EMPOWERING YOUTH PARLIAMENTARIANS
EMPOWERING YOUTH PARLIAMENTARIANS How my experience at the 10th Commonwealth Youth Parliament shaped my role as Chairperson of the Whole House Committee at the Tonga Youth Parliament 2020.
Mele Fonua participated in the 10th Commonwealth Youth Parliament in India in November 2019, representing Tonga. She was the Chairperson of the Whole House Committee of the recent Tonga Youth Parliament. Mele is also the Chief Operating Officer of Tonga Youth Leaders, a youth organisation in Tonga.
“Me’a mai e ‘Eiki Sea e Komiti Kakato! – The Chair of the Whole House Committee is entering!” the Serjeant-at-Arms calls, and the House falls quiet. The only sounds I hear are the massive chairs making way for their occupants to stand, as the Procedures of the House dictate. You could hear a pin drop, with the Members of the Tonga Youth Parliament (TYP) for 2020 standing in silence. Except, there were no pins, only the sound of heels echoing through the House. With my workbook clutched in one hand and my vigorously beating heart in the other, I made my way towards my seat. I bow towards the House, the MPs bow in return and I take my seat followed by the rest of the Members. “Malo, ke tau kamata. – Thank you, let us begin.” As I recall my memorable experience early this year as the Chairperson of the Whole House Committee of TYP, I want to acknowledge how my participation in the 10th Commonwealth Youth Parliament (CYP) in November 2019 contributed to ensuring the effective execution of my role. I learnt many things from my CYP experience, not only from the two days we spent discussing and debating in the Delhi Legislative Assembly chambers but throughout the entire journey to Delhi, India. However, there are two specific experiences for which I credit my successful participation in the TYP as Chairperson;
one, the poise and patience I developed to handle difficult situations, and two, the objectivity I learnt to make fair and impartial decisions. When I look back at my experience at the 10th CYP, I did not realize at the time, but from the moment the plane took off, my patience and selfcontrol were tested. Of all the participants present at the 10th CYP, I travelled the farthest from Tonga, to Auckland, to Bali, then Dubai and finally to Delhi - over a period of almost two days with little to no sleep. Arriving in India, I exited the airport terminal only to realise that I had missed my escort. To make matters worse, my phone was completely out of battery. I could not contact the CPA staff to notify them of my arrival or the Delhi Legislative Assembly office. I waited quietly on a bench, on the verge of crying or screaming, or both. There I was, in a very unfamiliar country, climate, culture and language, far away from home, pushed to my limit to think on my feet. Overcoming a huge language barrier, I managed to get a hold of a local taxi drivers’ phone, found the hotel contact information online, and was able to reach the organizers. Finally, after a challenging two hours, I was found by the Legislative Assembly staff and escorted to the Ashok Hotel. The hospitality and kindness of the staff at the hotel, the CPA staff and the Delhi Legislative Assembly staff and their commitment to making our stay comfortable quickly
156 | The Parliamentarian | 2020: Issue Two | 100 years of publishing 1920-2020
made that experience a distant but imprinted memory. This was the first time I had experienced such adversity and it really challenged my capacity to cope with difficulties posed by the natural, social and cultural environments. The ability to cope with adversity helped me to develop the skills required to react in different situations. For example as the Chairperson of the House Committee in Tonga, it was required of me to think and decide quickly when things got out of hand in the House, when the argument got heated or irrelevant or when everyone started to feel they were no longer able to communicate and in all that, to keep a cool head. I am thankful that the 10th CYP really me taught an extra lesson on following the Rules and Procedures as guided by
“ This was the first time I had experienced such adversity and it really challenged my capacity to cope with difficulties posed by the natural, social and cultural environments. The ability to cope with adversity helped me to develop the skills required to react in different situations.”