Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Legislators take final look at NIDS bill

Published:Tuesday | November 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Government Senator Kamina Johnson Smith

The National Identification Registration Act 2017 will again come under the microscope of lawmakers today in the Lower House when the amended legislation is tabled for consideration in the House of Representatives.

Government legislators in the Upper House last week gave the controversial bill the nod, even as opposition senators pressed for changes to several provisions in the proposed law. The bill was passed with 168 amendments. Overall, there have been 268 changes to the bill since it entered Parliament.

The National Identification System (NIDS) has attracted widespread national debate, and several stakeholders, including church groups and civil-society organisations, have attended sittings of Parliament to observe deliberations on the proposed statute. They have pledged to show up at Gordon House again today.

Little more than a week ago, opposition senators voted against the bill, complaining bitterly about its mandatory provision that requires Jamaicans to register with NIDS or face huge fines for failing to comply.


Deny public goods and services


Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, had argued that the proposed law would also deny public goods and services to Jamaicans who have not registered with NIDS.

The Opposition had called on the Government to make further changes to the bill, noting that the concerns raised were of fundamental importance to the constitutional rights of the Jamaican people.

A number of interest groups and the parliamentary Opposition had called for the bill to be referred to a joint select committee of Parliament to give Jamaicans an opportunity to make their submissions on the proposed statute.

In her comments following the passage of the bill in the Senate, Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith argued that despite challenges, the "interest of the majority of Jamaicans won the day.

"I thank the many members of the society who participated in the formulation of this law," Johnson Smith had said in a release from Jamaica House. "We had wide consultations, and these consultations included members of civil society, the Church, law enforcement, and numerous other groups, including those representing the physically challenged."

Johnson Smith said that part of the reason for the plethora of amendments was that the administration wanted to ensure that "sector groups had a voice in this law. A lot of the amendments were suggested by these groups, as well as the Opposition".