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Celebrating honesty in the Senate and House rows over NIDS

Inside Parliament

With Balford Henry

Monday, May 20, 2019

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The Senate got off to a late start Friday, as the senators used the opportunity to celebrate the honesty of a 24-year-old young woman from downtown Kingston, Ackaisha Green, who has won the admiration of many Jamaicans for returning a bag loaded with cash left behind in an ATM by the couriers.

Inviting the young woman and her mother, Yvonne Jones, to Gordon House to be celebrated for her action, which has made her into an overnight star of both traditional and social media, was the idea of the President of the Senate Thomas Tavares-Finson.

Senator Tavares-Finson told members that he made a point of inviting Green's mother to the sitting, as she had been the subject of “adverse comments”, after she was quoted in the Jamaica Observer as ridiculing her daughter for turning over the bag of cash, despite afterwards begging her $200 for bus fare.

“That is the nature of things. We say and do things sometimes, but it is the nature of our Jamaican personality and character. We forgive you and welcome you to the Senate this morning,” the president told her.

Leader of Government Business, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith noted that the celebration of Green's action was being done during Child Month and, actually, on Child Day.

“It is particularly a pleasure for us to welcome young people focused on getting an education,” she stated, pointing to the presence of a number of St George's College students, who sat with the special guests in the gallery, as they visited Gordon House to acquaint themselves with its operations.

Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, Leader of Opposition Business, noted that it must have been a challenge for Green to return the cash, considering that she suffered adversities, recently, which led her to seek bus fare from her mother.

“Her adversity was upon her, but she did the right thing… That's why her story is so compelling for all of us,” Senator Scott-Mottley commented.

The honest woman and her mother were accompanied by Green's two-year-old son, Joshua.

NIDS, T-shirts and the arguments

One of the interesting developments from last Tuesday's sitting of the House of Representatives was that members were still collecting bags of “evidence”, brought to the House of Representatives on Tuesday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to support his responses to the Opposition's follow-up questions on the history of the process to introduce the National Identification Systems (NIDS).

Holness' bag of supporting evidence included T-shirts and other paraphernalia, as well as sheets and sheets of information gleaned from the press and dating back to December, 2000, when previous Minister of Health John Junor tabled a bill entitled The National Registration Act, 2000.

The Bill had provisions for the requirement of: “Biographical information about individuals”; the establishment of a National Registration commission; and the creation of a National Register to be constituted under the Act.

According to Section 4(d) of the Bill, the commission would have administered and maintained a national registration system, in accordance with the provisions of the Act and its regulations, and “develop and implement policies and programmes to achieve a continuous and compulsory process of national registration of individuals”.

Section 4(2) of the Bill states that, “For the purpose of discharging its functions under this Act, the Commission may, subject to the provisions of this Act, do anything and enter into any transaction which in the opinion of the Commission, is necessary to ensure the performance of its functions”.

The identification under this Act would require a registration number for each individual, and “every person required to be registered under this Act shall produc,e upon reasonable request, his identification card in circumstances specified in the Fifth Schedule, or such circumstances as may be prescribed”.

In terms of “Offences”, the Bill's Section 31 had proposed that:

“A person commits an offence who is required to be registered under this Act or to supply, for the purposes of this Act, information in relation to either himself or to another person without reasonable excuse he –

(a) Refuses or neglects to supply particulars required of him by this act or any regulations made thereunder;

(b) Refuses or neglects to answer any question relating to the registration under this Act of himself or any other person for whose registration he is responsible and addressed to him by any person acting under the authority of this Act;

(c) Fails to report a change of any information required of him in relation to the particulars contained in an identification card issued under this Act, and shall be liable on summary conviction in a Resident Magistrate's Court to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars outside”.

It was announced in one clipping that there was a request for “fast tracking” of the project in March, 2012 at the request of then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who wanted “the NIDS to become a reality this year, the 50th anniversary of Independence”, with the availability of US$670,000 through a loan from the Inter-American Development bank (IDB).

In April, 2013, a further allocation of $32.4 million was advanced, through funding from the Korean International Corporation Agency. It was anticipated that for the 2013/14 period, the NIDS policy document would have been finalised; legal and institutional frameworks developed; and a baseline research report produced. Further a communications programme was expected to commence, in addition to completion of an economic cost benefit analysis, as well as NIDS Information and communications technology design. This project was expected to be completed by April, 2014.

In the meantime, the Government said then that it was providing $14.89 million to assist the National Registration (Preparatory) unit with carrying out its duties. This is the unit responsible for overseeing the activities being undertaken to support the establishment of NIDS. Full implementation was scheduled for 2019.

This week's Gordon House schedule:

Monday, May 20, 2019, 10:00 am: – Joint Select Committee to do clause by clause analysis of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill;

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 10:00 am – Public Accounts Committee, Review Auditor General's Compendium and Comprehensive Report on Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica;

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 2:00 pm – Meeting of the House of Representatives;

Wednesday, May 22, 2019, 10:00 am – Public Administration and Appropriations Committee deals with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS);

Wednesday, May 22, 2019, 2:00 pm – Joint Select Committee on Bank of Jamaica Amendment Act.


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