Secure single national identification card being mulled

-President Granger 

Georgetown, Guyana (February 7, 2020): President David Granger, yesterday, said Government is examining available options for the introduction of a single national identification card outfitted with biometric and security features, to be used for all government related transactions.

The President was at the time speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the Stephen Campbell House, Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, Bourda, Georgetown, which houses the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Citizenship.

Citizenship entitles a citizen to have his or her birth registered which, in turn, can be used to register to vote and to apply for a national identification card and a passport. Proof of nationality allows for citizens to access education and to receive social assistance and public pensions.

“The Government is examining options for the introduction of a single national identification card, with biometric and security features, which can be used for all government transactions – including receipt of NIS pensions, payment of taxes, social security, immigration and admission to schools. This single national identification card will replace the multiple forms of identification which are used presently by citizens,” President Granger said.

Citizenship entitles every Guyanese to a share in the country’s patrimony. Citizenship obligates the state to protect its citizens, both at home and abroad. The protections offered by citizenship are not limited to the country’s territory. Nationals are entitled to protections outside of our borders. The Constitution [at Article 31] states: “It is the duty of the State to protect the just rights and interests of citizens resident abroad.”

President Granger said Guyanese are entitled to certain benefits by virtue of their country’s membership in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). These include duty-free movement of goods produced within the Community, definite six-month entry in any Community state and the free movement of certain categories of skills and labour, including university graduates, sportspersons, artists, media workers, registered nurses, trained teachers and certain artisans and household domestics.

“Citizenship is not a symbol. It is a qualification which ascribes rights, benefits and entitlements. Citizenship has become an issue of topical interest, as evident in the ongoing reports and debates with the media, relating to the presence of foreign nationals in Guyana and the eligibility for qualification to become a member of the National Assembly,” he said.

The Head of State reminded that the Constitution empowers the President with the authority to deprive a dual citizen of his or her Guyanese citizenship. Article 46 (1)) of the Constitution of Guyana states:

If the President of Guyana is satisfied that any citizen of Guyana has at any time after 25th May 1966, acquired by registration, naturalization or any other voluntary act (other than by marriage) the citizenship of any other country other than Guyana, the President may by order deprive that person of his or her citizenship.

President Granger said the establishment of the Department of Citizenship in 2015 was intended to protect the rights of citizenship.

“Our citizenship policy is to ensure that every Guyanese citizen will be accounted for from birth to death, as far as technologically possible,” he said reminding that Citizenship is attained through the registration of births.  Children, nowhere in this country, should be prevented from attending school because they had no birth certificates. Many births could remain unregistered because of the long distance, time and high cost of transport associated with registration,” the President said.

The Department of Citizenship has been conducting exercises to facilitate the registration of children whose births were not previously registered.

Additionally, the Department has been decentralizing the issuance of passports, which has relieved the burdens which many citizens, across Guyana, had to face in traveling long distances and at great expense in order to obtain a passport. Passport offices have now been established at the capital towns New Amsterdam, East Berbice-Corentyne, and Linden, Upper Demerara-Berbice, and another will soon be established in the Pomeroon-Supenaam, at Anna Regina.

“The Government intends, eventually, to have a passport office in every capital town so as to make the service more accessible to citizens. The Department is helping to protect the country’s national patrimony,” President Granger said.

The Head of State said Guyana is a friendly country with hospitable people “but we must be able to discern between legal and illegal aliens” noting that the work of the Department of Citizenship enables this to happen.

“The presence of illegal aliens in the country can place pressures on the country’s social services and pose threats to national security. This Department is responding to the migrant challenges. It is estimated that at present there are more than 13,000 migrants from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have entered our territory, most of whom are in our frontier regions so far. These migrants are placing a strain on our social services, particularly our public health and public security systems,” he stated.

Further, the President explained that the Department, in adopting international best practices to respond to the influx of migrants fleeing Venezuela, has strengthened its capacity to monitor and map these migrants and sought international help in providing them with humanitarian assistance. He reminded that Guyana’s extensive and often porous land borders increases the likelihood of illegal migration and emigration, including back-tracking.

“The establishment of the Department of Citizenship in May 2015 was [a] positive and deliberate act of state policy. The Department exemplified the importance which the Government attaches to protecting Guyanese citizenship and to preventing abuses which have been occurring with increasing frequency in other parts of the hemisphere. Citizenship of a state is a precious asset and must be managed carefully,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Citizenship, Mr. Winston Felix informed that the Department of Citizenship consists of the Immigration and Passport Office, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Stephen Campbell House, which now accommodates the Office of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration Support Services and an Administrative section.

Minister Felix disclosed that the Immigration Support Unit has from July 2018 to February 2020 processed 15,249 applications from various categories.

The Stephen Campbell building accommodates 56 staff members.