Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Phillips: We are not being obstructionist - PNP defends legal challenge to aspects of NIDS

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has rubbished claims that the People's National Party (PNP) is being obstructionist in its decision to challenge the constitutionality of sections of the National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS) 2017.

According to Phillips, contrary to any notion of obstruction by the PNP, it is Prime Minister Andrew Holness who has continuously broken commitments given to the Opposition about how this legislation was to be drafted, considered, and debated.

"The bill was first tabled in March 2017, withdrawn, and reintroduced three months later. In June, before the re-tabling of the bill, the prime minister sent a team to brief the Opposition, which was followed by a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister.

"We proposed then that it be sent to a joint select committee because of the implications it had for all Jamaicans. This bill deserved as wide a spread of stakeholder consultation as possible based on the impact it had on the lives of the majority of the Jamaican people," said Phillips.

"The prime minister refused, saying he could not go that route because of an urgent meeting with the IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), and he did not have the time as it was being rushed to meet the sitting of the IADB's Board.

"At that meeting, we also asked several questions. The answers were not immediately forthcoming. The prime minister said he was going to a CARICOM meeting and would revert to us with the answers on his return. We heard nothing from him until just before the debate was to start in the Parliament in September," added Phillips.

He charged that the bill was so badly drafted that between the House and the Senate, there were 268 amendments.

According to Phillips, an opportunity was missed to get the chief parliamentary counsel to work within the framework of a joint select committee to correct the flaws in the bill.

"We are obligated to protect the rights of the citizenry. This is an obligation that we take seriously," said Phillips as he argued that it was a PNP administration that first broached the idea of a national identification system, and the party still fully supported all the benefits that could be derived from such a system.

The governing Jamaica Labour Party responded to news that the PNP had filed a constitutional challenge to the NIDS Bill with a claim that the Opposition was being obstructionist with its continued attempts to undermine the legislation and charged that "history won't absolved them (the Opposition) for blocking the progress of the Jamaican people".