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The National Identification System (NIDS) was originally conceived in 1995 when the current opposition was governing Jamaica. The NIDS has, however, remained relatively the same in the last 24 years, just a concept. The irony here is that both the major political parties, the PNP and JLP, appear to be on the same page regarding the Identification System, but the nation is still waiting for a unified identification system to happen. The latest setback to the move comes from a court ruling that struck down the National Identification and Registration Act. The issue figured in the Parliament on Tuesday when Prime Minister Andrew Holness took to the floor and spoke at length on the subject.
Originally Pushed by PNP; Now Pursued by JLP
To those who may not be familiar with the story, it was in 1995 that the Jamaican government was promised a grant of €200,000 by Europe, for implementation of a project to register and process the identification details of Jamaican citizens. If it had been pursued then, it would have paved the way for issuing a unique identity card to all the citizens of the country. In reality, however, no progress was made on the matter and currently, only discussions and debates are going on.
Prime Minister Holness told the Parliament that his intention of speaking at length on the issue was to remind the House that, not only was the opposition PNP in favour of the scheme, but had been the initiator. He went on to elaborate that the then PNP government had even got T-shirts made, with slogans emblazoned on them, to popularise the concept. The expenses incurred on this account alone was $1.2 million, the PM pointed out. He went on to drive home the point that it was Dr. Peter Phillips, the current leader of the Opposition who had moved a resolution to constitute a Joint Select Committee, to review the legislation to provide for ‘compulsory national registration of individuals’.
Mild Response by Opposition Leader
Dr. Peter Phillips did not deny the facts put forth by the Prime Minister. He said PNP had not opposed the move to create the NIDS. Their only objection was to the process being followed. In addition, he said his party was concerned about the intrusion into the privacy of the citizens, assured to them under the Constitution. The government may go back to the drawing board and chalk out a new strategy that can get the project going and at the same time address the concerns raised by the opposition and the Constitutional Court.