Letters to the Editor

Wrong move re NIDS regulations

Monday, March 19, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The proposed national identification system (NIDS) remains a worrying aspiration.

The final document which has endured over 200 amendments seems to be awkwardly contrary to Jamaican customs; reeking of slavery, Snowden-grade state control, and even the mark of the beast. But what should we expect when an identity system is imported from a European, war-torn, former dictatorship that speaks Estonian? It's an epic culturo-legal mismatch.

The widely circulated NIDSFacts.com posters, though intending to comfort and explain the intentions of our Government, only worsened the gut feeling of discomfort or autocracy-induced gas pains which many passionate Jamaicans have experienced. One of such posters reads: “Your national ID card will tell you who you are and confirm your identity. Full stop.” This inadvertently implies that, at this moment, we have no identity, and that the Government is the single authority which can provide us with what many of us thought was innate and God-given.

Our dear prime minister has most certainly misunderstood the extent to which NIDS goes against the grain of the people. The honourable prime minister desires our trust, but has done nothing to earn our trust regarding the NIDS. The rush was not crushed, the voices of 65,000 petitioners were hushed, and the concerns of the non-partisan professionals were brushed aside. What's more, it doesn't help that we still do not know the interest rate on the $68 billion we are 'forcibly' caused to borrow to finance the system.

There is still no explanation as to why of all the models in the world we must champion possibly the most rigid and unreasonable version of a national ID system. Why are we to treat our citizens how other nations treat their aliens? Why has the Government refused to include a section in the Bill which prevents them from tracking law-abiding citizens? Why are citizens forced to appeal to a National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA)-appointed tribunal about grievances against the NIRA and not the Supreme Court of Jamaica?

Also, seeing that the National Security Agency intelligence arm of the United States Department of Defense, with possibly the most secure database in the world, was hacked in 2017, why should we think for a minute that all our biometric data in one centralised location will be safe?

If our prime minister thought we would just take this poorly thought through, hurry come up, slavery-seeming legislation laying down he neither knows his history nor his people.

The NIDS Bill, as passed, states that a review of the law can take place a maximum 18 months after its passing. It would be unwise to build walls of regulations on this unworthy foundation. We strongly urge that, if the Bill is not going to be withdrawn for more consultation, we abruptly pause; create avenues for efficient non-partisan engagement; and review it now, before we even consider regulations.

Whereas we are not against NIDS, we are against the implementation of an unrefined, unfinished, and poorly ventilated Bill.

Dr Daniel Thomas


ColourBlind Campaign

Love March Movement


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