GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- After storming out of a meeting of the select committee dealing with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill, on Monday, the opposition in Guyana boycotted the committee meeting on Tuesday.
APNU’s Carl Greenidge and Jaipaul Sharma are the only two members of the committee who have indicated that they are out of the country.
Nevertheless, in the interest of time, the members of the government side proceeded to examine the new submissions that were received. The committee was slated to meet again on Wednesday.
Government’s chief whip and presidential advisor on governance, Gail Teixeira, assured that, on the part of the administration, no effort will be spared to meet the February 13 deadline; however, this is not up to the government alone, there is urgent need for the opposition to take a forthright and principled position in the interest of the nation.
It is the intention of the government to return the Bill to the National Assembly by February 10 or 11. Teixeira said that the opposition is yet to propose any amendments they want to see effected to the Bill.
“How can you be telling the country that the Bill needs to be strengthened and more comprehensive and you haven’t said, in the committee, what must be done… clearly this is bullying and holding the government and the nation at ransom,” she said.
The chief whip said that the inconsistent positions that the opposition, particularly the APNU, has taken on this issue is worrying and has left many bewildered.
She recalled that around mid January, opposition leader David Granger, in a public statement assured that the Bill will be passed by February 13. This news was welcomed by the government and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds issued a statement the very next day acknowledging Granger’s position and expressing similar optimism from the government side.
However on January 29, a letter was sent to President Donald Ramotar, while in Havana, Cuba, attending the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting of heads. In this letter, the APNU changed course from its previous position. They essentially presented the head of state with an ultimatum, that they will withhold their support for the AML/CFT Bill if he (the president) does not assent to the Bills which he sent back to the Parliament without his assent on the basis of their constitutionality.
Further, there was a caveat to the effect that the Bills that have been assented to must be operationalised to their satisfaction.
“You have the president in a bind… what is worrying is the inconsistency in the leader of the opposition and the behaviour of the opposition members in the committee, they have given no indication that they are desirous of concluding this matter,” Teixeira said.
Worst case scenario
The chief whip, who also chairs the committee that is dealing with the Bill, informed that should this deadline be missed, it is highly probable that the international body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will put Guyana under a prima facie review.
This would be much more stringent in terms of the standards and requirements that have to be complied with than that of the preliminary review conducted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), the regional body.
While this is being done, Guyana will remain blacklisted but, more importantly, the banking, insurance and financial systems will be required to take protective actions against Guyana. As it stands right now, they have only been issued advisories to take precautionary measures.
“This is not an issue to toy with; the opposition is being opportunistic, dangerous and reckless… people should not accept, the electorate must decide, whether this is the type of political leaders they want,” Teixeira said.
She called on supporters, voters and sympathisers of the opposition parties to talk to their respective leaders and demand that they refrain from playing political games with this is issue as they have done with the Amaila Falls Hydro project.
She said that the stalling of Amaila project has impacts on national development; however, non-passage of the AML/CFT Bill will have dire global consequences. She added that the ultimatums and delaying tactics employed by the opposition, despite the urgency for this Bill is to be passed, are tantamount to economic sabotage.