On 5th June, the 1ère G4, along with our English and head teacher Miss Shimjee, organized a virtual Youth Parliament on Zoom to discuss the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis on Mauritius.
Assuredly, COVID-19 had a real impact on the economy, education, social Welfare and of course public health. After more than 70 days stuck at home, we as students and young Mauritians did also feel the full magnitude of this pandemic’s effects on our daily lives and grasped its dire implications for the country.
Indeed, we were flooded with the grim news of a 400 thousand global death toll, a 3% global GDP contraction, an 11% decline in Mauritian GDP in 2020 and rising unemployment rates worldwide amid mass layoffs.
In the light of this crisis, we wanted to voice our opinions, investigate what was being done by the government to contend with those issues at home, and decided to hold a mock parliamentary session.
This exercise provided us with the opportunity to get acquainted with parliamentary procedures and to research and debate the measures taken by the government to tackle the pandemic and mitigate its impact. Roles such as the Speaker, Cabinet Members, and Members of the Opposition were assigned to some students as below:
Speaker: Linda Webb
Minister of Finance: Kaveesh Naggea
Minister of Education: Shania Mosafeer
Minister of Health: Leeloo Le Bolloch
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Yashodaren Sawmynaden
Minister of Social Welfare: Yadish Pindiah
Ministerial Assistants: Dooshina Oolun, Mei Wong Ah Sui, Shyla Narrainen
Leader of the Opposition: Meiya Gujjalu
Members of the Opposition: Alyssia Mordaunt-Smith, Isha Takoor, Séverine Adeline, Saraswati Grenouillau-Nobaub
The ministries that were chosen reflect the areas of Mauritian public life that were most affected by the virus and thus deserved special attention. The rest of the class attended the session as citizens.
The sitting lasted 2 hours with first the opening made by Madame the Speaker followed by various interventions from both sides of the house. Having made their statements, ministers were then questioned by the opposition members, one minister at a time.
The session started with the minister of Finance, mainly grilled on the Covid-19 Bill, his Budget speech and the policies he devised to alleviate economic hardship: the lowering of interest rates, work from home, the wage assistance schemes (WAS and SEAS), rent payments, support to local SMEs and the “plan de relance” among others. The reopening of schools, school programs and special measures for disabled students and schoolchildren who didn’t have access to adequate online classes were among the various topics the Minister of Education was quizzed on.
The Minister of Health was next, after making a statement on COVID-19 cases, she was questioned on the new measures that will be taken.
Next in line was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, making statements pertaining to travel restrictions, the repatriation of Mauritians stranded overseas and on cruise ships and the future reopening of our borders.
The Minister of Health was the final speaker and had to provide answers to questions concerning mental health and the care of the elderly.
This experience was an enriching one as we gained deeper knowledge of the proper conduct of a sitting and of what is actively being done in terms of legislation and government policy in order to overcome the pandemic and the many challenges it has left in its wake.
Text: Yashodaren Sawmynaden & Kaveesh Naggea