Posted below is the Bill to amend the Disaster Risk Management Act that has been tabled in Parliament.
And here is a copy of the Disaster Risk Management Act, 2015
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,
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.)
PBCJ recording of Sitting of House, September 29, 2020
“…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
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.
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.
House of Representatives Sitting on July 28, 2020.
The Prime Minster’s statement begins at approx 3:42:35 of the recording.
In 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.
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…
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.)
Text of Minister Chuck’s Opening Statement in Debate on INDECOM Act Amendment Motion
Report of Joint Select Committee Reviewing the INDECOM Act – Tabled in Parliament 2015
Recent post by Jamaicans for Justice on proposed amendments to the INDECOM Act
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.
On January 24, 2020, Mr Noel Chambers died in the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre.
On June 2, 2020, the public was made aware of Mr Chambers’ death when the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) released its First Quarterly Report for 2020 at a digital press conference. The details given about Mr Chambers’ incarceration and death were horrifying and outraged the country.
“At the time of his death Mr. Chambers was 81 years old. He was incarcerated on February 4, 1980 and had been in prison for 40 years without being tried. He was being held at the Governor General’s pleasure, deemed unfit to plead to a charge of murder. Therefore he was being held in custody without being convicted for an offence….
At the time of his death he was in a deplorable physical condition. His clothing was filthy and his body showed evidence of chronic emaciation. He was covered with what appeared to be vermin bites, live bedbugs (‘chink’) and he showed signs of having bed sores.”
(p. 5, INDECOM First Quarterly Report 2020)
In the days following news of Mr Chambers’ death, we were told that more details regarding the circumstances surrounding his death and the government’s response would be given when Minister of National Security Horace Chang gave a statement in Parliament. The Department of Correctional Services, which manages the prisons, falls under the Ministry of National Security.
On June 16, 2020, Minister Chang gave a statement in Parliament. This is the text of the statement…
…and this is a link to the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica’s (PBCJ) recording of the sitting of the House of Representatives that day. Minister Chang’s statement about the death of Mr Chambers begins at approximately 23:30 in the recording.
I have a number of concerns arising out of this statement, but the one I want to focus on here is the audit announced in Paragraph 4 of Minister Chang’s statement:
Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Chambers has been commissioned. This audit is expected to not only reveal the circumstances specific to his death but also to thoroughly examine the procedures involved in the treatment of inmates who are deemed unfit to plead. In the interim, I wish to outline the details of preliminary findings from the special investigation undertaken by the Department of Correctional Services.
“…a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Chambers has been commissioned.” This is what the Parliament was told and by extension the country as a whole. This is put forward as a major mechanism for uncovering the details surrounding Mr Chambers’ death, for accountability and for recommending changes in the systems that allowed for his incarceration and death.
“…a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Chambers has been commissioned.”
If the answers to these questions are not made public, it will be difficult – if not impossible – for the public to hold the government accountable for this process and any subsequent action.
One reason why greater transparency is absolutely necessary is that this audit process may be being carried out by entities and/or individuals responsible for the circumstances that led to Mr Chambers’ incarceration and death.
More information is necessary, Minister Chang.
We need to remember that it wasn’t the Ministry of National Security that brought Mr Chambers’ death to public attention. Without INDECOM’s report, we would not have known.
Three reports from the Integrity Commission were tabled in Parliament today, June 30 2020. Two are special reports of the Commissions investigations into allegations regarding the functioning of Petrojam Limited; the third is the Annual Report of the Integrity Commission for 2019/2020. The point of this post is simply to make these reports more widely available.
A new Disaster Risk Management Order setting out measures to deal with Covid-19 in Jamaica has been gazetted. I have posted a copy here:
The Gazetted Order is available online on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website.
The Prime Minister announced the measures at a press briefing on Monday evening (April 20, 2020). The draft order was the subject of discussion in Parliament late into the night on Tuesday (April 21, 2020) and was subsequently gazetted. The gazetted order is dated April 21, which does raise the question of whether it was gazetted that night before midnight, or whether it was actually gazetted the following day (April 22) and back-dated. And whether that matters or not…
This is a link to the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica’s (PBCJ) recording of that sitting of Parliament. Prime Minister Holness’ statement regarding Order No. 4 begins at about 4:16:30 in the video.
So far I have found only one government website that has posted a copy of any of the gazetted orders issued by the Government of Jamaica in the past month to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe that this is unacceptable, when these orders are the legal documents setting out the many measures that have been implemented to deal with the serious public health threat posed by this new virus. Although details of the measures have been publicised in different ways by the government, the gazetted orders ought to be clearly posted online as soon as they have been Gazetted. I do not understand why this is not being done, despite the need having been pointed out to members of the Government for weeks.
In Parliament after 7 o’clock tonight (April 15, 2020), Prime Minister Holness stated that the order he broadcast yesterday, implementing a lockdown of the parish of St Catherine, has not yet been gazetted. He says that he is presenting the order in Parliament to allow for discussion and possible amendment before gazetting. (Once I obtain a gazetted copy of the order, I will share it.)
In the meantime, I am posting copies of all but one of the Gazetted orders made between March 16, 2020 and April 8, 2020 here on my blog and I thank the Twitter follower who shared them with me. (One caution. I think that these are all of the orders, but I am not absolutely sure, as there is nowhere on any government website that a list or copies of the orders has been posted. Not a good situation for the public.)
The gazetted orders are posted below in chronological order.
The April 8, 2020 order is the only one of the gazetted orders that I have found on a government website. It is on the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ Covid-19 page on the Ministry’s website.
This order came into effect on March 31, 2020, but I do not have a gazetted copy of it. This copy is posted on Parliament’s website, along with other non-gazetted copies of some of the other orders.