Gov't could miss its deadline for NIDS pilot project

Jacqueline Lynch Stewart, Acting Chief Technical Director in the OPM, Shirley Richards, a member of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society and JFJ's Rodje Malcolm
It's likely that the Government may miss its deadline for the implementation of the pilot project of the National Identification System (NIDS) based on the time it has taken for the bill to be passed in Parliament.
The Government had announced a January 2019 implementation for the project.    
But Jacqueline Lynch Stewart, Acting Chief Technical Director in the Office of the Prime Minister, said based on the delay in passing the bill, the implementation of the pilot may have to be pushed back "by maybe one or two months". 
The National Identification and Registration Bill was passed in the Upper House on Monday night.
The Bill will now be sent to the Lower House.
Meanwhile, the passage of the National Identification and Registration Bill, has triggered concern about the welfare of children whose parents do not accept the National Identification Card.           
Shirley Richards, a member of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, has warned that because there is no exemption for education, it appears that many children may be shut out of the school system with the absence of the cards. 
"There are some people who do not want to have anything to do with, let me just say, 'Babylon'. So there are some people who will not be registering," she explained.
Mrs Richards argued that there are lingering questions about the children who have no control over the decision of their parents not to use the cards.
Lingering questions, she said, such as "What is to happen to the children who are not enrolled?" and "Will children over twelve be penalised for not having the NIDS?"
She argued that these concerns should have been addressed at town hall meetings with citizens.   
She was speaking Monday on RJR's Beyond The Headlines.           
Concerns also remain that Jamaicans will be shut out of vital legal and health services with the passage of the bill.
Rodje Malcolm, a spokesperson for Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), said certain legal services and access to health related procedures for poor Jamaicans may be unavailable due to the proposed law. 
Mr. Malcolm argued that based on the provisions, the ID card would be needed to access all government services except in circumstances where essential services are needed. 
However, the Senate has made the amendment to provide that the exemption would only be in cases where there are threats to life or health. 
Mr. Malcolm asserted that this significantly restricts the type of services that will be available to some Jamaicans without the ID card.
He argued that one would not be entitled to government services such as getting legal aid from the Legal Aid Council, or getting assistance from the Public Defender, which is a rights protection body, if one is not in possession of an ID card. 
Similarly, health services such as anonymous HIV testing done by the Ministry of Health will be compromised since one will now have to first provide the national identification card before accessing the service - defeating the purpose of the test being anonymous. 
But Mr. Malcolm has suggested that all may not be lost. He said the JFJ is concerned that the government may be "tying their own hands and the hands of future governments" who may want to make changes. 
As a result, he has recommended that the government put an exemption in the legislation to allow for future adjustments to be made by the minister responsible. 

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