Jackson raps Holness for 'cantankerous approach' during NIDS debateSunday, October 17, 2021
Prime Minister Andrew Holness was forced to clarify his position during the closing debate on the National Identification and Registration (NIDS) Act in the House of Representatives last Wednesday.
This was after he was accused of double speak and of taking a “contentious (and) cantankerous approach” during his contribution to the debate, by the Opposition spokesman on national security, Fitz Jackson.
The opposition spokesman, during his contribution to the debate, reiterated that the parliamentary opposition was never opposed to a form of national identification. Rather, he said the opposition was against the approach taken by the government in ramming the bill through in 2017/18, only to have it struck down as unconstitutional in the Constitutional Court in April, 2019.
Jackson pointed out that the opposition had taken issue with certain elements in the bill and the government's reluctance to put it before a joint select committee (JSC) of the Parliament.
During his contribution on Wednesday, Holness stated that he had learnt some lessons during the course of getting the NIDs to the point where it was eventually passed by the House with 14 amendments. But, he also asked “Can you imagine how far ahead we would have been in providing for our citizens during the pandemic if we had passed the NIDS earlier?”
That comment ruffled Jackson who went after Holness.
In his closing he alluded to the experience, he talked about lessons learned from this piece of legislation.
“We, on both sides have come to the consensus that groundbreaking legislation, far-reaching legislation is best served by either party in power when they subject those legislation to collaborative investigation and interrogation to reach a consensus,” Jackson stated.
He argued that what has happened, as is usually the case in the JSC, is that the bill benefits from not just the input of legislators but from a wide cross section of Jamaican citizens at all levels of the society.
“And when I heard the prime minister made reference about 'how much we could have achieved' …I was disappointed when I heard that because at the opening you said you've learned a lot,” said Jackson.
Continuing, Jackson said “The bill is a better bill. How could you have learnt a lot more if it wasn't subjected to this exercise? That's where my disappointment came in”.
He added that “Prime Minister, you could have started with what you started with and (finish) with what you finished with. In the middle, you were self destructive because you said some things that were contrary to what you said at the beginning and at the end”.
That comment forced Holness to his feet to clarify his position.
“My earlier point was, had we passed this bill earlier, regardless of the other issues that were obstacles to its passage …if we had done it earlier as a parliament, maybe not this parliament but previous parliaments, we would have been ahead of the game. That is the fundamental point that is indisputable,” he said.
According to the prime minister, the need for consensus to pass the bill was recognised and there was a kind of cross party group that met to discuss (the matter).
“I was under the impression that there was consensus and agreement. As it turned out, there wasn't and the point is unassailable that with the breakdown of that consensus then obviously you have to go to a joint select committee,” said Holness.
Jackson would hit back yet again, reminding the prime minister that he has been a witness to many contentious issues over his more than two decades in the nation's Parliament and should have worked harder to resolve the issues.
Jackson insisted that with a similar approach “we could have achieved then, what we have achieved now”.