Right Steps & Poui Trees


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How Often Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2017 – 2018? Do You Care?

Last week Thursday (February 15, 2018) saw the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament for the new Parliamentary year, with all the attendant pageantry. Opening of Parliament 2018 - Gordon House

This included the usual walk on Duke Street by Government and Opposition Members of Parliament, as they entered Gordon House for the first time for the 2018 – 2019 Parliamentary year.

The new year is always a good time to reflect on the performance of Parliament and its members in the past year. One easily tallied and basic marker is attendance. This is a very limited marker admittedly. It indicates nothing about other basic markers such as punctuality or length of stay at each sitting; it doesn’t indicate participation in debates or voting record. It doesn’t indicate whether or not MPs attended meetings of any Committees they were members of and whether they contributed anything useful during those meetings. There are many other aspects to an MP’s performance in Parliament. But attendance is a good starting point. So as I have for the past two years, I have compiled the attendance record for MPs and posted them on my blog.

TABLE SHOWING COMPILED ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT 2017 – 2018 (link to pdf document)

2017-2018 Attendance in Parliament a2017-2018 Attendance in Parliament b

You can also access the actual records I got from Parliament, from which I compiled my table: ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT 2017 – 2018

There were 47 sittings of the House of Representatives in 2017 – 2018, including the Ceremonial Opening and the special sitting to honour retiring MP and former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. This is an increase over the 41 sittings in 2016 – 2017, though that was a shorter year, beginning in March 2016 after the General Election that February. Four MPs attended all 47 sittings – Dave Hume Brown, Delroy Chuck, Morais Guy and Franklin Witter. It is interesting to note that MP Ian Hayles, who had the worst attendance record last year (having attended only 19 of the 41 sittings), improved his record this year, having attended 36 of the 47 sittings. And despite the requirement in 81(1) of the Standing Orders for the House of Representatives that MPs give apologies for their absences, very few seem to do so, according to these records.

81. Absence of Members – (1) Any member who is prevented from attending a meeting of the House shall acquaint the Speaker as early as possible of his inability to attend, such notices to be in writing.

Do you care, however, if your MP attends Parliament? Or do you think it doesn’t much matter? One way or the other, you can – if you want to – check to see what their record was for last year.

Related Posts

How Often Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2016 – 2017?

How Many Times Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2015?

 

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Voluntary? Not Anymore: National Identification & Registration Bill Enrolment Amendment

 

One of the things that has been said repeatedly in discussions and presentations about Jamaica’s pending National Identification System is that it wasn’t going to be a mandatory system. Yes, people would need a National Identification Card (NIC) or National Identification Number (NIN) for all transactions with the Government and its agencies. Yes, many private entities might require a NIC or NIN from someone in order to do business with them. You might end up not being able to function in the society if you did not have a NIC or a NIN, but there was no offence or penalty in the Bill for not having a NIC or a NIN.

But that has changed.

On September 19, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the National Identification and Registration Bill, with approximately 100 amendments. Two of those amendments were to Clause 20 in PART IV of the Bill, which deals with Enrolment. Clause 20 deals with “Enrolment of registrable individuals” and two new subclauses were added to the Bill:

NIDS Bill Clause 20 amendments

The penalty referred to in the Fourth Schedule is as follows:NIDS Bill 4th Schedule Clause 20(9) offence

So if someone doesn’t apply to enrol in the National Identification System, without reasonable cause, they will have committed an offence in law and will be liable to a fine of up to $100,000.

So much for persuasion via public education regarding the benefits of the system or coercion via exclusion from being able to interact with public or private entities. It is now made explicit. Enrolment will be mandatory.

A number of significant changes addressing some of the specific problematic aspects of this new piece of legislation have been made to the Bill since it was first tabled in Parliament on March 21 this year. Many problematic issues remain. The Bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

NIDS Bill title picThe current version of the National Identification and Registration Bill

 

 


Making Haste: Joint Select Committee & Special Zones of Operations Act

This afternoon (June 13, 2017), the Joint Select Committee of Parliament considering The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 had its first sitting. It was a short, preliminary meeting primarily intended to set out how the Committee will proceed.

Delroy Chuck 2Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck is chairing the Committee and reminded that the Bill had been tabled in the House by Prime Minister Holness during his Budget Debate presentation on March 21, 2017. He noted that this Bill is one of the measures intended to deal with the high level of violent crime in the country and made reference to the quadruple murder that had taken place in the parish of Hanover this morning. He indicated that the Prime Minister had asked that the Committee complete its deliberations by the end of June. This means that the Committee has about two weeks in which to conduct its process and report back to Parliament; by the first week in July, at the latest, Minister Chuck said.

The Committee has asked that advertisements be placed in the media this week, inviting individuals and organizations to make written submissions on the Bill to Parliament, with a possible deadline for submission by next week Tuesday.  They will also write to a number of specific organizations inviting them to make submissions; among those mentioned were the Jamaica Bar Association, the Advocates Association, the Public Defender, Jamaicans for Justice, the Norman Manley Law School and the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology. Individuals and organizations which make written submissions may be asked to make presentations in the Chamber, which will need to take place next week or the week after that.

Dates for three meetings of the Committee were set today, though these may change, as sometimes happens:

  • Wednesday, June 21 – 9 a.m.
  • Tuesday, June 27 – 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 28 – 2 p.m.

It is hoped that all contributions can be concluded by the end of these three meetings, after which the Committee will do a clause-by-clause review of the Bill before finalising their report to Parliament.

Minster Chuck said that Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte will be attending the meetings of the Committee and the next meeting will begin with the Attorney General giving an outline of the Bill. He also said that the National Security Advisor and representatives of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force will be invited to attend the meetings.

I am not sure of the full membership of the Joint Select Committee, but present today were MPs Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Evon Redman and Floyd Green and Senator Pearnel Charles, Jr. Apologies were tendered for MP Peter Bunting and Senators Mark Golding and Ransford Braham. (Marlene Malahoo Forte was present in her capacity as Attorney General, from Minister Chuck’s comments.)

The Committee is attempting to complete its work in a very short period, with very limited notice to the public for submissions, which may jeopardize the “closer scrutiny of the Parliament in a joint select committee” contemplated by the Prime Minister when he tabled the Bill.

Previous blog post in which I raised questions & concerns about the Bill: Yes, You Do Get to Ask Questions About the Zones of Special Operations Act


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Parliament: Weekly Photo Challenge – Order

“This week, share your take on order, whether literal, figurative, or anything in between (and sure — showing it next to a healthy dose of messiness is fine, too). From library stacks to sock drawers and from ancient temples to modern train stations, let your inner disciplinarian take over.”

The Chamber in our Parliament at Gordon House can seem so orderly when it’s empty.P1150409The Speaker of the House has the responsibility to ensure that Members of Parliament observe the rules of order of the House.  P1150419Copies of laws – in weighty tomes – sit in the Chamber, a reminder of the general need for law and order….P1150427

Weekly Photo Challenge – Order


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Inside Looking Out: Weekly Photo Challenge – Heritage

‘This week, share a photo of something that says “heritage” to you.’

Normally I see Jamaica House – the office of the Prime Minister – from the outside looking in. Recently, I attended a meeting there and took this photo when I was leaving…standing at the entrance, looking out.P1140626

Around were the signs of activity associated with maintaining this government property, built after Independence in 1962. Mowing the lawns…

P1140633

…installing a new fridge….P1140637

The building itself isn’t a particular favourite of mine, but the more than 50 years of Jamaican Independence are an essential part of what “heritage” means to me.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Heritage


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DNA? No Way! – More on The National Identification & Registration Act, 2017

A March 27, 2017 Jamaica Information Service (JIS) report titled National Identification System Will Be Game Changer – Chuck quotes Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck saying:JIS Min Chuck re natl id 27-3-17

The National Legislation and Registration Act, 2017 has been tabled in Parliament but hasn’t yet been passed. Minister Chuck’s reported statements to a police gathering in St Ann raise a number of concerns, one of which is his inclusion of DNA as one of the biometric identifiers to be included in the National Identification System.

When I wrote a blog post about the legislation last week, I had not seen the report of Minister Chuck’s speech, and I referred to the inclusion of DNA as an alarming future possibility:

So at some point in the future, a Prime Minister could decide to amend the Third Schedule to include DNA as one of the biometric identifiers the Government would have the power to collect from every Jamaican citizen for storage in the database.

It is disturbing that the Minister of Justice sees the inclusion as a welcome current reality, rather than a problematic future possibility! Particularly since the Bill tabled in Parliament in March makes no mention of DNA, except the following in the Sixth Schedule, which deals with Amendments and Repeal of other Acts to be done in association with the new legislation:NIDS Bill - DNA Evidence Act amendment

DNA is not included in the Third Schedule, which lists the wide-ranging information the State will be empowered to collect from every Jamaican citizen for storage in a central database, nor is it included in the definitions of biometric information or core biometric information in the Interpretation section of the Act:NIDS Bill - biometric infoNIDS Bill - core biometric info

However, it would be quite easy to add DNA to the list in the legislation as currently drafted. The regulations have not yet been drafted or made public, and when they are, DNA could be included. Regulations are subject to affirmative resolution – 57(2). Additionally, Section 58 empowers the Prime Minister to amend the Schedules of the Act, including Schedule Three, which would be an even easier method for including DNA.NIDS Bill Section 58

So, I ask the question: Does the Government intend to include DNA as one of the biometric identifiers to be collected for use in the National Identification System? If it does intend to collect DNA, then this should be made clear prior to passage of the Act. If it does not intend to collect DNA, then a specific prohibition needs to be included in the legislation, as has been done for some demographic information:NIDS Bill - demographic info

I have focussed on DNA in this post, given that it is the most extreme suggestion for collection and it has been mentioned by the Minister of Justice. I think, however, that ALL biographical, biometric and demographic information listed in the proposed legislation need to be reviewed and carefully considered before the Act is passed.

Other Questions About the Act Highlighted in JIS Report

The JIS report includes the following:JIS Chuck re Natl ID 27-3-17 banks

This points to the issues of

  • who will be entitled to request or demand the National Identity Number and/or National Identity Card from an individual,
  • under what circumstances such a request or demand can be made,
  • what right an individual will have to refuse such a request or demand and
  • what the consequences of such a refusal will be.

These need to be clearly understood before the Bill is passed into law.

For example, it is stated in the Bill that:NIDS Bill Section 41

This indicates that both public sector and private sector entities will have the power in law to request or demand that an individual provides their National Identification Number or National Identification Card and the individual will be required in law to produce it. (So you could go to the hardware store to buy a tin of paint and be required in law to produce your identity card if asked for it?)

How does this apply to requests or demands by the police? The JIS report states:JIS Chuck re Natl ID 27-3-17 police stop 2

The Bill is silent on any requirement that an individual must carry their National Identification Card at all times. Is it intended that this be included in regulations? Will the police be empowered in law to require someone to produce their National Identification Card? And if so, under what circumstances? As part of a “routine stop”? Only where there is reasonable suspicion of involvement in some criminal offence, committed or imminent? And what is contemplated as the consequence if someone doesn’t have their National Identification Card on them? Would that become grounds for detention? And if people are going to be required to carry their National Identufication Cards with them at all times, at what age would that requirement begin? And would it be all the BIOMETRIC data that would become available on swiping the card in the scenario above?

In another scenario presented by Minister Chuck, the police would have easy access to the fingerprints stored in the centralised database:JIS Chuck re Natl ID 27-3-17 access to fingerprints

This is a misleading portrayal of the process for the police to gain access to fingerprints or whatever core biometric information is eventually stored in the central database. It goes beyond “a quick check with the National Identification System headquarters”. In the Bill tabled the process is far more complex, as it should be given the sensitive nature of individuals’ biometric information. The process is set out in Section 45 of the Act and involves an application to the court and the criteria that a Judge must consider in granting the order for release of the information to the police.

The report ends with reassurances from the Minister:JIS Chuck re Natl ID 27-3-17 focus on crime applications

The security of any information stored in the centralised database is of critical importance. Is there a need for some minimum standards to be included in the legislation?

If you read through the National Legislation and Registration Act, 2017 in its current draft, you would not see the strong emphasis on its use as a crime fighting tool. It is presented primarily as a means for identification in accessing goods and services. This is one of the reasons for scrutiny at the level of a Joint Select Committee and clarification for the public. What are the implications (intended or unintended) of the provisions of the proposed legislation? What are the risks? What is the potential for erosion of rights and abuse by the State?

I am fully aware of the potential for inaccuracies and incompleteness in reports of events and speeches, but if the JIS report is an accurate one, then I am disappointed in Minister Chuck, because he is one of the people I would look to for strong scrutiny of the Act for potential breaches of rights and to lead discussion in that regard.

With or without this JIS report of the Minister’s speech, these are issues for consideration prior to passage of the Act. There are others that I will also raise in future posts.

 


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Does the National Identification & Registration Act Go Too Far?

This is the second weekend in a row that I have spent some time reading through a Bill recently tabled in the Parliament. This time it was the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017, tabled by Prime Minister Holness during his Budget Debate contribution in March. NIDS Bill title

In tabling the Bill, PM Holness said:

This Bill is consistent with a rights-based approach to ensuring that every citizen of Jamaica can be identified and known to the state, so that their rights and entitlements can be preserved and planned for in advance. This will create a tremendous public good by reducing transaction time and cost.

Mr. Speaker, the Registrar General Department will be transformed into the National Identification and Registration Authority and will be responsible for implementing the project. Funding for the project is being negotiated through the IDB and a detailed work plan is already prepared. We expect to be piloting the project in September next year.

From Contribution to the 2017/18 Budget Debate by PM Andrew Holness

Having read through the Bill, I certainly think that it needs to be considered by a Joint Select Committee to benefit from “the closer scrutiny of the Parliament”, as PM Holness said in relation to the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act.

The Act will establish the National and Civil Identification Database and will empower the Government to collect a variety of biographic and biometric information about each citizen of Jamaica and other individuals who are ordinarily resident in Jamaica. The range of information is set out in the Third Schedule of the Act:

NIDS Bill data aNIDS Bill data bNIDS Bill data cNIDS Bill data d

This isn’t even the final list, as the definitions of both “biographic information” and “biometric information” in the Interpretation section of the Act allow for additional data to be included in the Regulations, by referring respectively to “and such other information as may be specified in the regulations” & “or such other biological attribute of the individual as may be specified in the regulations”. The Regulations referred to haven’t yet been drafted or made public, so there is no way of knowing at this point what they might include in the first instance or in the future. (In fact, in more than a dozen places in the Bill, further details are relegated to the Regulations, in some instances leaving me feeling that the country is being asked to sign a contract now and find out the details later. With the devil so often lying in the details, perhaps the Regulations need to be brought to Parliament alongside the Bill or the details need to be included in the Bill itself.)

It is also important to note that Section 58 of the Act gives the power to the designated Minister (who is the Prime Minister in this Act) to amend Schedules: NIDS Bill Section 58

So at some point in the future, a Prime Minister could decide to amend the Third Schedule to include DNA as one of the biometric identifiers the Government would have the power to collect from every Jamaican citizen for storage in the database.

But without going to future possibilities, a look at the existing list includes items that need to be deleted. For example, A 9. The religion of the individual. Why would it be necessary for the Jamaican Government to inquire into, collect, record and store in a permanent database the religion of every citizen of Jamaica? Other items among the biographical information need to be similarly questioned.

The biometric information is of particular concern, as one can hardly get more intrusive of a person’s privacy than to collect such data. Each of those items from A 22 – 33 needs to be carefully reconsidered. The Government will seek to reassure that the data will be secured and protected and only accessed under certain circumstances. I think it needs to be questioned whether by the simple fact of your being born in Jamaica, an act in which you have no choice whatsoever, the Government should have the power in law to collect all this biometric information from you.

There are other aspects of the Bill that need to be carefully considered and I plan to do further posts on this. At the core of the legislation, however, is the information the Government intends to collect about each citizen and so this is a good place to begin.