Leaders agree JLP, PNP support national ID system, but...

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness, his wounds apparently still raw from the Constitutional Court's stinging rejection of the National Identification and Registration Act, Tuesday unveiled in Parliament T-shirts and other items, designed by the Opposition when it formed the Government, to promote the concept of a national identification system (NIDS).

The NIDS legislation was challenged in the court by the Opposition.

Holness informed the House that, following a Cabinet submission in 1995, when the People's National Party (PNP) was in office, and with John Junor as the health minister, the process kicked off with a euro 200,000 grant from Europe.

He said that the PNP Administration spent US$1.2 million on the programme to introduce the system, and that 17 years ago current Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who was leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives at the time, had brought to Parliament a resolution establishing a joint select committee (JSC) to review a Bill approved by the Cabinet to introduce the system.

According to Holness, that Bill provided for a system of “compulsory national registration of individuals (and) to provide for the establishment and functions of a body, to be known as the National Registration Commission, to oversee the administration of a system of compulsory national registration and connected matters”.

Holness said he was a member of the JSC, as were Junor and current Kingston Central Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald Thwaites.

“I think it is very useful to remind the House of these very important facts,” the prime minister stated.

He was responding to St Mary Central MP Dr Morais Guy, who queried whether the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government in 2011, had spent any funds on promoting the NIDS.

Dr Phillips suggested that the information produced by Holness made it clear that the concept of a national identification system was always supported by both major political parties.

However, he said that the PNP has always stood by its insistence on a JSC reviewing the provisions of the Bill before passage, as well as its concern about the potential of intrusion into the constitutional rights of citizens.

Holness, in response, said that his intention in raising the matter in the House was to show that it has been the case that both political parties have attempted to introduce a national identification system, and that its history goes back as far as 1982 when the Electoral Commission was considered best equipped to oversee the system.

“To repeat my point, all I am trying to do is to move Jamaica to that point where we have a modern identification system that can facilitate a digital society,” Holness insisted.

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