Dr.Peter Phillips, Press Releases

The democracy is at risk when the Prime Minister cannot be taken at his word, says the PNP

Kingston, Jamaica, November 22, 2017: The People’s National Party (PNP) is condemning the Prime Minister for misleading the House and the country in saying that it was the PNP which had insisted that registration under National Identity Registration (NIDS) be compulsory. The PNP categorically states that it gave no instruction to Prime Minister Andrew Holness nor his government to include any clause in the very controversial NIDS Bill.

The PNP says, in June, some of its members attended one meeting led by the Prime Minister on the national identification project and while there was wide-ranging discussions on all sides, the members went specifically to hear the government’s proposals and learn about what was to be included in the proposed bill.

At that time, the PNP did not have a settled position on any of the issues and, therefore, could not have put forward a position. The Party says any statement to the contrary is a misrepresentation of the facts.

 At that meeting, the Prime Minister agreed to communicate with the members in two weeks regarding the views expressed. This did not take place and the only communication that came about the project was in September when he indicated Government’s intention to take the legislation through all the stages in the Parliament.

“Any reference to any proposal from the PNP is simply a red herring intended to deflect attention from the Government’s intransigence at every stage to put the Bill before a Joint Select Committee  of Parliament.,” PNP president Dr. Peter Phillips said.

The Prime Minister’s comments in Parliament last night were meant to distract from his breaking his solemn word to the Opposition and civil society present in the gallery that the government would not move to consider the 168 Senate amendments until a later date. This was a breach of trust.

The Party remains firm in its resolve that the Bill is of fundamental interest to every single Jamaican citizen and given the implications in the confused way in which it was drafted, it is critical that it is put before a Joint Select Committee for fulsome review and that all stakeholders who wish to participate may have their say.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House when he indicated the amendments from the Senate would be taken at a later date. Indeed, his Minister of Justice indicated that time was needed for members to consider the amendments.

 A few meetings with select groups cannot substitute for proper stakeholder consultation and every citizen having an opportunity to present their views before Parliament on every clause of the Bill, as would have been accommodated by a Joint Select Committee.

Moreover, the actions of the Speaker of the House in preventing the motion put forward by the Opposition to have the Bill withdrawn and referred to a Joint Select Committee represented a denial of the Opposition’s right under the Standing Order of Parliament and continued a pattern of denying the basic democratic principles.

Worst of all the Prime Minister’s betrayal of his commitment not to take the Bill demonstrates that Parliament is abandoning the principles of democracy and threatening the fundamental rights of the Jamaican people to representation in Gordon House through their elected representatives.

 ”The democracy of this nation is at risk when the Prime Minister is in breach of his own commitment and cannot be taken at his word.” Dr. Phillips said.