GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana’s Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh has blasted the main political opposition party, A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), for waiting until the last minute to present their amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism Bill which, he said, have no bearing, and are not in keeping with any of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) regulations.
He clarified that the APNU’s proposals were actually directed to the Principal Act which was passed unanimously in 2009 by the National Assembly.
“The Standing Orders say that the committee shall refer to the matters referred to it, which is the bill amending specific sections of the act… they don’t answer a CFATF recommendation, they have had a CFATF review and they may very put us in collision with CFATF standards”.
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh
The minister said that it was unfair that 750,000 Guyanese have to suffer because of the decisions of 33 men and women (opposition) in the National Assembly, but the international community’s position is “Implement the law, you’re okay, don’t implement the law you’re not okay”.
The political opposition has, since January 2012, been in control of the National Assembly, yet nothing was brought before the legislature during all of this time. Despite public calls by government since May of 2013, no action was taken by the political opposition party until the evening of Sunday, February 9.
When the amendments were produced, there were two different sets, according to the finance minister, “One by Mr (Carl) Greenidge and the other drafted by Mr (Jaipaul) Sharma so they had to ask for the committee to be adjourned at 9 pm for them to try to merge these two documents and at that time, to try to brainstorm and try to think through what it is they were proposing at 9 pm.”
The minister deemed this to be “contempt for the nation and contemptuous to the people of Guyana.”
The adjustments proposed by APNU, he said, are designed to inflict economic harm and will pose grave consequences to Guyanese, according to Singh.
The minister outlined one the amendments, which will give any police rank, customs officer and anyone appointed by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to stop and seize currency (as well as gold, other minerals) and or property due to them being suspicious. “Can you imagine being stopped and searched and having your cash seized because of suspicion? This is just one and the others are equally perilous!”
They are trifling with the lives of Guyanese, he stated, and that an appeal was made to the opposition to have the proposed amendments to the principal act reviewed by stakeholders and even by CFAT given the implications, but APNU stated that they were not interested in that course of action. This was described as “callous irresponsibility and reckless conduct by the opposition” and is clearly designed to inflict economic damage to Guyana, according to the minister.
The government has worked hard to rebuild Guyana’s international credibility for two decades, and, “We are no longer a pariah state, as we were under Greenidge’s superintendence of our economy, but it appears now that he’s out of office that he wishes to repeat the feat that he accomplished while he was in office, because instead of doing what is right and good for Guyana, and that is simply to support the amendments, on which there is agreement, and with which they have no problems, instead of doing that, they want to hold the nation to ransom. That’s a grave matter!”
The AFC’s posturing on the bill was also criticised as that party has called for a political concession in order to support the bill. For the finance minister, this move is equally irresponsibly as they are all parliamentarians to serve people, “This is not a game we are playing”.
Guyana is set to be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force if it fails to pass the amended Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism Bill and will suffer from financial sanctions via international institutions.