Thu | Aug 22, 2019

PM triggers NIDS uproar with Portia-era T-shirts, posters

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:27 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness shows a poster which he said was produced by the former Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to promote the National identification System during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness shows a poster which he said was produced by the former Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to promote the National identification System during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday detailed to Parliament what he said was evidence that there was major spending on the National Identification System (NIDS) under the former People’s National Party administration led by Portia Simpson Miller.

Holness, who continued to answer questions raised by South East St Andrew Member of Parliament Julian Robinson on NIDS programme spending, sought to paint the Opposition as hypocrites.

The prime minister presented the Parliament with documents that showed there was a total spending of US$1,254,528.68 on the NIDS programme between 2012 and 2015.

“That expenditure was done to create posters for the National Identification System. This was done between 2012 and 2015,” Holness said as he held up a poster and a T-shirt, causing agitation on the opposition benches.

“They created T-shirts [and] promotional items for the NIDS. It was to pay for consultants, for travel to other countries that had NIDS, observer tours,” Holness added as he explained the Simpson Miller administration spend.

Holness also pulled parliamentary records detailing how then leader of government business in the House of Representatives, Dr Peter Phillips, in 2002 brought a resolution establishing a joint select committee of the Parliament to study a bill to set up the “National Registration Commission to oversee the administration of the system of compulsory registration and connected matters”.

Holness said he was making it absolutely clear that the previous administration had invested heavily in NIDS.

By then, fuming members sitting on the opposition benches refused bags containing shirts and posters which the prime minister brought to Parliament and were being distributed by orderlies as Holness doubled down on his claim that the items were produced in the last administration but were never put to use.

Turning to another issue surrounding the controversial NIDS, Holness insisted that at a meeting, it was Phillips who suggested that the system could not work without the mandatory enrolment.

Phillips confirmed that the meeting did take place, but he did not reject Holness’ claim that he was the one who suggested mandatory enrolment of individuals into the NIDS.

Instead, Phillips hit back at Holness and accused him of bringing a bad bill to Parliament.

He was adamant that the Opposition supported the objectives of NIDS.

The National Identification and Registration Act, which was expected to provide legs for NIDS, was recently struck down by the Supreme Court after a constitutional challenge was brought by PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson, claiming it infringed on citizens’ rights.

Major sticking points included the mandatory enrolment of individuals and the collection of biometrics, including fingerprints.

The prime minister has promised to bring new legislation to Parliament on the issue but has not indicated when he will do so.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com