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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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. 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.

 

 

 

 


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The Death of Noel Chambers: “…a comprehensive audit…has been commissioned”

On January 24, 2020, Mr Noel Chambers died in the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre.

INDECOM 1st Quarterly Report 2020 - Noel Chambers - blog picOn 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…

Minister Chang statement re Noel Chambers blog pic

PARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT on death of Noel Chambers

…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.

PBCJ Min Chang Parliament 16-6-2020 Noel Chambers statement pic

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.”

  • Who commissioned the audit?
  • Who is carrying out the audit? What body? Which individuals?
  • What are the terms of reference of the audit?
  • What resources and powers have been granted for the carrying out of this audit?
  • What is the timeline for the completion of the audit?
  • To whom will the audit report be sent once it is completed?
  • Will the audit report be tabled in Parliament? Will it be made public?

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.

 

 

 

 


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Integrity Commission Petrojam Reports Tabled in Parliament

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.

Integrity Commission Petrojam Report 1

REDACTED 2 – IC Petrojam Investigation – Recruitment and Parties October 18, 2019 final

Integrity Commission Petrojam Report 2

REDACTED -IC Petrojam Investigation – Donations October 2019 final

Integrity Commission Annual Report 2019-2020

Integrity Commission – Annual Report 2019-2020

 

 


Jamaica’s Gazetted #COVID19 Order No. 4: April 21, 2020

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:

 

gazetted covid-19 Order No. 4 21-4-2020 blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 4) Order, 2020 – April 21, 2020

The Gazetted Order is available online on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website.

The OPM website Covid19 Order No 4 blog pic

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.


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Jamaica’s Gazetted #COVID19 Orders: March 16 – April 8, 2020

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.)Holness in Parliament 15-4-2020

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.

March 16, 2020

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order, 2020 March 16 2020 front page

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order – March 16, 2020

March 24, 2020

Covid- 19 gazetted order March 24 blog pic

Disaster Risk Management Act (Enforcement Measures) (no. 2) Order, 2020 March 24 2020

March 25, 2020

Gazetted Covid-19 order March 25 blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2020 – March 25 2020

March 31, 2020

Covid gazetted order March 31 blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 2) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020 – March 31 2020

April 1, 2020

Gazetted covid order April 1 blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 2) (Amendment )(No. 3) Order 2020 – April 1, 2020

April 8, 2020

Gazetted Order Covid 19 April 8 2020 front page

Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 3) Order 2020

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.

 

The Trade (Sale of Goods During Period of Declaration of Disaster Area) Order, 2020 – March 31, 2020

Trade Act order March 31 2020 covid-19 blog pic

The Trade (Sale of Goods During Period of Declaration of Disaster Area) Order, 2020

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.Parliament Resolutions & orders 15-4-2020 blog pic

Related Documents

Disaster Risk management Act 2015 blog pic

The Disaster Risk Management Act, 2015

Horace Levy’s Letter to the Editor, Jamaica Observer, April 15, 2020 – Beware rule by edict! 

 


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Department of Dress Code Compliance Opens for Business

In case you missed this news item, I have posted the article below in full, as I wouldn’t want readers of this blog to be unaware of this important new public service!dress code portal headline highlighted

Public Encouraged to Make Use of New Dress Code Compliance Portal

Friday, September 13, 2019

The new Department of Dress Code Compliance (D²C²) is now open for business and is ready to assist the Jamaican people with a problem that has plagued the society for decades.

dress code portal sign

Not allowed at one Government Ministry. Portal will now provide clarity on what qualifies as short shorts & mini skirts. Also exactly how much or how little of “the Bosom” may be exposed.

Having missed the original launch deadline of April 1, 2019, due to unavoidable technical problems, the new agency (located on Constant Spring Road) now stands ready to help people navigate the complex maze of  dress code rules – written, unwritten, published, unpublished, public, secret and totally imaginary – that are part of life in Jamaica.

A centralized database has been established containing all dress codes for state institutions and institutions that receive public funding. Members of the public are now able to access the database using the online D²C² portal.

Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for public decorum, keeping up appearances and protection of civilization as we know it, Hon. Beidi Booke said, “Many people are frustrated when they turn up at government agencies, hospitals and courts and are denied access because of inappropriate attire. Now, using the D²C² portal, people can upload pictures of their clothes, shoes and jewelry and get pre-clearance before they even leave home. Think of the valuable man-hours, woman-hours and child-hours that can be saved with this new system.”

Minister Booke noted that partnerships have been forged with the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) to facilitate persons who do not have access to computers and may want to utilise the dress code portal. The Minister also pointed out the small business opportunities associated with assisting people to access the portal.

The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) has welcomed the launch of the new agency, having collaborated with D²C² on the design of the special Skoolaz Rules R Rules app. Students and parents will be able to download the app to their mobile phones and use it to upload photos to check uniform lengths, tightness of pants, hairstyles and more against the existing and soon-to-be-disclosed dress codes of any government assisted educational institution in Jamaica.

dress code portal - uniform

Use Skoolaz Rules R Rules app & avoid uniform length mishaps!

With the easy pre-clearance process, parents will no longer have to worry about wasted bus fares or their children’s safety as a result of being sent home from school because a uniform isn’t 6 inches above the ankle or 6 inches below the knee or because they have more than 4 bubbles in their hair.

dress code portal - nose ring

Small but dangerous nose rings pose threats to safety and decorum of our courts.

A member of the public outside the Supreme Court on King Street said she looked forward to using the portal. “Dem tell mi fren shi haffi tek out har nose ring fi guh eena di court. Wid dis system now, yu cyan tek pitcha of yu nose, yu aise, any part ah yu baddi fi dem pass it before yu reach.”

MP Everald Coolingdown has said the new portal will enable the public to easily comply with the dress code for parliament. “The standard has fallen to a very low level, where people walk into this House in anything they want. I have seen some situations here where people are in jeans and T-shirts in the gallery here. The only thing I don’t see them in is body blouse. Some of the things they wear in the gallery is totally unacceptable. People can use the new portal to check their sleeve length, their shoe style, their collar style. Pre-clearance will help to preserve the dignity of parliament and will allow for a smoother flow on busy days.”

Leader of Opposition Business MP Allswell welcomed the launch as a more streamlined method of implementing adherence to dress codes. He also pointed out that the previous administration had tabled a white paper on a dress code portal policy and had actually run pilot projects in three parishes utilising the Social Development Commission.

A public education programme will be rolled out shortly using the slogan for the new portal – Nuh Mek Dem Tun Yu Back! Pre-clearance for Better Adherence!Dress code portal family

 

 


Long-Awaited Joint Select Committee Report on Review of Sexual Offences & Other Acts

The long-awaited report from the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act was tabled in the Parliament yesterday, December 11, 2018.

The review of the four Acts had its origin in a Private Members Motion tabled by then Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith in 2013. A previous Committee began the review in 2014, but didn’t complete the review before the general elections in 2016. The new Committee began its deliberations in January 2017 and held nineteen meetings. More than thirty submissions were made by entities or individuals.

I have not yet read the report in detail, but am posting it on my blog to provide a copy for those who wish to read and consider it.

JSC report cover

                                                      (Click on link below)

Joint Select Committee Report – Review of Sexual Offences & Other Acts December 2018