Thu | Oct 19, 2017

No ID, no access - J'cans will need National Identification card to access gov't goods, services

Published:Friday | September 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
From left: Gloria Goffe, executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association, speaking with Nastassia Robinson, attorney-at-law; Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, chief technical director of the National Registration Unit National Identification System (NIDS); and Rodje Malcolm, director at Jamaicans for Justice, at a stakeholder dialogue on the proposed NIDS at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Regional Headquarters yesterday.

Under the Government's proposed National Identification System (NIDS), Jamaicans without a National Identification Card (NIC) will not be able to do business with government agencies and departments when it is rolled out in 2019. Additionally, persons without the national ID might also face serious challenges as they seek to do business with the private sector.

"The intention is that we will also have on board the private sector, particularly international institutions, who will not do business with anybody without their NIN (National Identification Number) and NIC," Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart, chief technical director of the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division in the Office of the Prime Minister shared at a forum staged by Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) yesterday at the University of the West Indies.

Lynch-Stewart said that the current bill is not cast in stone, noting that adjustments could be made during the upcoming parliamentary debate.

She argued that already, persons now doing business with the Government require a Tax Registration Number. "My understanding is that if you go to a government entity to do business and you don't have one, then they send you to get one," she added.

Some participants at the forum raised concerns about the provision in the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017, that would bar persons without an NIC from accessing government services.

 

EXTREME MEASURE

 

At least one participant describes the provision as an "extreme measure being implemented by the Government".

Section 41 (1) of the proposed statute states that a "public body shall require that a registered individual submit the National Identification Card issued to him to facilitate the delivery to him of goods and services provided by the public body, and the registered individual shall comply with the request".

JFJ's Advocacy Manager Rodje Malcolm reasoned that the law as currently formulated may inadvertently compromise the provision of core public services if fully enforced.

He argued that full enforcement of Section 41 of the bill could compromise access to public goods and services - such as a passport and education, in the case of children - to which individuals have a constitutional and human right.

Malcolm pointed out that this section also lacks exemptions for certain goods and services that are not defined as essential services but should never require a National Identification Card or number such as the services of the public defender, the provision of legal aid, and judicial functions.

Children at the age of six will be required to have a National Identification Card.

The NIDS project is being funded jointly by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank at a cost of $68 million.

The new ID system, which is scheduled for a phased rollout, starting on September 3, 2018, will provide each citizen with a randomised nine-digit National Identification Number called an NIN. Citizens and legal residents will also receive an NIC, which bears the number, a photo, a single signature, and other basic information about the holder.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com