Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Letter of the Day | Legitimate concerns regarding NIDS

Published:Wednesday | November 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM


I respond to Paul Haye's article 'Stop fighting against NIDS'. While there is some value to having an improved system of national identity for controls and security, these systems must work effectively with other systems to be effective. NIDS alone won't stop crime or expedite the arrest of criminals: effective policing does that.

The concerns raised about NIDS are legitimate. Former JDF Colonel Allan Douglas was explicit in his recent column 'NIDS crosses red line'. I could also add that the cost of NIDS is astronomical, almost J$9 billion, to be funded from a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, a loan which must be repaid. Jamaica cannot afford this massive debt! If we must borrow, why not focus on improving critical areas such as health and social services and education as a priority, aiming to improve quality of life which could also help to reduce crime?

The harsh penalties of J$100,000 and denial of essential services should one resist or refuse NIDS is also extreme and dangerous in a free democratic society. The mandatory biometric data requirement is another issue. I would prefer if the collection of biometrics data was focused on criminals when arrested and suspects (when there is evidence), to monitor and prevent recurrence of crimes. Most Jamaicans aren't criminals. I am also confused about other optional data, such as race, religion, employment, sexual orientation. What value is optional data if incomplete or false? I've argued that the TRN system could be improved as a simpler alternative to NIDS, achieving the same results, at a fraction of the cost.




Most Jamaicans already have a TRN, which is required for banking, government services and driver's licences. TRN should drive NIS and other social services, police certificates, etc, the number should be encoded on documents for transparency. TRN should also be required for passports. We've heard of persons having duplicate TRN; this should not be difficult to flag and fix: the system can be enhanced and secured. Most persons have at least one ID based on need. TRN could be the link to all these systems to track identity. I wonder at times if those aggressively pushing NIDS have some financial interests in the lucrative NIDS contracts which will be at stake!

P. Chin