Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Grey Days: Nature’s Colours

For mornings such as this…

…when Tropical Storm Zeta in the western Caribbean Sea…

…streams rainclouds across the sky, blocking the morning sun…

…nature provides a fallback of other yellows…

…to counter the grey….


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Unknown Yellow: Nature’s Colours

I had no idea what the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool is, so I did a little online search and found out that there isn’t a scientific difference. However, in common parlance a mushroom is what’s edible and a toadstool is what’s poisonous.

I see mushrooms in my garden from time to time, but I had never seen one like this before…

I did a little online search, but haven’t yet been able to identify this yellow mushroom toadstool, growing on a block of wood from the trunk of the shower of gold tree (Cassia fistula) that fell down when Hurricane Sandy hit Jamaica. That was on October 24, 2012, almost 8 years ago. The blossoms of that shower of gold tree were, as the name suggests, a very bright yellow! This little toadstool is a paler shade…


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New NIDS Bill to be Tabled in Parliament Shortly…and be Passed by Year End?

At the first session of the new Parliament on September 29, 2020, Prime Minister Holness made a statement about the National Identification System (NIDS) and laid out the timetable in which he hopes to see the new NIDS Bill passed into law. With legislation that will have such far-reaching impact and which has already been the subject of much controversy, it is important that adequate time is allowed for public review of the Bill before it becomes law.  I am concerned that the timetable laid out by the Prime Minister may not allow sufficient time for this much-needed public review.

In his statement in Parliament, PM Holness said that the draft Bill had been completed and was before the Legislative Committee (of Cabinet) and that it would be tabled in Parliament before the end of October. A Joint Select Committee of Parliament would then be established and it was his hope that the Bill would be passed by the end of the year.

In too many instances over the decades, the deadline given by Joint Select Committees for submissions hasn’t allowed adequate time for interested groups and individuals to review and analyse the draft legislation and prepare submissions. In the current situation, if the new NIDS Bill is tabled within the next two weeks, there would be only 7 to 9 weeks for the entire process to take place, if the Bill is to be passed into law before the end of December. That is,

  • for the Joint Select Committee (JSC) to be established to consider the Bill and make a call for submissions;
  • for the public to review the Bill and make submissions and appear before the Committee, if asked;
  • for the Committee to undergo its own deliberations, considering any submissions, and write and table its report to Parliament;
  • for both Houses of Parliament to consider the report and its recommendations and debate the Bill and pass it.

It may be that once the new Bill is tabled, it will have been so carefully drafted and will have addressed the concerns raised in the judgment of the Constitutional Court which struck down the old Act, and will have taken into consideration many of the concerns raised by the public prior to the passage of the old Act, that there will be few new or remaining concerns to be dealt with. But until we see the new Bill we will not know.

We can read the new NIDS policy that was published in April. We can read or listen to the PM’s statement to Parliament in September. But until the Bill is tabled, we will not know what it actually says and, to use the cliché, the devil is always in the details.

So, for example, the new policy and the PM have said that enrolment in the NIDS will now be voluntary, but how is this addressed in the Bill? Could a situation arise in which government or private sector entities could make the presentation of a NIDS card or number mandatory to access service, so that enrolling in NIDS becomes mandatory in fact or practice, if not in law? Need for discussion before passage into law?

Let’s not have a repeat of the previous experience where a self-imposed deadline drives the process by which the legislation goes through the Parliament. And whereas I agree with the PM that the process shouldn’t be boundless, it needs to be realistic in its allowance for genuine consultation and discussion. This allowance for adequate time before passage of the legislation may indeed forestall problems after its passage, as well as simply being in accord with good governance practices.

(Just to note that the PM spoke about a space on the NIDS website that will allow for public comments about the new Bill. This raises the need for other forums for public information and input before the Bill is passed.)

Relevant Documents

PBCJ recording of Sitting of House, September 29, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axnFC1Xet48

“…we intend to have the Bill through the Legislative Committee before the end of October. The Bill will come back to this House and out of an abundance of caution, I can state here that it will go to a Joint Select Committee, so that there is no opportunity for unnecessary delays and that if there are issues that arise in the traditional way, we deal with it in the Committee. And the public can have their say. At, you know, I don’t want to determine the Parliamentary process but one would expect that the process is not unlimited. There must be some bound to it. And therefore we would like before the end of the year, this year, that we should be seeking to pass the Bill into law. Madam Speaker, once the Bill is tabled in Parliament, as I said, we will have a Joint Select Committee to navigate it through the Parliament and we hope that the deliberations will proceed apace.” 

PM Holness’ comment re new NIDS Bill timeline – Transcribed from PBCJ recording of Sitting of the House, September 29, 2020


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 14 – Dated October 6, 2020

The Gazette of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 14 was posted online this morning. A copy of the order is posted below:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the new and amended measures contained in this order in Parliament last week Tuesday (October 6, 2020). That the Gazette was posted on the governement website a week later is problematic, but it is the pattern that has prevailed throughout the many months since these Orders have been used. Perhaps we are meant to be grateful that the gazetted orders are posted on the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health & Wellness (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page) websites, albeit some time after the measures are announced, as initially they were not posted online by the government at all.


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Documents Regarding Covid-19 and Public Holiday Curfews: A Short Access to Information Story

On September 15, 2020, I sent the following Access to information request to both the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) and the Office of the Cabinet (CO):

“I would like to make a request for the following information under the Access to Information Act:

1) Documents containing information regarding the use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Easter public holidays April 2020

2) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Labour Day public holidays May  2020

3) Documents containing information regarding use of curfews as a measure to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission during Emancipation and Independence public holidays August 2020
These documents could be dated prior to or after the relevant public holidays.”

I received an acknowledgement from the MOHW on September 17, 2020…

“This acknowledges receipt of your Access to Information requesting documents as detailed in bullets 1-3 below.  

Please be advised that we have started the necessay research and will revert to you as soon as possible within the timelines of the Access to Information Act 2002.”  

…and a subsequent phone call to clarify the information that I was seeking.

On September 21, 2020, I received the following acknowledgement of my request from CO:

On October 7, 2020, I received this response from MOHW, indicating that no documents relevant to my request were found:

Today, October 9, 2020, I received this response from CO indicated that no documents related to my request were located:

I just want to note that this response does not indicate that there are documents containing this information, but that they are exempt because of being Cabinet documents as set out in Section 15 of the Access to Information Act.

So, there are no documents in the possession of either the Ministry of Health & Wellness or the Office of the Cabinet that contain information about the use of curfews as a measure to reduce the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 during the Easter, Labour Day or Emancipation and Independence public holidays this year. Documents dated either before or after these public holidays.

Increased curfew hours have been announced for the upcoming Heroes’ Day public holiday. I wonder if any documents containing information about this exist at the Ministry or the Cabinet Office?


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Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Statement in Parliament: October 6, 2020

In Parliament this afternoon (October 6, 2020), Prime Minister Andrew Holness made a statement about the current situation concerning Covid-19 in Jamaica and announced a number of changes to the measures pertaining to the management of the pandemic. These measures will be found in the Disaster Risk Management Order No.14, which is not yet available. Some of the measures went into effect at 6pm this evening; others go into effect tomorrow.

Below is the text of the Prime Minister’s statement and I have also included a link to the recording of today’s sitting of the House.

Two areas will have additional measures imposed because of a spike in the number of cases of Covid-19 that have been reported. They are Whitfield Town in Kingston and Waterford in St Catherine. The boundaries of the communities are given below:

The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) recording of today’s sitting of the House can be found at this link and allows for the checking of the text of the PM’s statement against delivery.