GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Government chief whip and presidential advisor on governance, Gail Teixeira said that the administration in Guyana is profoundly disturbed and disheartened at the opposition’s lackadaisical approach in the new select committee to which the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill was referred.
Teixeira, who was re-appointed as the committee’s chairperson, said that it is regrettable that this is turning out to be a “same old, same old” exercise, as there seems to be no urgency on the part of the opposition to address issues on the bill.
Thus far, the opposition has shot down the government’s proposal to have the presence of the media and other relevant stakeholders to observe the workings of the committee.
“The opposition appears to be very iffy on it, and said that they have to go back to get clearance from the mentors… they were unprepared to make any commitment on this issue,” she said.
The chief whip said that given the fact that Guyana has already missed consecutive deadlines in May, August and November in 2013, it is in the interest of all to expedite this process before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meets on February 13.
She noted that Guyana could very well be reviewed during this meeting, since FATF, the international body, does not have to wait on the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), the regional watchdog body.
“They can proceed to automatically review us on February 13. We made this clear to the opposition and in the interest of transparency and accountability, we felt that the presence of the media and other stakeholders as observers of the committee is important to allow the story of the committee to come out, but they had some deep concerns,” Teixeira explained.
The select committees meet in private; however, there is nothing in the standing orders that prohibits a committee from inviting members of the public to sit in and observe, so long as they do not interfere with its deliberations. In the interest of time which is rapidly running out, the government members on the committee suggested that the committee meet at least two to three times per week including Saturdays, if necessary; however, this did not find favour with the opposition.
The opposition has demanded that some of the persons who made written submissions the last time but were not called to appear before the committee, be given an opportunity to do so now.
Teixeira explained a number of organisations wrote to the committee, but they did not proposed any amendments to the Bill; instead they just made general comments on money laundering and financial crimes.
However, the government has agreed to the opposition’s demands and as such, letters of invitation have already been sent out to individuals and organisations to appear before the committee. These include: Professor Clive Thomas, Christopher Ram, and the Bar and Bankers’ Association.
“The position of the opposition is that we will not address the contents of the Bill until it goes through these other procedures again… basically we have next week and the first week of February, that’s all we have. As of today, not one amendment has been tabled or submitted or circulated by the opposition,” she noted
She further explained that the amendments to this Bill that are pending are not the end of this process. She noted that it is very likely that it will be back before the House once every two years, if not more often, amendments will have to be made as technology advances.