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Guyana opposition accused of holding AML bill hostage
Published on March 6, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

(L-R): Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, Chairperson of the Select Committee on AML Bill, and Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira, and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill at the press conference

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- The Special Parliamentary Committee on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill was slated to meet again on Wednesday, but chair of that committee Gail Teixeira said that there has been no indication from the opposition that they have changed their position. The presidential advisor is of the view that the bill is being held hostage by the opposition in the select committee.

Teixeira expressed the view at a press conference on Tuesday held to provide the media with an update on developments on the bill, going into the meeting on Wednesday.

She was joined by Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall.

“Regrettably, since February 26 there has been no indication from the AFC or APNU that they have climbed down from their maximum position of that day… from the press coverage you can see that they are continuing in the same way of ensuring the bill does not come to the House. The bill is held hostage in the committee,” Teixeira said.

At the last select committee meeting on February 26, it was revealed that the opposition, particularly the AFC, reneged on what government terms the ‘Mashramani Agreement’ (for the reason that it was made on Mash Day). The APNU rejected the president’s offer of February 10 that is for it to allow the bill agreed on, on February 9, to go forward and that the president would agree to a joint bipartisan committee to examine the opposition’s non-assented bills, as well have the prime minister make a public announcement to that effect.

On February 26, APNU went to the meeting with the maximum position that the only way that the bill could move from the committee was if its amendments were included, and all its non-assented bills were to be assented to and, further, a commencement order for the local government commission be issued.

The AFC’s position was for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, budgetary amendment for the procurement acts and a new amendment for the PPC, none of which is related to the AMLCFT Bill. But, at the last meeting, it said it wanted the APNU amendments to be included as well.

Deliberate act

Meanwhile, Singh noted that the position of the opposition in not agreeing to proceed with the bill is an indefensible one, given the fact that the opposition has the majority in Parliament and does not need the support of government to enact their amendments in the House.

The minister said, “Were they to proceed with the CFATF compliant bill, and subsequently engage government in discussions on their additional amendments, and were they unable to reach agreement with us on their amendments, they have the majority that is required to take their amendments to the House anyhow, and to enact their amendments.”

Singh said therefore that the deliberate act of detaining the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s CFTAF compliant bill on the account of the additional amendments is therefore unnecessary and places Guyana in significant jeopardy.

He expressed the view that the opposition is irresponsible and unreasonable therefore in withholding their support to the bill, which he noted responds to the CFATF’s amendments and is the subject of no controversy and disagreement between government and opposition.

Speaking to the effects of the bill’s non passage, Singh said, “Transactions are being delayed and it is affecting the well being of workers and putting businesses in jeopardy.”

Power grab

Nandlall labelled the APNU’s amendment as nothing more than the opposition continuing its singular quest that started since the commencement of the 10th Parliament of using its one-seat majority to grab from the government power which the constitution resides in the executive, and to unlawfully and constitutionally transfer it to the legislature.

“Everything that you have heard and all the utterances made and all the antics which would have manifested themselves, when all those are examined and they are stripped of their esoteric content and their political value, what you find is the opposition, APNU amendments are designed to remove from the power of the executive, the responsibility and the mandate to make appointments to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and everyone who functions in that unit… they are removing the role of the executive government and they are placing that function is the legislature,” he said.

The minister noted that CFTAF’s consultant, whilst in Guyana was unable to point to a similar parallel in the world, where an authority other than the executive government appoints functionaries to the FIU. The minister noted this is the case because law enforcement function is a function of the executive and the separation of power doctrine dictates that the powers are to remain with the executive.

The minister said that he was not surprised at APNU’s hijacking of this function from the executive since they come from a history of grabbing power through any means.

“They rigged elections for 28 years, they stole political power by stealing the votes of people of this country for 28 years, and you see that precise phenomenon replicating itself using the little power that they have in the National Assembly to grab political power,” Nandlall reiterated.

He concluded therefore, that the amendment that touches and concerns the governmental structure of the FIU is nothing short of a “grab for political power through the backdoor and not through the ballots”.

The minister said too that the cash seizure amendment is another manifestation of authoritarianism and is one that will take Guyana back to the days of the Burnham regime, of a controlled economy and one where arms of the state can be used to regulate people’s financial capability.

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