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Clash of words over National ID Bill

Monday, November 13, 2017

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THE ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday accused the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) of misleading the public on the National Identification and Registration (NIDS) Bill currently before the Senate.

In a release last night, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith accused the PNP of seeking to undermine the NIDS Bill, and urged Jamaicans to “once more not fall for their (PNP) fear mongering” which she said was tried before.

“It is disappointing that after suggesting amendments which were taken on, there is now criticism by the Opposition that there are too many amendments,” Johnson Smith added.

“We carried out an open process where groups were encouraged to suggest changes. The Government is committed to transforming Jamaica and will fulfil its mandate given to it by the people of Jamaica,” she added.

The Senate is set to resume in committee deliberations on the Bill at Gordon House this morning, after Friday night's marathon debate.

Senator Johnson Smith, who is also the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, was responding to a release to the media yesterday from newly appointed Leader of Opposition Business Senator Donna Scott Mottley, which accused the Government of a “a blatant breach of trust”, regarding how it has handled the Bill, especially Clause 41 which deals with the mandatory use of the national identification number (NIN) by registered individuals.

Clause 41(i), which deals with the “facilitation of delivery of goods or services, says that “a public body shall require that a registered individual submit the national identification number assigned to him/her to facilitate the delivery to him/her of goods or services provided by the public body; and the registered individual shall comply with the request”.

Clause 41(2) says that a private sector entity may require that the registered individual submit his/her national identification number to facilitate delivery of goods or services provided by the private entity

According to Senator Scott Mottley, the PNP is “shocked and disappointed” at the action of the Government “to deny Jamaicans access to essential services on any account”.

“By way of bipartisan agreement in the Lower House, it was also accepted that persons without identification would not be denied access to essential services such as health, water, fire services, police services etcetera,” she said.

“Having left the Lower House with this agreed position by Government and Opposition, the Government is seeking to change this provision and replace it with one that is less secured,” she added.

However, Senator Johnson Smith reacted yesterday that both Prime Minister Holness, and herself had made it clear that “Clause 41 will not come into effect until a majority of Jamaicans have been enrolled in the system, and that this will be phased in over a number of years”.

She said she is particularly surprised at the statement from Senator Scott Mottley, “as even as recently Friday's sitting (of the Senate), this point was repeated several times”.

Senator Johnson Smith noted that 100 amendments were made in the House of Representatives, prior to the passage of the Bill there, to address the concerns expressed by civil society groups and the PNP.

She also stated that the PNP had encouraged making the NIDS mandatory during consultations with the Government on the provisions.

“The Government has been very receptive of the concerns of stakeholders. It is interesting to note that members of the Opposition encouraged the NIDS to be mandatory and that fact is reflected in the minutes of consultations held with them by the Government's technical team,” she said.

She noted that this was reflected in the Bill passed in the Lower House, and the further changes made since tabling in the Senate, have largely been to accommodate civil society concerns, as well as to include clarifications needed.

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