Election 2020: youth call for debate

  • Seizing the opportunity: Bermuda Youth Connect, an organisation committed to giving young people a political platform, held the island’s first Pre-Election Youth Forum to discuss youth issues with party representatives. Shown from left, are the founding members of Youth Connect, Halle Teart, 20, Veronica Swan-DeGraff, 19, Ajai Peets, 21, Tierrai Tull, 19

    Seizing the opportunity: Bermuda Youth Connect, an organisation committed to giving young people a political platform, held the island’s first Pre-Election Youth Forum to discuss youth issues with party representatives. Shown from left, are the founding members of Youth Connect, Halle Teart, 20, Veronica Swan-DeGraff, 19, Ajai Peets, 21, Tierrai Tull, 19


Cross-party election candidates featured at a youth forum have backed a debate among party leaders in the run-up to the General Election.

Would-be MPs who took part in a virtual forum organised by youth group Bermuda Youth Connect said a debate before polling day on October 1 was a vital part of the democratic process.

Gavin Smith, the Free Democratic Movement candidate for Pembroke South East, said: “It shouldn’t be perceived as audacious that our young people are asking for this.”

He added: “It breaks my heart that we’re in a society where a debate and the question of ‘should a debate happen’ is a debate.”

Mr Smith was speaking at the first pre-election Youth Forum on Tuesday.

The forum, held online on the Zoom app and streamed over social-media platforms, was designed to help young voters learn more about the platforms of the parties.

The event was set up by Bermuda Youth Connect, an organisation launched to help bridge the gap between the young and political leaders.

Desmond Crockwell, the FDM candidate for Hamilton East, said that he was in favour of a debate between parties, though he admitted: “I would rather use the word ‘discussion’.”

He added: “We should be discussing topics — I think a debate is set up more as two people going at it.”

Mr Crockwell said: “We’re tired of the mudslinging politics — we’re tired of these parties going back and forth at each other and getting into real fight-like debates. We need more discussions and logical conversations over our policies.”

Mr Crockwell added that a pre-election debate would allow voters to hold politicians more accountable for their actions.

He said: “Pre-election promises and post-election actions are always few and far between, so no matter what they say beforehand, if it’s not logical and it’s not discussed properly beforehand, it’s only going to look like desperate pleas for people to vote for them.”

Tinée Furbert, the Progressive Labour Party candidate for St George’s South, added that a national debate would be valuable to because it would allow the public to hear different points of view.

She said that it could also be an opportunity for people, particularly young voters, to learn about government processes, such as how legislation was passed and how public funds were used.

Ms Furbert added: “Often, when you hear other countries debating, you hear ‘you passed this’ and ‘you were responsible for that’ and we don’t really get to hear that component here in Bermuda, in regards to what persons support and what our legislators support.”

The PLP’s Jason Hayward, re-elected unopposed in Pembroke Central earlier this month, said that a debate was an opportunity for party leaders to demonstrate their competency and skills under pressure.

He added that it gave leaders a platform to clarify their positions and visions for the future.

Mr Hayward said that it was also important to take engagement further and talk to young people “on an ongoing basis”.

He added: “I actually support youth think-tanks, so that we can put some of these constant problems in front of our young people and ask them for their opinion, as to how to solve some of the current problems that we’re actually facing.

“I think this might be more beneficial than having a debate, but I definitely support a debate.”

Daquan Scott, the One Bermuda Alliance candidate for Southampton East, said that political debates were “the basis of democracy”.

He added it was a “healthy part of democracy” for the public to hear the stances of the parties so that they could make informed decisions.

Dwayne Robinson, the OBA candidate for Warwick East, said that a debate was a good way for leaders to outline their ideologies. He added that a debate would force politicians to outline their reasoning and help voters make up their minds.

Tierrai Tull, one of the co-founders of Bermuda Youth Connect and a moderator at the forum, said that she was “super happy” to see widespread support for a debate.

She added that getting young voters interested in politics was different from engagement with older generations and that a debate was a helpful way to start.

Ajai Peets, another founder of the organisation, said that she hoped the forum would help spark a tradition of pre-election debates.

She added: “If we keep speaking out and making our voices heard, and saying that this is what we want to happen and this is what we want to do to hold our leaders accountable, then it can come to fruition.”

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Published Sep 25, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 25, 2020 at 7:30 am)

Election 2020: youth call for debate

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