Special Sitting of Senate on Nov. 13 to Debate NIDS BILL

At 1:18 a.m. this morning (November 11), the Senate suspended the debate on the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017, bringing to a close a gruelling 14-hour sitting.

Given the urgency of the need to pass the Bill, which seeks to establish a reliable National Identification System (NIDS) for Jamaicans, it was decided that a special sitting will be held on Monday (November 13) beginning at 9:00 a.m., to facilitate further deliberations.

The members were six hours into the Committee stage where the 65-clause Bill was being examined clause by clause, when President of the Senate, Tom Tavares Finson, called Opposition and Government Leaders of Business, Senators Donna Scott-Mottley and the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, into his Chambers.

When they came back, Senator Johnson Smith informed that the decision to suspend the sitting was made at the behest of the technical staff, who expressed that they were unable to continue any further.

“We really have to recognize and thank the technical staff that has supported us thus far. All of the staff of the Parliament – the Clerk, Deputy Clerk, the Marshalls, the Ushers – everyone who has been here to keep us going. It is truly out of deference and recognition of the challenge that (this extended sitting) is posing to them that we are proposing to have a special sitting of the Senate on Monday,” Mrs. Johnson Smith said.

It was the intention of the Government to have the Bill passed during the regular sitting of the House on Friday (November 10), as it seeks to secure funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to undertake the NIDS project, which is being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister.

Opening the debate on the Bill at the previous sitting of the Upper House on Friday (November 3), Senator Johnson Smith explained that the administration had a limited time frame to acquire the money, which is before the IDB’s Board meeting this month.

The Bill seeks to facilitate the establishment and regulation of a system for the registration, verification and authentication of the identity of citizens and other persons residing in Jamaica; and the establishment of a National Civil and Identification Database to generate national identification cards.

Under this system, which the Government assures will be comprehensive and secure with anti-fraud features, every Jamaican will have a unique identification number.

Its implementation is expected to result in improved governance and management of social, economic and security programmes.

The Bill was approved in the Lower House on Tuesday (September 19) with 100 amendments. Members of the Senate deliberated on these, along with an additional 23-page list of amendments, which were submitted and compiled during the week.


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