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NIDS law proved a thorny affair

Published:Saturday | April 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM

There were strong arguments on both sides of the debate as the Government pushed to establish the National Identification System (NIDS).

Among the arguments put forward by the Andrew Holness-led administration was that the secure database capturing civil and biometric data of citizens and residents in Jamaica could help law-enforcement officers crack cases.

The Government said the system would minimise the capacity for an individual to assume multiple identities, helping to combat money laundering, tax evasion, and credit card fraud.

Additionally, it was expected to reduce the need to register for each obligation and benefit, such as taxes, and simplify the Government’s processes and eliminate costs incurred from paper purchases and other administrative tasks.

Critics lashed the invasive nature of the data being collected and questioned how the Government could guarantee that the data would be securely stored.

People’s National Party’s (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson, who brought the challenge to court, argued that the law breached several constitutional rights.

Among them, he said, were the rights to security of person, equality before the law, the right to privacy, and the right to due process.

The PNP also took issue with the requirement that persons who refused to sign up would be slapped with a $100,000 fine. Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte said the conviction wouldn’t form part of a person’s criminal record. Justice David Batts, one of the three presiding judges who heard the challenge, noted that even so, a person could still be considered a convict or criminal.

Concern was also raised over plans to deny unregistered Jamaicans access to essential services such as healthcare.

A clause requiring non-Jamaicans to register under the system to do business locally also raised eyebrows.