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Gov't, Opposition senators lock horns on NIDS Bill

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 11, 2017

GOVERNMENT and Opposition members of the Senate were still locked in an intense debate on the National Identification and Registration Act 2017, also referred to as the NIDS Bill, at Gordon House up to eight o'clock last night.

Government senators, led by Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, have been insisting on passing the Bill, which seeks to legislate a concept that each Jamaican, from birth, should be issued with a unique number which would be used when transacting business.

However, Opposition senators have accused the Government of failing to properly engage the public in the debate and consulting enough with stakeholders.

The Opposition senators, led by newly installed leader of Opposition business, Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, has been insisting on the withdrawal of the Bill and its reference to a joint select committee of Parliament.

Opposition Senator Wensworth Skeffery warned of the possibility of “serious roadblocks” and “resistance from the people”, if the Government goes through with passing the Bill at this time.

He said that there has been ineffective communications and a lack of checks and balances to protect the public.

He was supported by his Opposition colleague, Senator Lambert Brown, who accused the Government of using the opportunity to ensure access to a US$68-million loan to finance the implementation of a national identification system (NIDS).

Government members insisted that the NIDS would provide for “a unique, reliable, verifiable, and secure way of authenticating an individual's identity”.

They said that this would be done with the establishment of a database with secure authorised access, and the issuance of an identity card to all citizens and individuals ordinarily resident.

At eight o'clock last night, the senators were still locked in the committee state of the legislative process.

The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives without dissent with 100 amendments. The Government brought 23 more pages of amendments to the Senate last night, as well as corrections to those amendments after recent consultations with various stakeholders on the issues.

The Opposition, however, insisted on a suspension of the debate to accommodate more consultations. But, Government members insisted that they would pass the Bill last night.



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