PNP promises to repeal, replace NIDS Bill when returned to Gov't

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Online reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 24, 2017

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THE Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is adamant that it will not support some of the provisions in the National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS Bill) and is promising to “repeal and replace” the Bill once its members are returned to Government.

“When the PNP forms the Government again, we intend to repeal that Act and replace it with the appropriate provisions that do not offend the people of Jamaica,” party Chairman Fitz Jackson said yesterday at a Rotary Club of Kingston meeting at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.

He added that if the PNP failed to do that, they would “be failing in doing their duty to the Jamaican people”.

Jackson's comment came on the heels of the Government passing the much-debated NIDS Bill on Tuesday after the Opposition walked out of the meeting of the House of Representatives when the speaker refused to put a motion sought by its leader, Dr Peter Phillips, to have the Government withdraw the Bill and send it to a joint select committee of Parliament for further review.

Jackson insisted: “We (PNP) are in support of a national identification system, and the records will confirm that the development of it commenced during our period of administration.”

However, he reiterated that the party has issues with some of the clauses in the Bill, particularly Section 41 which denies a person access to public services if they do not have a national identification card.

Jackson made reference to medical care as a possible public service that could be denied under the clause.

“That is breach of the charter of rights, as this is one of your fundamental rights in these life and death things to be provided to you,” he charged.

Jackson also complained about the mandatory provision in clause 20 of the Bill, which states that people who do not register under NIDS will be fined up to $100,000.

He added that the Opposition wants the fine to be modified.

“We (PNP) have instructed our lawyers to pursue that matter in the courts for constitutional breaches,” Jackson said.

“Our position is not only limited to those egregious sections that would be constitutionally in breach, because you can have provisions that are quite in keeping with constitution but nonetheless offensive, and for that reason we call for the full withdrawal of the Bill, re-tabling, and referral to the joint select committee, together with the accompanying regulations and the data security Bill, and let us reach a consensus,” Jackson said.

On Wednesday, while addressing a meeting of the Rotary Club of downtown Kingston at Hotel Four Seasons in St Andrew, director of communications and public affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister Robert Morgan said the consultative process for NIDS “has been robust and unprecedented”.

“I think I can objectively say that the NIDS Bill has had more consultations than any other law that has ever been passed in the history of Jamaica. We have been consulting since 1979. We even tabled a Bill in the year 2000,” Morgan said.

The roll-out of the national identification system is expected to begin with a pilot project in January 2019 that focuses on civil servants.

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