NIDS was always about the money


Thursday, April 18, 2019

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One of the most asinine views that I have heard is that only the criminally-minded, or people who have something to hide, are afraid of the introduction of the national identification system (NIDS). It was a talking point that had been advanced by those whose views are largely aligned with the current Administration's intent to launch the system, regardless of whether or not its proposed use value was provable.

To be fair, both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) had, in principle, supported the system. In fact, its longest consideration had developed under the watch of the previous PNP Administration. What most Jamaicans are not aware of is the extent to which the core proposals that centred the anachronism were flawed.

It is for this very reason that the Bills that raised the original proposal, as well as the multiple amendments that followed, could not find consensus as they went against the rights of the very people that the NIDS was intended to protect.

Crime, generally — and specifically murders — has been a persistent problem in Jamaica for the better part of the last 40 years. In fact, crime is listed as among the top impediments to economic growth over the years. In the circumstances, what better malady could there be to provide a push for a system touted as a panacea for addressing such a problem?

Forget that criminal apprehension, arrest, conviction, and punishment depend largely on an effective and properly trained police force and a functional judicial system, neither of which exists in Jamaica. What we do know is that there is $8 billion available through an international bursary to fund the creation of a national ID system. All we have to do to access this whopping purse is to append the system to addressing Jamaicans' fear of crime. We do not need to be able to prove its effectiveness. Place its creation in the hands of our parliamentarians and the system will do the rest.

Now the job of parliamentarians is to make laws. Forget also that it is their job to ensure that the laws made are consistent with the Jamaican Constitution, especially with the Charter of Rights of the individual. Under the Charter of Rights, the right to privacy is sacrosanct. No politician, individually or collectively, can arbitrarily determine individual privacy, nor the extent of it. This is fundamental in our Westminster-style democracy. To introduce legislation in order to abrogate those rights requires the highest burden of proof, a proof that the so-called legislators could not make.

This was the finding of the Supreme Court and, as Justice Sykes opined, “The critical elements of the proposed law were too severely flawed to even allow the other elements to stand.” This is significant as far as our judicial history is concerned, as it says to me that the collective of our politicians were too attracted to the potential $8-billion purse that appended the NIDS introduction to become concerned with how it affected Jamaicans.

It had always been my opinion that the NIDS had nothing to do with national security, worse, aiding crime fighting. It was always about who could get their filthy hands on that seemingly low-hanging purse of $8 billion. It is one more chapter in the trail of corruption that has dogged this Administration. How else do you explain the millions in taxpayers' funds already spent to sell this un-seaworthy vessel to Jamaicans, even while the matter was before the Constitutional Court? How else could a company be established to implement a system with directors named and personnel installed?

It was always only about the money and, for me, that is corruption at the level of the Jamaican Government, bent on enriching its connected parties at the expense of Jamaican taxpayers.


Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Lauderhill, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or

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