Thu | Jan 23, 2020

PNP: Let ruling be a guide

Published:Saturday | April 13, 2019 | 12:19 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
People’s National Party President and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips (centre) is flanked by PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson and Opposition Spokesman on Justice Senator Donna Scott Mottley as he addresses a press conference on the National Identification and Registration Act yesterday.
People’s National Party President and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips (centre) is flanked by PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson and Opposition Spokesman on Justice Senator Donna Scott Mottley as he addresses a press conference on the National Identification and Registration Act yesterday.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court that the National Identification and Registration Act be struck from the books should serve as a guide to the Andrew Holness administration on how to approach the crafting of legislation, the parliamentary Opposition has suggested.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips yesterday lamented that millions of dollars have been flushed down the drain because of the “haste” with which the legislation was “rushed” through both Houses of Parliament.

“There’s the old saying that ‘haste makes waste’. In this case, you have the classic example of haste wasting taxpayers’ money because it is a loan, not a grant,” Phillips, the president of the People’s National Party (PNP), said at a press conference at the party’s St Andrew headquarters hours after the court ruling.

“I believe that the finding of the Constitutional Court ... provides a signpost to the Government about how it should approach legislation in the future,” he added.

Last year, the Government secured a US$68 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to finance the establishment of the National Identification System, a database that was to be created under the National Identification and Registration Act.

PNP vindicated

Phillips said that the PNP feels vindicated by the court decision, pointing out that the Opposition made “every attempt”, through the Parliament, to get the Government to stop and think through the legislation carefully.

“We urged them to appoint a joint select committee to consider the legislation. We told them that legislation of such significance as this required that citizens be given an opportunity to appear before the legislature to express their view,” the PNP president reiterated.

“Associations like the [Jamaican] Bar Association, human-rights groups, and others needed to have been consulted directly on legislation like this. In the end, what we were given was bad legislation, rushed through the House [of Parliament], and the end result is a waste of taxpayers’ money and a waste of parliamentary time,” he continued.

Bad legislation

The opposition leader noted, too, that the legislation was passed in the Senate with 184 amendments.

“If you want an example of bad legislation, simply look at the number of amendments that were moved in this ad hoc fashion,” he said.

“We would hope that such an approach to the passage of legislation will never be repeated again,” Phillips cautioned.

The PNP president sought to make it clear that his party has always supported, and continues to support, the need for a national identification system, particularly in the context of advanced digital technology. However, he insisted that such a system could not be at the expense of the democratic rights of the Jamaican people.

Donna Scott Mottley, the PNP spokesperson on justice, praised the three-member panel of judges for their “boldness, courage, and their independence” from the Government.

Scott Mottley said that the PNP was not gloating about the court ruling and insisted that the legal challenge to the legislation was not out of malice or partisan politics.

“We were acting as Jamaicans concerned about the consequences of breaching the constitutional rights of Jamaicans,” she said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com