Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Robinson: Not appealing NIDS ruling the sensible thing to do

Published:Thursday | May 23, 2019 | 12:25 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

The People’s National Party (PNP) has welcomed the decision by the Government not to appeal the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA), on which the National Identification System (NIDS) was to be based.

“We believe where we are now is where we should have been maybe a year ago, which is that the bill be referred to a joint select committee. This is what we had urged for well over a year throughout the process, and the Government ignored not just our pleas, but the pleas of civil society to place the bill before a joint select committee.

“So I think it is the only sensible decision the Government could have made if they were committed to genuine consultation in regard of moving forward with NIDS. So we are willing. We are ready to participate and play our role in the process,” PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson told The Gleaner yesterday.

His comments follow yesterday’s announcement by Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck at a post-sectoral debate press briefing at the Ministry of Justice in St Andrew.

“Cabinet will not appeal the Constitutional [Court] ruling on the NIDS case because we consider it very important that we should proceed as quickly as possible to have a NIDS bill, and instructions have been issued to all the various units … [that] focus must be placed on formulating a new NIDS bill as quickly as possible,” Chuck said.

Data Protection

The PNP general secretary said there is the issue, too, of the joint select committee for the Data Protection Act, which Robinson said has not met since April of last year. He said that that act is a prerequisite to the NIRA.

“The new minister has said that she is going to convene one in the month of June, so we have to wait and see if that goes ahead. But the Data Protection Act is a prerequisite for NIDS because it deals with how all of the personal information and data that is required under NIDS is to be handled, to be processed, the rights of the people themselves,” Robinson asserted.

In a landmark ruling last month, the court found that sections of the NIRA would potentially violate citizens’ right to privacy guaranteed under the Fundamental Charter of Right and Freedoms, which replaced Chapter Three of the Jamaica Constitution in 2011.

The unanimous decision, handed down by a Full Court panel comprising Chief Justice Bryan Sykes and Justices David Batts and Lisa Palmer Hamilton, found that the NIRA was null, void, and of no legal effect.

The constitutional challenge was brought by Robinson, who had claimed that the act breached several of his rights guaranteed under the Charter.

At the time of the ruling, the Government said it was carefully reviewing the court’s decision.