Parliament should be like what Internship for students are. It should be to experience what it is like to be in that position, understand the difficulties, the hidden problems - all in all, as an education.

Any talk abt electing the kids to the youth parliament, giving them power, telling them to discuss national issues which they would not understand the magnitude at their age, without guidance from actual MPs that were elected into the real parliament - would be prematured.

And if this is to be implemented, the Youth Parliament should be a mass participation initiatives, that every week or every session, the youths that fills up the seats are always changing and different. We do not want clouts or the same individual turning up all the time - it should never be a place to be grooming politicians. Perhaps it can be run by the People's Association or the Ministry of Education. It can also be run according to educational level, where you will not have a 14 year old (sec 2) debating against a 22 year old (undergrad).

IN CONCLUSION: Any establishment of the Youth Parliament must be of the right reasons and fundamentals. As long as it does not fulfill any pillars of life or of economic good - its can only be of the wrong reasons: of individual/partisan interest <--- which we must avoid at all cost.