Right Steps & Poui Trees


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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.


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 13 – Dated September 23, 2020

The Gazette of the most recent Disaster Risk Management Order is now available and I have posted a copy below. Prime Minister Holness announced the new or amended measures at a press conference on Tuesday (September 22, 2020).

Checks this afternoon of the ususal Ministry of Justice and Office of the Prime Minister’s websites showed that the Gazette of the new Order was not posted there, but the Ministry of Health & Wellness tweeted out a link to Order No. 13 on its website, which was a surprise.


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 12 – Dated September 8, 2020

The Gazette of the Disaster Risk Management Order No. 12, which contains the changes announced by PM Holness on September 7, 2020, is now available.

The Gazetted copy of the Order has been posted on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11 Amendments No. 3 & No. 4 – Dated August 27 & 30, 2020

These are the two most recent amendments to Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures)  (No. 11) Order, 2020, which is the current order in force.

Disaster Risk Management Order 11 Amendment 3 cover page

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2020 – August 27 2020

Amendment No. 4 contains the protocols governing the access to voting for Election Day (September 3, 2020) for people in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19.

Disaster Risk Management Order No 11 Amendment 4 cover

Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) (Amendment) (No. 4) Order, 2020 – August 30 2020

 


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Two Amendments to Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11 – Dated August 5 & 18, 2020

There are two amendments to Disaster Risk Management No. 11 Order, one dated August 5, 2020 & the other dated August 18, 2020. Here are copies of the gazetted amendments:

Disaster Risk Management No. 11 Order Amendment Aug 5 2020

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) (Amendment) Order 2020 – August 5 2020

Disaster Risk Management Order No 11 Amendment 2 - Aug 18 2020

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order – August 18 2020

The first of these amendments is posted on both the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Prime Minister‘s website, but as of now the second amendment has not been posted.


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Disaster Risk Management Order No. 11 – Dated July 31, 2020

The Gazette of the Disaster Risk Management (Emergency Measures) (No. 11) Order, 2020 is available. It contains measures announced by Prime Minster Holness in Parliament on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Many of the measures will expire on September 30, 2020, unless amended prior to that date.

Disaster Risk Management Order No 11 cover blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 11) Order, 2020 – July 31, 2020

Order No. 11 is posted on the websites of the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Prime Minister.

House of Representatives Sitting on July 28, 2020.

The Prime Minster’s statement begins at approx 3:42:35 of the recording.

 


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Minister Chuck & the INDECOM Debate

PBCJ Sitting of House July 21 2020 - Minister ChuckIn Parliament on Tuesday (July 21, 2020), Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck opened the debate on his motion to amend the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010. In a presentation lasting less than ten minutes, he laid out the government’s position regarding the proposed amendments and the process to be followed to get there. No-one else spoke in the debate on Tuesday. Minister Chuck ended his statement saying that it was the intention that the debate should be concluded next week:

“Mr Speaker, I now ask for a suspension of the debate and hope that other Parliamentarians will see it appropriate to make their contributions next week when we hope to close the debate.”

I wonder who will speak next week and for how many minutes.

As Minister Chuck has indicated before, the Government is asking the Members of the House to support all the recommendations included in the 2015 report of the Joint Select Committee that reviewed the INDECOM Act, except the recommendation to give INDECOM the power to prosecute. JSC INDECOM Review power to prosecute

When Minister Chuck spoke about this recommendation on Tuesday,  he added “And I dare say, Mr Speaker, I was one of the strongest proponents of that view. ” The view that INDECOM needed the power to prosecute.

Minister Chuck’s change in position seems to be based primarily on the increased number of prosecutors at the Office of the DPP. He spoke generally about the increased numbers, and referred to an existing MOU between the Office of the DPP and INDECOM:

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that a MOU was arrived at in March 2018 between the ODPP and INDECOM whereby, among other things, two prosecutors were assigned specifically to liaise directly with and treat with INDECOM matters.  Indeed, if more prosecutors are needed to deal with INDECOM matters in a timely manner, I am assured by the DPP that one or more prosecutors can be so assigned.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 2

What he did not do was to provide any data on how that MOU has functioned. There was no data, for example, on the number of files INDECOM has sent to the ODPP each year; no data on how long it has taken for the ODPP to make decisions on the files sent; no data on the causes of any delays; no data on what decisions have been made (without identifying the individual cases themselves, but whether decisions were made to prosecute, to send to coroner’s court or for disciplinary proceeding or other options).

Beyond the Minister’s assurances, what would Members of Parliament (and members of the public) rely on to assess how the ODPP has managed the INDECOM files to date and will be able to manage them in the future?

Although the Minister didn’t specifically refer to the Joint Select Committee recommendation that INDECOM should clearly have the power to arrest and charge, this is not being supported by the Government either. (See Section 20, p. 10 of the report.) And Minister Chuck didn’t give the reasoning for this in his presentation.

Mr Chuck listed a number of additional amendments to be included and set out the intended process if the motion passes:

These recommendations plus others in the Report will be introduced in a Bill to amend the INDECOM Act and drafting instructions will accordingly be provided to OPC at the close of this debate and after further consideration by Cabinet.  I hope that the proposed amended Bill will be tabled in Parliament during this fiscal year.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 4

Next week is scheduled to be the last week before Parliament goes on its summer break. This debate is likely to be completed and the motion passed without much notice. And this will be a blow for police accountabilty measures in Jamaica. There will still be the opportunity to advocate for inclusion of these powers up until a new Bill is actually passed, although Minister Chuck has indicated the Government’s position.

INDECOM, under the leadership of its first Commissioner – Terrence Williams – has had a significant impact in its first ten years. I wonder what the next ten years will bring…

Related Documents

Motion Regarding Amendments to the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010 brought to the House on May 27, 2020, by Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck. (If I find a better copy of the motion, I will post it.)

Motion Regarding Amendments to Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2020 - Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck May 27 2020

Text of Minister Chuck’s Opening Statement in Debate on INDECOM Act Amendment Motion 

Minister Chuck's Opening Statement in INDECOM Act motion

MINISTER CHUCK’S OPENING PRESENTATION – INDECOM – Amendment to INDECOM Act – dated 17-7-2020 – delivered 22-7-2020

Report of Joint Select Committee Reviewing the INDECOM Act – Tabled in Parliament 2015

JFJ graphic

 

Recent post by Jamaicans for Justice on proposed amendments to the INDECOM Act

JFJ – Safeguard INDECOM’s Independence – Reform the INDECOM Act – 22-6-2020

PBCJ Recording of the Sitting of House of Representatives July 21, 2020 Minister Chuck’s statement begins at approximately 3:43:00 in the recording.