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JAMAICA | PNP to test new NIDS Act in the courts

Featured Chairman of the People's National Party, Fitz Jackson Chairman of the People's National Party, Fitz Jackson
KINGSTON,  November 22, 2017 - The Peoples National Party has instructed its lawyers to examine the much-debated National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS Bill) which was passed by the government yesterday, to see whether it has violated the Charter of Rights with a view towards testing the constitionality of several of its provisions.

Peoples National Party Chairman Fitz Jackson told Lambert Brown's Evening Edition radio programme, that the controversial NIDS bill will also be on the agenda of this weekend's National Execitive Council, the second highest body of the party outside of the Annual Conference.

Mr. Jackson said it was now an issue that the PNP would be pursuing so much that the new law would be challenged in the courts, not only by the PNP but also other non government organizations. He said when the party comes back to power, it will rescind the offending provisions in the interest of the Jamaican people.

Jackson insisted: “We (PNP) are in support of a national identification system, and the records will confirm that the development of it commenced during our period of administration.”

However, he reiterated that the party has issues with some of the clauses in the Bill, particularly Section 41 which denies a person access to public services if they do not have a national identification card.

Jackson made reference to medical care as a possible public service that could be denied under the clause.

“That is breach of the charter of rights, as this is one of your fundamental rights in these life and death things to be provided to you,” he charged.

Jackson also complained about the mandatory provision in clause 20 of the Bill, which states that people who do not register under NIDS will be fined up to $100,000.

He added that the Opposition wants the fine to be modified.

“We (PNP) have instructed our lawyers to pursue that matter in the courts for constitutional breaches,” Jackson said.

“Our position is not only limited to those egregious sections that would be constitutionally in breach, because you can have provisions that are quite in keeping with constitution but nonetheless offensive, and for that reason we call for the full withdrawal of the Bill, re-tabling, and referral to the joint select committee, together with the accompanying regulations and the data security Bill, and let us reach a consensus,” Jackson said.

Following the passage of the Bill, Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips signalled that the row over the legislation was far from over. He described the passage as underhanded and said consultations will be held with other groups to get the views of the people.

He said his reason for suggesting that the bill be referred to a joint select committee was to "enable the regulations which speak to data protection issues to be considered and to allow us also to consider the Data Protection Bill".

He said the proposed legislation was badly prepared and "badly considered", noting that the bill had 68 clauses and 268 amendments.

Phillips said there was no real opportunity for "any stakeholder, any member of the public, any interested party to participate in discussions of any one of those amendments".

Members of the Opposition were absent yesterday evening as the National Identification and Registration Bill was passed into law in the House of  Representatives.
 
The Opposition did not return to the House following a suspension of the sitting. Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, moved a motion calling for the Bill to be withdrawn and referred to a Joint Select Committee for further review. This triggered a debate over parliamentary rules and a subsequent 20-minute suspension of the sitting. It eventually lasted for more than an hour. 
 
Prior to the passage of the bill, Prime Minister Andrew Holness sought to allay lingering concerns about the legislation suggesting that the Government is still willing to accommodate suggestions as it will be a while before the bill becomes law.

 

Last modified onFriday, 24 November 2017 08:22
  • Countries: Jamaica