Gov't reduces conditions for NIDS Bill

Gov't reduces conditions for NIDS Bill

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

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THE Government yesterday tabled a revised version of the controversial National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS Bill), which seems less likely to attract the dissonance which blocked its efforts to create a national identification system in 2018.

The critical issue addressed in the new Bill, which should pave the way to more agreeable consultations, is the decision to have the draft reviewed by a joint select committee (JSC) drawn from both Houses of the legislature, which will submit a report to Parliament after hearing submissions on the new provisions.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a strategic attempt to meet his end of 2020 deadline set in his first parliamentary first speech at Gordon House after his general election triumph on September 3, said yesterday that the Government has taken the necessary steps to revise the 2017 Bill, in compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court which struck down the original Bill in April 2019 as unconstitutional.

In a brief address after tabling the new Bill yesterday, Holness told the House of Representatives that, subsequent to the Supreme Court's ruling against the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017, the Government has taken steps to develop a new Bill which is in compliance with the court's ruling.

“This Bill will serve as the legal basis for the establishment of a robust, efficient, and effective national identification system underpinned by a legal and regulatory framework that supports safe, secure, and reliable verification of identity,” Holness told the House.

He said that the new policy provides for voluntary participation in national identification system that will provide a secure, reliable, and convenient means of identifying citizens and individuals ordinarily resident in Jamaica, as well as the administrative structure, powers, and functions necessary for the establishment and maintenance of a national identification system. He added that it will allow a robust and coherent legislative framework to treat with the collection, processing, storage, retention, usage, and protection of personal data. It will also have provisions for the protocols, procedures, and systems for identity verification, monitoring and compliance, as well as an independent oversight body.

According to Holness, several principles guided the revision of the policy, which were instructive in its creation. These included the voluntary participation of eligible individuals in the national identification system, while only biographic and biometric data that is absolutely necessary to ensure the efficacy of the process, while having regard to the need to establish a secure system for individuals to use in the conduct of their daily lives.

The prime minister asserted that identity information is the property of the individual concerned and that consent is required for it to be collected, stored and used by anyone.

“I believe that we have come up with a policy that will achieve the objective because the objectives in the original debate were probably not well understood, maybe not well communicated, and probably misconstrued,” Holness said yesterday.

“I believe that we now have legislation before us which is informed by a policy that went through a very robust process of interrogation, analysis and debate,” he added.

In responding to the prime minister, Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding raised some historical issues which had blocked the introduction of the system over the past few years, despite some Jamaicans in favour of a national identification system.

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