Civil society concerned about National Identification Bill

JFJ's Rodje Malcolm, Heru Menelik, President of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party and Constantine Bogle, President of the Paul Bogle Foundation
Several civil society and religious groups turned up at Gordon House as the Senate continued its review of the National Identification and Registration Bill.
The groups, which included Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), the Paul Bogle Foundation and the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party say they are concerned about aspects of the Bill, which have been described as intrusive and invasive.
Rodje Malcolm, Director of JFJ, said the group does not oppose the bill, but believes some sections must be revised before it can be passed into law. He raised concern specifically about Section 41 of the bill, which he said "essentially limits assess to all public services if someone does not have the national ID card or the number."
According to Malcolm, the House of Representatives had accepted a proposal from the JFJ that essential services be exempted from that requirement. However, the government is now proposing in the Senate that this exemption be removed and limited only to States of Emergency and threats to life and health.
"We're concerned that given that you already have an offence for not enrolling with a fine of up to $100,000, we may not need to compromise core access to services to achieve the goal that the government wants," said Malcolm. 
He is hoping that access to other critical services such as legal aid, the Office of the Public Defender and the Child Development Agency will be exempted.
Still, Mr. Malcolm said JFJ is heartened that several of its recommendations were taken into consideration during Monday's sitting of the Upper House.
He said the group has been consulting with the government on the proposed Bill since June. 
However, Mr. Malcolm raised concern that there was no formal process of consultation with the general public.
He said the call for a Joint Select Committee to review the Bill is warranted.
Meanwhile, Heru Menelik, President of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party, is opposed to the Bill.
He said the proposed National Identification System is a breach of  basic human rights and is calling for the Government to scrap the Bill.
"The invasiveness of the nature of this system that it needs to scan your eyes, your vein type, your foot bottom, your fingers; this is something that goes against the grain of humanity," he argued. "If England, Australia, India and other greater nations than us have accepted this system, then who are we to accept it? Are we the guinea pigs?" 
He argued that the system will be a breach of privacy and have negative as well as far-reaching effects on citizens.
"This is not something to be considered... There are much more important things in this country for us to find time to discuss. It's time all of us come together and stand up against these things. it's going to affect you, your children, everyone of us," he insisted. 
Members of the Senate were still reviewing the National Identification and Registration Bill late Monday evening.
The lawmakers are reviewing the Bill clause by clause.
Concerns from Opposition Senators include the need for a National Identification Number for children to begin school as well as disabled persons being able to obtain a number.
Some members have also expressed concern about persons with dual citizenship and the ability of small business owners to operate without a National Identification Number.
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who piloted the bill, compared the National Identification Number to a Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN).

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