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Youth Parliament- the Waitakere College lad who represented the Westy Minister

Youth Parliamentarian, Sunil Sharma, represented Paula Bennett at the 2010 Youth Parliament in Wellington.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Thakur Ranjit Singh.

Sunil Sharma is an example of an offspring from migrant parents having the best of both the worlds. Born to Indo-Fijian parents in New Zealand, Sunil regards himself a Kiwi, but has not abandoned his mother tongue and culture of his forbears.

With a Kiwi accent, he did not know his mother tongue, but thanks to Waitakere Indian Association’s Hindi School in Henderson, he not only leant Hindi, but became proficient enough to host and be master of ceremonies in Waitakere Indian Association functions including the children’s concert, Diwali and Holi Mela.

It was at one such function where he addressed the distinguished guests, including the Prime Minister Hon John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, that his potential as a youth leader was noticed.

As an exemplary student enmeshed in two cultures, he was honoured to be selected by Waitakere MP and Minister, Paula Bennett to represent her in Wellington for the youth parliament held over two days, on 6 and 7 July, 2010.

“I am thankful to the honourable Minister that she noticed me out of the big choice she had and gave me an opportunity to be the youth MP for Waitakere. This choice reflects on the importance placed by her in recognising diversity and this augurs well not only for the National Party, but for the important portfolio of Social Development that the Honourable Paula Bennett holds, “said Sunil Sharma.

Youth parliament is organized by the Minister for Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Youth Development. This has been going since 1994 and is held every 3 years. It is a place where young people can voice and debate issues of concern and get a comprehensive understanding and real life experience of the parliamentary process.

MP’s select a young person between the ages of 16-18 to represent their seat in parliament for two days.

Sharma revealed his experience in Wellington, “We were divided into select committee during the 2010 Youth Parliament, and this among others included select committee groups on Education, Maori affairs, Justice and so on. We discussed proposals made to the committee; for example the education select committee discussed whether entrepreneurship should become a compulsory subject in secondary schools. The committee then prepares the report to be presented to the house.”

He explained that in the general debate, selected youth MP’s delivered speeches on issues which were of a concern to them or to their community. A topic which was raised on multiple times was the issue of youth violence which was identified as a concern among young people. There was also lively and healthy debate on whether New Zealand should become a republic or whether it should remain a constitutional monarchy in the Westminster system.

Sharma further elaborated that in the legislative debate selected youth MP’s argued on the Age of Majority Bill. “They debated whether to keep the age at 20 or decrease it to 18, then a vote was taken and the youth parliament voted to lower the age to 18.”

He told that the youth MP’s questioned ministers, delivered motions and also had experience of the caucus meeting.

“To me youth parliament was a great experience; it gave me a great understanding and experience of the parliamentary process. It was also interesting to listen to issues that concerned other young people and engage in lively debate and discussion. In addition it was a pleasure to meet so many young people from around the country,” he said.

Sunil said that the opportunity was an invaluable education process and encouraged youths to excel in their communities so they are noticed by their respective MPs for this honour and experience which he would cherish for the rest of his life.

“I am thankful to the trustees and executives of Waitakere Indian Association for their foresight in running this organisation so effectively that apart from fulfilling its social and cultural role, it also provides a platform of leaning and leadership training. I am a product of this visionary organisation. In particular, I wish to thank Manoj Tahal, the Immediate Past President of Waitakere Indian Association for his encouragement and assistance in enhancing leadership in the new generation,” the Waitakere Youth MP, Sunil Sharma proudly added.

Ranjit Singh is studying toward his Master of Communication Studies at AUT University.