The House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 20) approved the Report of the Joint Select Committee on the National Identification and Registration Act, 2020.
This legislation makes provision for a voluntary and secure national identification system (NIDS) for Jamaica.
The initially proposed legislation was withdrawn and the National Identification and Registration Act, 2021, which incorporates the recommendations proposed by the Joint Select Committee, was tabled.
In his remarks, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said in April 2019, the Constitutional Court highlighted deficiencies in the previous 2017 Act, adding that these have been fully addressed in the new legislation.
“The Bill incorporates various inputs arising out of the Joint Select Committee process. The committee made several recommendations that have served to shape the legislation to a more widely accepted fit for purpose and overall better legislation to underpin the governance and oversight of the national identification system,” Mr. Holness said.
The Prime Minister informed that all Jamaican citizens or persons ordinarily resident in Jamaica will have the opportunity to voluntarily enrol for a national identification card protected by several safeguards.
“We are aware of the concerns of the right to privacy and the security of identity information, and as such, the Bill reflects a strong core of security measures and requirements, so that identity information will be respected and protected,” Mr. Holness said.
He pointed out that the new Bill has at its core, the recognition of an individual’s right to privacy and the protection of that right related to that individual’s data identity information.
“It is proposed that the NIDS will be managed by the National Identification and Registration Authority. The new Bill introduces provisions that serve to strengthen the proposed Authority by clearly outlining the governance structure and functions of the Authority,” Mr. Holness said.
“The accountability and transparency features of the NIDS have been strengthened. This new Bill seeks to establish an independent oversight body as a Commission of Parliament to ensure that the Authority is compliant with the National Identification and Registration Act,” he further explained.
Mr. Holness said as a Commission of Parliament, the oversight body will be autonomous in carrying out its functions and will only answer to Parliament.
In addition, the new Bill will provide for a stronger independent oversight body to monitor the Authority and report its findings to Parliament; provide for the collection of only minimum identity information; provide for greater data protection and security mechanisms; and provide for a more appropriate offence regime with penalties that reflect the gravity of breaches of the legislation.
“These are only a few elements of the new Bill which has been tabled and these which would be explored in greater detail,” Mr. Holness said.
He noted that the Government is aware of the need to continue to educate Jamaicans about the proposed legislation.
“Over the next couple of months, the NIDS project executing unit will be embarking on a series of sessions to explain the legislation and educate Jamaicans about the NIDS and its benefit. Let me remind the public that they can also learn more about the NIDS and its identity by logging on to www.nidsfacts.com,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that he is pleased that the new Bill reflects the input of several submissions.
“There is a lot to be gained from implementing an identification system, and at the end of this process we would have secured major improvements for the delivery of service to our population,” Mr. Holness said.