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Jamaica Passes Controversial Bill to Implement ID System

Members of the Senate deliberate the National Identification and Registration Bill during a 12-hour sitting on Monday (November 13). The Bill was passed with 168 amendments/Photo: JIS
Jamaica Passes Controversial Bill to Implement ID System

Attorney at law, Grace Lindo, told teleSUR that Jamaican Government could assuage Jamaicans by explicitly establishing specific data protective aspects of the Bill.

Jamaica has passed a Nation Identification System, NIDS, Bill which stirred many controversial debates among its population since being tabled. The Bill is reportedly funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and mandated by the International Monetary Fund.

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party passed the legislation with a majority after two separate round of amendments: 100 in the lower and 168 in upper houses, respectively.

The portion of the Bill that was most widely disputed is the data protection aspects.

teleSUR spoke to Jamaican attorney at law, Grace Lindo, who said the Jamaican Government could assuage this major concern of a significant cross-section of the population by explicitly establishing specific data protective aspects of the Bill.

The attorney said the government of Jamaica appeared to be on a “trajectory towards a paternalistic society,” citing an emphasis being placed on various social services, such as the PATH bursary.

Lindo explained that, crucial to tempering fearmongering, there have been no firm declarations made with regard to the modalities to protect the privacy of Jamaica’s citizenry. She added that great importance should be placed on protecting the privacy of Jamaica’s citizens in addition to securing any sensitive biometric data that would be collected for the ID system.

The leader of Government Business, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, helped to successfully push through the proposal which will legislate the issuance of a unique number or national identification number at birth to Jamaican citizens.

The ID number, as stipulated by the Bill, will be required for transacting business, accessing certain social services as well as good and services. The latter also permeates another sore point, especially with opposing senators from the People’s National Party, PNP.

In a release, send to teleSUR by the PNP, the opposition expressed concerns about the removal and reinstating of that specific disputed clause, saying it creates “serious credibility issues.”

“If the people can not trust legislators, we are serious trouble,” the statement said.

Lindo, who specializes in commercial law, conceded that restricting access to goods and services was an issue but added that the benefits from stemming corruption and enacting best practices for businesses outweigh any possible future ammendments to that aspect the current Bill.

According to the PNP’s statement, the Jamaican Bar Association sent a letter to the Clerk of the Houses, stating: “the JBA notes with concern that the NIDS Bill was rushed through the Lower House of Parliament and will be debated in the Senate this morning without any input from the JBA.

“This appears to be a trend, as the very controversial Law Reform, Zones of Special Operation, ZoSo, Bill was also rushed through the Houses of Parliament without any input from the JBA or any other organization representing lawyers in Jamaica.”

Lindo told teleSUR that it is not unusual for a Bill to be passed quickly or have as many amendments, but pointed out that having “both sides of the house on a parliamentary committee” would have been a “useful process,” effecting inclusiveness through the “lower house participating” in the structuring of the Bill.

The opposition’s release further highlighted a discomfort with the “huge fine” that is attached to compliance with being assimilated into the identification system, which is “mandatory.”

All eight opposition senators support the implementation of the identification system, according to the PNP, but were charged to vote against the Bill on the aforementioned grounds.

“The Opposition and the People’s National Party are not against a National Identification System.

“Indeed, in the past, governments formed by the Party led efforts to advance the process to a system,” the statement said, explaining that the senators could not, in good conscience “support a law which denies Jamaicans essential services which their taxes provide.”

“We wish to place on record, our discontent with the approach adopted by the Government.”

Source/Gorgette Beckford – teleSUR

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