May 29, 2013 News
As Guyana scrambles for more time to pass critical anti-money laundering legislation, the Opposition yesterday said it has written the regional oversight body, stressing the need for the National Assembly to play a more important role in any new laws for the country.
Guyana was supposed to pass amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the
Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013 (AML/CFT) before it faces the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) review panel in Managua, Nicaragua this week.
However, the Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) sent the Bill to a special Parliamentary Select Committee to examine it more closely, accusing government of wasting time and waiting for the last moment to present it.
Failure by Guyana to improve the affected laws could see international sanctions that would have implications for trade and money transfers and payments.
Following last week’s meeting of the National Assembly where government resigned itself to the harsh reality of not meeting the deadline, it was decided that Guyana would ask for more time to pass the legislation.
Government has sent Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Paul Geer, along with a state attorney to Nicaragua to defend Guyana’s case.
However, the Opposition, fearful that the government would use the occasion to blame them for the delays, says it has sent a letter to the CFATF explaining the situation.
“We have sent a letter to CFATF, basically acknowledging their expertise, but we stressed the need to assert our own wisdom in this crucial bill,” a senior APNU official said yesterday.
The official hinted that APNU was seeking more of a Parliamentary role in ensuring that the changes in anti-money laundering laws are handled properly.
“We believe we are duty bound to pursue several constitutional improvements to the proposed legislation changes before us. We have utmost regard for the CFATF expertise. We are saying that at the implementation stage of this very important legislation, we have to be careful how we implement it.”
A National Assembly-driven body to oversee the implementation and accomplish the goals of CFATF is the direction that APNU wants to go, the official said.
President Donald Ramotar had appealed to Parliamentarians to expedite their work on the amendments in a Special Parliamentary Committee and take their report for a vote in the National Assembly by yesterday (May 28), the latest.
A sitting of the House was originally set for that date when the House adjourned last Wednesday, but that sitting was postponed to June 13. The House could convene in a special sitting to take a vote if the committee completes its work, but the committee is due to hold its next meeting until June 12.
The CFATF is an arm of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering and terrorist financing, among other financial crimes.
The CFATF had required that the country amend a range of laws. Amendments to the various laws were lumped together and taken to the House as the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill.
The amendments were needed to reduce structural, legislative and administrative deficiencies in the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism architecture and to meet the international standards established to protect the international financial and banking systems.
The government insisted that without passing the amendments before Guyana faces the review, there will be severe sanctions that would have a range of implications for the financial sector especially, including humbugs in the flow of international funds, such as remittances and wire transfers.
The two opposition parties had said that they would not rush consideration of the amendments.
The seven-seat Alliance for Change (AFC), which holds the balance of power in the National Assembly, is sticking to its demands.
The party has said it would exchange its support for the amendments only if the government provides a definitive deadline for the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission and if the President re-considers assenting to two Bills which were brought to the House by the opposition. The opposition is adamant that Government’s recklessness in the management of the country’s national and international affairs is what has led to what is being described as a crisis situation. It said the blame lies squarely at the feet of the government for wanting to give the people’s elected representatives dribbles of information.
The passage of the Bill is but one of the many clashes between government and the Opposition following the November 2011 General Election, in which the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic lost its majority control of the National Assembly. They lost the coveted Speaker’s position and for two years consecutively, have seen the National Budget slashed by an Opposition determined to tighten spending.
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Kaieteur News – I am quoting directly from Donald Ramotar’s letter on me in the Kaieteur News of yesterday. I will... more
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