May 21, 2013 Editorial
Guyana has found itself in a tenuous situation because of the existing legislations that seek to curb money laundering and dent international terrorism. The government sent the various amendments to the National Assembly on May 7, last, and expects that the Bill would be passed when the House meets on May 23.
Already the Alliance For Change says that it is not prepared to support the Bill, not because its content is bad but because President Donald Ramotar refused to assent to two opposition Bills passed in the National Assembly. The President contended that the two Bills were an affront to the constitution and that he would not be party to any breach of the constitution.
But the opposition holds the opposing view. One of the Bills seeks to modify the benefits for former Presidents. They say that according to the existing legislation, there is no limit to the number of vehicles, the number of personal assistants including security guards that former President Bharrat Jagdeo has.
President Ramotar, by refusing his assent has in effect killed the Bill. In keeping with the regulations, it has been returned to the National Assembly. Before it reaches his desk again it must be accompanied by a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly. By no stretch can one see any government member voting in support of that Bill.
This has angered the Alliance For Change which is now proposing a tit for tat arrangement; “You don’t pass our Bills and we would not pass yours.” It does not take clairvoyance to see that the country would grind to a halt. There would be no new legislation and for sure, there would be no release of money when the government moves to access the supplementary votes.
One of the pieces of legislation that seems to have been caught up in this tit for tat arrangement is the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill. Guyana has until it meets in Colombia on May 27 to have this legislation in place. Failing to reach this deadline could have serious implications for the country.
For one the country could be blacklisted, making it difficult for money transfers to be effected. Local businessmen would be hard pressed to pay for imports and these range from vehicles to clothing to just about anything. Given the parlous state of electricity Guyana may not be able buy the needed generators out of the United States.
Bank transfers could be stymied and international donors could withhold financing since the issue of monitoring the money would be questionable.
One would expect that such a frightening scenario would see a united National Assembly working to ensure that Guyana is not blacklisted. Generally, when a country is blacklisted it remains a pariah for about seven years. And this is a real fear on the part of the national leaders.
But we now find that the political opposition is harbouring no such fears. For one, they believe that the government was less than transparent and they now want the very government to be brought to book. The A Partnership for National Unity initially questioned the timing of the Bill. This Bill has been languishing in the national Assembly for two years. Then suddenly, with two weeks to go before the deadline it has been brought for the vote. APNU is suspicious about the rush.
The Alliance for Change is not even considering such things. It simply wants to see a Public Procurement Commission in place, a drastic change from an earlier position when it proposed that all Government Bills be voted against in retaliation for President Ramotar withholding his assent to opposition Bills.
So where does this leave the people of Guyana? They could raise their voices for a greater transparency in the government; or they could rail against the opposition. For sure, no one wants to see Guyana become a pariah state although everyone knows that money laundering is rife and that the government is not too keen on prosecuting the so-called prominent people.
The nation must now hold its breath until tomorrow.
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