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Private sector groups calls for political consensus on national ID system

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THREE powerful private sector groups, while respecting last Friday’s court ruling on the proposed National Identification System (NIDS), say the underlying broad policy objectives that were sought to be achieved are still of great significance and urgent in modernising the Jamaican society and ensuring that each citizen is accounted for in our advancement towards the achievement of Vision 2030.

The groups — Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association – added their voices to the NIDS debate in a joint press release yesterday.

The Constitutional Court, in a 309-page written judgement, ruled last Friday that panel declared that the Bill is “unconstitutional, null and void insofar as it is intended to make compulsory the taking of biometric and other data so as to provide a national identification number and card for every citizen and resident of Jamaica. The involuntary nature of the policy infringes guaranteed constitutional rights. Furthermore, the statute seeks to prevent access to services both public and private, or to make possible the denial of such services, to citizens who fail to obtain the said national identification.”

The private sector groups said while the court has properly invalidated the NIDS legislation, there is political consensus on the necessity for implementing a national identification law.

“We strongly urge both political parties to immediately commence consultations, with a view to settling the contentious differences in the legislation and avoiding the provisions which offend our Constitution, so as to return a Bill to the House and enable a smooth and early passage.

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Windies unfazed by new format, says skipper Holder

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LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) — Captain Jason Holder says the new World Cup format means teams will have to work harder to win the competition but says West Indies have fully embraced the changes and believes their chances are as good as any other side.

For the first time in nearly three decades, each of the 10 teams will play each other in a round-robin preliminary round format, with the four top teams qualifying for the semi-finals.

“You only had five or six games previously, with a few more if you made the knockout stages so it’s exciting to play every other team this time,” Holder said today at an ICC event in London.

 “You’ll have to work hard to win the World Cup by playing every other team – it’s the top 10 in the world but you want to play all the other nine to give yourself a chance.

“We’re taking it one game at a time – it’s a pretty level playing field and cricket is a game played on the day. Everyone is up to the task and knows what standard the competition is, so it comes down to who plays better on the day.”

West Indies are currently in a camp in Southampton and travel to Bristol shortly where they take on South Africa on Sunday in their first official warm-up match before clashing with New Zealand at the same venue two days later.

The Caribbean side have stern tests in their two opening encounters when they face Pakistan in their first match next week Friday in Nottingham before clashing with world champions Australia on June 6 at the same venue.

And Holder said that would be his side’s focus in coming days as they put the finishing touches on their preparation.

“When the schedule came out, we didn’t look for one fixture in particular – we just looked at the first half of our schedule and turned our focus to the first few games,” he said.

West Indies are considered one of the outsiders in the May 31 to July 14 showpiece. They are ranked number eight in the world and are without a series win in five years, since they beat Bangladesh in the Caribbean in 2014.

Last year in bilateral series, they won just three of 11 ODIs and in 2017, also managed just three victories in 22 outings.

However, their 2-2 draw in the five-match home series against England earlier this year has offered hope of a turnaround in fortunes, and Holder said the squad was upbeat over the World Cup challenge ahead.

“We’re all excited for this tournament and we want it to start tomorrow. I’m pretty happy with my squad as a whole, so hopefully we can play well and enjoy ourselves.”

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Last days of May?

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LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday dug against a relentless push by rivals and former allies to remove her from office as her attempts to lead Britain out of the European Union appeared to be headed for a dead end.

May resisted calls to rip up her tattered Brexit blueprint and end her embattled premiership after her attempt at compromise was rejected by both her own Conservative Party and Opposition Lawmakers.

But it seemed only a matter of time. Amid a feverish mood as rumours and plots swirled through Parliament, Conservative lawmakers set up a showdown meeting with May for Friday, giving her less than 48 hours to announce she will go or face a renewed attempt to oust her.

And a senior Cabinet minister quit with an excoriating letter attacking May’s failure to lead Britain out of the EU and hold her divided Government together.

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom alleged there had been “a complete breakdown of collective responsibility” in government, and said May’s Brexit plan would not “deliver on the referendum result” that saw voters in 2016 opt to leave the EU.

Leadsom campaigned to leave the EU in the referendum, and was a strong pro-Brexit voice in Cabinet.

Several other senior ministers were reportedly seeking meetings with May to express unhappiness with her Brexit plan — and possibly urge her to quit. But her spokesman, James Slack, said he was “not aware of any discussions” with Cabinet colleagues.

Lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, a leading Conservative moderate, said the only chance of delivering an orderly Brexit was for May “to go — and without delay”.

“She must announce her resignation after Thursday’s European elections. And the Conservative Party must fast track the leadership process to replace her,” he wrote in the Financial Times.

In the House of Commons, May received a flurry of criticism and hostile questions as she implored lawmakers to support a Bill implementing Britain’s departure from the EU that she plans to put to a vote in Parliament in June.

Nearly three years after British voters opted to leave the EU, May said “we need to see Brexit through, to honour the result of the referendum and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded.”

If Parliament rejected her deal, she said, “all we have before us is division and deadlock”.

That could serve as a fair summary of Britain’s current situation.

Lawmakers have already rejected May’s divorce deal with the 27 other EU countries three times, and Britain’s long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.

In a last-ditch bid to secure support for her Brexit plan, May on Tuesday announced concessions including a promise to give Parliament a vote on whether to hold a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership — something she has long ruled out.

“I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too,” she said.

But there was little sign her plea was being heeded. Pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers have only hardened their positions during months of political trench warfare, and they are in no mood to compromise.

Pro-Brexit Conservatives accused May of capitulating to pro-EU demands, and Opposition Labour Party lawmakers dismissed her offer as too little, too late.

“The rhetoric may have changed but the deal has not,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave, and by the time she finally did, she had lost the authority to deliver.”

May’s authority as Conservative leader has been shredded by her loss of the party’s parliamentary majority in a 2017 election and her failure to lead Britain out of the EU as promised.The party’s powerful anti-EU wing wants to oust May and replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

May has said she will announce a timetable for her departure once Parliament has voted on her Brexit Bill, but it looks increasingly unlikely she can hang on that long. She survived a no-confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in December, leaving her safe from challenge for 12 months under party rules. Some pro-Brexit lawmakers wanted the party’s 1922 Committee, which oversees leadership contests, to change the rules when so that May can face a new challenge within days.

But the party committee decided instead to send its Chairman Graham Brady to meet May on Friday before it decides whether to alter the rules.

If May stays on until next week, pressure is likely to increase when results come in from this week’s elections for the European Parliament, with Conservatives expecting to receive a drubbing. Many British voters on both sides of the Brexit debate look set to use the election to the EU legislature to express displeasure over the political gridlock. Opinion polls show strong support for the single-issue Brexit Party — largely from angry former Conservative voters — and for pro-EU parties including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

The election is being held tomorrow in Britain, but results won’t be announced until all 28 EU countries have finished voting late Sunday.

May insisted she would fight on. She said the Brexit withdrawal Bill would be published Friday so that lawmakers can study it.

Despite speculation that May will scrap plans to bring it to a vote to avoid a crushing defeat, her office said a vote will be held during the week of June 3.

“In time, another prime minister will be standing at this despatch box,” May told lawmakers, acknowledging that her days in the job are numbered.

But, she told Parliament, “in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them.

“So I will put those decisions to this House. Because that is my duty and because it is the only way that we can deliver Brexit.”

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Libya’s Hifter tells Macron no cease-fire without negotiator

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PARIS, France (AP) — Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter said in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday that he cannot work toward a cease-fire because he has no one with whom to negotiate.

Hifter opened a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli in early April despite commitments to move toward elections in the North African country.

Libya is divided between Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army controls the east and much of the south, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the UN-supported but weak government in Tripoli.

During a more than hour-long closed door meeting, Macron asked Hifter to work toward a cease-fire and a return to the political process, according to a statement from Macron’s office.

“When the question of a cease-fire is put on the table, “the reaction of … Hifter is ‘with whom can I negotiate a ceasefire today?’” an official of the presidential lyse Palace said. Hifter considers the Sarraj government is being eaten from within by armed militias and considers “it’s not for him (Hifter) to negotiate with representatives of these militias”, the official said. The official wasn’t authorised to speak publicly about the delicate talks and asked to remain anonymous.

The closed-door meeting came two weeks after Macron hosted Libya’s struggling UN-backed prime minister, who has denounced Hifter’s offensive as an attempted coup. Macron’s office has expressed support for Sarraj.

The official rejected claims that France is secretly backing Hifter, saying that France is trying “to create a dynamic” between the two.

“Sarraj is the legitimate prime minister of Libya and Hifter … is an essential actor in the Libyan crisis,” the official said.

Paris hosted the two men in 2017 in a bold bid to launch a peace process and organise elections. The statement from the president’s office said the meeting was “to facilitate dialogue between the two Libyans, in the context of military operations on the outskirts of Tripoli”.

The statement noted commitments by the Libyans in Paris, Italy and the United Arab Emirates: creating a transitional government, unifying Libyan institutions and preparing elections.

Hifter used the meeting to justify his offensive on Tripoli, the official said, but added that the Paris meeting was able to advance the situation.

“At the end of the meeting, Hifter recognised that inclusive political discussions are necessary, and he agreed that, when conditions are right, to the relaunching of political dialogue,” the official said.

“He didn’t say he would make a political (gesture) tonight or tomorrow, but was convinced at the end of the meeting of the need” for it, the official said.

The fighting over Tripoli erupted on April 4, with the LNA led by Hifter and aligned with a rival government in the east, launching a push on the country’s capital, located in the west, and militias loosely allied with the UN-supported government in Tripoli.

The death toll from the fighting stood at 510 on Sunday, according to the World Health Organization, mainly combatants but also including civilians. Tens of thousands have been displaced or trapped by Hifter’s offensive.

The UN envoy for Libya warned on on Tuesday that the oil-rich nation was “on the verge of descending into a civil war” that could imperil its neighbours. Ghassan Salame told the UN Security Council that extremists from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are already exploiting the security vacuum.

Libya has been split between rival authorities in east and west since 2014, with each side backed by various militias. Hifter’s forces have battled Islamic extremists and other rival factions across eastern Libya, and recently made inroads in the south.

Hifter presents himself as a strong hand that can restore stability after years of chaos that transformed Libya into a haven for armed groups and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe. His opponents, however, view him as an aspiring autocrat and fear the country could return to one-man rule as under longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was ousted and killed in 2011.

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