Sat | Jan 20, 2018

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Crisis of identity

Published:Thursday | June 15, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The prospect of the National Identification Systems (NIDS), as outlined in recently announced plans by the government, is exciting and long overdue. The cradle-to-grave concept of the envisioned system, with biometric features, will certainly prove beneficial to the government and all Jamaicans when conducting business; in policing and law enforcement; in protecting our borders; in tax administration; and in voter identification.

Oops, it seemed I jumped the gun in my expectations and common-sense thinking - voter identification!


An insult to Jamaicans


Prime Minister Andrew Holness reportedly indicated that while the integration of the NIDS and the voter identification system will save the country a substantial amount of money, there was no immediate plan to integrate the two systems, as "Jamaicans are not ready for such a move". In other words, people, we Jamaicans are a bunch of monkeys who can only manage one banana at a time - we can't handle the whole bunch.

I am extremely disappointed that he would articulate such poppycock! Last week, he was my hero for putting his fellow politicos in their places when they were lambasting Food for the Poor and trying to get their grubby hands on the house distribution programme. He was the Man of Steel, not the Man of Steal. But now, he is insulting us.

He reportedly went on to say that a lack of trust by Jamaicans in public institutions forced the government to take the costly route of maintaining the two separate identification cards, despite disclosure by the Electoral Office of Jamaica that it will cost more than $2 billion to produce new voter identification cards!

But hold on! Judges are threatening to sue the government for not honouring certain financial agreements made to them; public-sector workers are restive; our health system is going through 'tuff tons'. And talk about trust? It's not the government institutions we don't trust, it's the politicians! sixty-three per cent of us don't think there is much integrity embedded in our politicians, as borne out in the recent contractor general's survey.

How stupid of me to think that the government would be ecstatic at the prospect of saving $2 billion by deferring the production of voter ID cards and instead merging with NIDS.


Reality check


Let's face it, not everyone will necessarily want to have a NIDS card. Certainly not the criminals, who are not wont to pay taxes, or get a passport or driver's licence through legal channels. They just buy a document, drive, travel and pay a money if caught. A nuh nutting. But every Tom, Dick, Harry and Jane waan vote. Dat a nuh something yuh mess wid. Voting power is a powerful bargaining tool for many, and a key determinant of the quality of life for them, a means to 'eat a food' ... until the next election.

Voter identification tends to match an individual to a specific domain. The Johns of 'no fixed address' are likely to be under threat, an dem no waan dat. So the answer is a two-card system. One haughty and healthy, the other hanky-panky. Sound like a game some three-card man a run.


Undermining the objectives of NIDS


To paraphrase the government's words, 'NIDS is a strategic priority intended to establish a reliable identification system for Jamaicans and other nationals resident in the country, a source of identification that will be considered as conclusive for the purpose of customer due diligence, for all businesses which require customer identification and verification'.

How can we be ready for all the other areas where the NIDS will be implemented, but not for integration of voter identification? This separation of NIDS and voter identification denies Jamaica the opportunity to finally implement a truly first-class electoral system, where duppy caan vote without detection. For all the right reasons advanced by the government for the implementation of NIDS, a sustainable and transparent electoral system should be its benchmark objective - democracy to the world. It is fundamental. However, it appears that that is not what the politicos want.

Fix di thing an fix it properly ... no waan no two-card system run by three-card man.

PM ... be a Man of Steel. Do what you know is the right thing, go the right way on this matter: One card!

One Love.