Tue | Mar 2, 2021

Offer NIDS sign-up incentive, Robinson pitches

Published:Monday | December 21, 2020 | 12:14 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Julian Robinson, who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the first NIDS bill.
Julian Robinson, who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the first NIDS bill.

As a joint select committee of Parliament sets in motion plans to deliberate on the new National Identification and Registration Act, 2020 (NIDS) in early January, one lawmaker is suggesting that the Government offer incentives for Jamaicans to sign on to the system when established.

Member of parliament for St Andrew South East, Julian Robinson, who took the Government to court challenging the constitutionality of the first NIDS law, said the administration should make it attractive for people to acquire the national identification card.

The new NIDS bill makes provisions for voluntary enrolment with the National Registration Authority, but allows individuals to cancel the registration.

The original law, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, required mandatory enrolment.

“You could link it to other public services and you could offer discounts on other public services if you have one,” he said in a Gleaner interview.

Robinson said that the major concerns in the discarded NIDS law, in relation to mandatory enrolment and the various biometric requirements, have been addressed. He said what is now set out in the new bill is similar to the requirements of getting a voter ID card.

Meanwhile, not everyone is satisfied with the timeline given by the joint select committee examining the new NIDS bill for Jamaicans to make submissions to the parliamentary group.

The committee has given a January 29, 2021 deadline for various groups, organisations, and individuals to make submissions.

SUFFICIENT TIME NEEDED

Human-rights advocate Susan Goffe said that the deadline for making submissions might be too short for many individuals who want to participate in the process.

She is encouraging the committee ensure that it provides enough time for comment.

“It should be acknowledged that to table the bill just before Christmas at a point where organisations and individuals are, in fact, otherwise focused, and then to come back after New Year’s with less than a month in which people will have the opportunity to review, discuss, analyse, write and make submission, to me, it is not enough time,” she insisted.

Goffe told The Gleaner that she has observed a pattern where joint select committees of Parliament tend not to allow for sufficient time for people to make submissions.

“It is a new piece of legislation. There will be those who are skilled in reading legislation who may have an organisational structure or group structure that would allow for a fairly rapid read and response, but there may be other groups who may need longer periods of time,” she said.

Committee Chairman Delroy Chuck has indicated that the panel would want to complete its deliberations in time for the bill to be passed before the end of the parliamentary year next March.

In its first meeting last Friday, Chuck urged the Office of the Prime Minister and other lawmakers to embark on a public education exercise.

“We certainly would want as many members of the public as possible to be aware of the existence of this bill and to the extent to participate as much as possible in the discussion or understanding of where we are going forward with this bill,” he said.

The committee, comprising 15 members, has agreed on a quorum of five persons.

“We want the widest cross section of Jamaicans because this bill is going to affect every Jamaican, whether they want to register or not,” said Chuck.

At its next meeting on January 5, representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister will explain in detail to committee members the contents of the bill.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com