Right Steps & Poui Trees


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National Identification & Registration (#NIDS) Bill: Senate’s 168 Amendments

Last week Monday, November 13, 2017, the Senate passed the National Identification & Registration Bill with 168 amendments. This was the second day on which the Senate had held a marathon session regarding this piece of legislation, the first session being the previous Friday. It is intended that the Bill, commonly referred to as the NIDS Bill, will go back to the Lower House for passage quickly, possibly this week.

At the time of publishing this blog post, the version of the NIDS Bill that is on Parliament’s website is the version that was passed in the Lower House on September 19, 2017, including the 100 plus amendments made there. The version of the Bill with the Senate amendments has not yet been posted, though I hope it will be before the Bill returns to the Lower House.

If you wish to know what the current status of the Bill is, here is a list of the Senate amendments obtained from Parliament: NIDS amendments blog picAmendments moved to the National Identification and Registration Act 2017 by the Senate which can be read in conjunction withNIDS Bill from Lower House blog pic the version of the NIDS Bill currently on Parliament’s website.

UPDATE – November 21, 2017: During an online Twitter/Facebook Town Hall about the NIDS yesterday, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, who piloted the Bill through the Senate, confirmed that the Bill would be tabled in the Lower House today with the intention of passing it today. She said that once the Bill was tabled, the updated version would be posted on Parliament’s website. What this effectively means is that the public will not have an opportunity to review the Bill with the Senate amendments before it is passed into law.

The timing for passage of the Bill was also confirmed in a tweet from PM Holness’ account. (Note that although the time on the tweet here says 1:28 PM, it actually was about 4:30 PM when the tweet was sent.)PM Holness NIDS tweet 21-11-17

 

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Note-Taking in the Visitors’ Gallery in Parliament: 2002…Yes! 2017…No?

Last week Friday (November 10, 2017) I went to Gordon House to observe the continuation of the Senate’s deliberations on the National Identification & Registration (NIDS) Bill.

Gordon HouseWhen I reached the entrance to the Parliament building, a police woman was conducting a search of women’s handbags. I placed my handbag on the table and then was told, as others were before and after me, that note-taking wasn’t allowed in the Visitors’ Gallery and that I would have to leave my papers downstairs if I wanted to go up to the Gallery. The large envelope of papers I was carrying included not only my notebook, but also my copy of the Bill being debated, the Amendments List tabled in the Senate the Friday before and other documents about amendments that we hoped would be made.

I was very annoyed and expressed my annoyance loudly. In exchanges with the police personnel and with the Marshal, I indicated that the rule against note-taking had been challenged years ago and had been changed to allow people in the Gallery to take notes. I was informed that it had been revised last year, that note-taking was now banned and could only take place with the permission of the President of the Senate. Another member of the public and I decided to remain downstairs while the Marshal went to see if we would be allowed in with our papers.

While we waited, we saw Senator K.D. Knight entering and approached him and informed him of what we had been told. He said he would check to see what was happening.

Not long afterwards, the Marshal returned and indicated that we could go up to the Gallery, which we did, taking our papers and notebooks with us. A number of colleagues who entered after I did relayed similar accounts of being told they couldn’t take notes and one had had to leave his papers downstairs.

Later on, prior to starting his presentation on the NIDS Bill, Senator Knight raised the matter of people being told they couldn’t take notes in the Gallery. The President of the Senate, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, responded saying that he wasn’t clear what the origin of this no note-taking rule was, that it apparently required his permission for notes to be taken and that he was giving his carte blanche permission in that regard. His decision was a much appreciated one.

The reasons for my frustration and annoyance were twofold. Firstly, a rule against note-taking in the Gallery makes no sense. It is hard to see any logical reason for it. Members of the media are allowed to take notes. The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) broadcasts the proceedings live, including streaming on the internet. What is the danger that is being protected against?

The other reason for my frustration is that in 2002 – fifteen years ago – Jamaicans for Justice (of which I was and still am a member), Transparency International (JA) and the Farquharson Institute wrote to Parliament asking for a meeting to discuss the no note-taking convention, which we felt should be repealed. We wrote to the Clerk of the House on March 28, 2002 and received a reply on June 13, 2002, indicating that in the interim a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee of the House had discussed the issue, had decided that the convention should be abolished and that a motion to this effect had been put to the House on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 and had been agreed to.

The Minutes of the Meeting of the Standing Orders Committee Held on May 28, 2002 at 2:20 P.M. ( Standing Orders Committee Minutes May 28 2002 ) say the following:Standing Order Committee minutes 28 May 2002

The Report of the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives on Its Deliberations on Proposed Amendment to Standing Order No.65 and the Matter of Note Taking in Parliament ( Standing Orders Committee Report June 4 2002 ) says the following:Standing Orders Committee report June 4 2002

The Hansard Report for the Sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 ( Hansard – House of Representatives June 11 2002 pp 626-643) contains the following record of the motion put by Dr Peter Phillips, then Leader of Government Business:

Hansard June 11 2002 aHansard June 11 2002 bHansard June 11 2002c

In 2002, the Government and Opposition members were in agreement that members of the public should be allowed to take notes in the Gallery. By their response to Senator Tavares-Finson’s decision, Government and Opposition Senators seemed to agree last Friday.

A number of us intend to follow up to find out why the no-note taking convention is once again in effect and to ask that it be removed…again. Hopefully, the problem will be quickly corrected.

(As a member and representative of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice, I worked on this issue when it first arose. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)

 


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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