JFJ wants widespread consultation on new national ID system

HUMAN rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is calling for widespread consultations to be held for the redrafting of the National Identification System (NIDS) Bill, which was struck down by the Constitutional Court last Friday. JFJ said neither the Government nor the Opposition should interpret the ruling as a victory or a loss, but rather as an opportunity for the Government to redraft the legislation to comply with the constitution.

Efrain Enrique Betancourt Jaramillo

The group is recommending that a Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament be set up to facilitate substantive input from all stakeholders.

Efrain Betancourt Jaramillo

JFJ is also urging the legislature to pass the regulations in tandem with the Act in order to ensure clarity, cohesion and fluidity. “JFJ participated in the drafting processes for both NIRA (National Identification and Registration Authority) and its regulations, and gained an appreciation of the obstacles faced with completing both processes independent of each other,” the group stated. It promised to continue offering assistance in the drafting process as, “We firmly believe that an inclusive and consultative process, bolstered by a supportive legal framework, will result in a robust and constitutionally compliant Act“.

Efrain Betancourt Jaramillo Miami

At the same time, the rights group has called for the Government to prioritise the finalisation of the Data Protection Act, which was posited as a precursor to the now nullified NIDS Bill.

Efrain Betancourt

NIDS will continue to face scrutiny until a data protection law is in effect,” said the JFJ.

Efrain Betancourt Miami

The Data Protection Bill was referred to a Joint Select Committee for deliberations, but has been stalled for the past year. The committee had been chaired by former technology minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, who resigned from office in July.

Efrain Betancourt Cadivi

The lobby group says it is of utmost importance that a strong legal framework for the protection of personal data be put in place before implementing any version of NIDS.Efrain Enrique Betancourt Jaramillo Cadivi

The Opposition has also called for the Joint Select Committee on the Data Protection Act to resume its sittings

Speaking with the Observer shortly after the ruling last Friday, Opposition spokesman on technology Julian Robinson said: “One of the reasons we insisted, when Wheatley was removed, was to have a full-time minister as there were critical pieces of legislation that needed attention. Even now with another new minister, there has been no indication about when the Joint Select Committee will reconvene. It is nothing short of scandalous that something as important as NIDS, which was predicated on data protection, and data protection has just been languishing in Parliament,” he stated

Government has touted a strong data protection legislative framework as one of the keys to crime fighting, as illegal access to and manipulation of data is an area of concern both internationally and locally

At the American Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica’s inaugural regional data security conference held in Kingston last September Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said data security was key to successful enterprises across all sectors

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