… Chief Parliamentary Counsel still to complete draft Bill
Guyana will undoubtedly this time around be submitted to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), having missed today’s deadline to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill.
In fact, the Special Select Committee is yet to wrap up its work and present a Bill to the House for a vote.
When the Committee met yesterday at 11:00hrs in a last-ditch attempt to have a Bill ready before the 14:00hrs sitting of the National Assembly, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) Cecil Dhurjon, did not show up. Instead, a missive was presented to the Committee indicating that he had not completed drafting the amendments submitted by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
BALL IN GOVERNMENT’S COURT
The trading of barbs continued yesterday with politicians from both sides of the divide blaming each other.
Leader of the Opposition Brigadier (ret’d), David Granger, told media operatives yesterday that the amended Bill, is crucial to Guyana’s security. He said that at no time did APNU disengage and at all material times they were concerned with having an amended Bill, “and we are working for that.”
According to the Opposition Leader, “I think it could be said we worked more diligently to have an amended Bill than any of the other participants in the Select Committee.”
Granger said that APNU is very disappointed that “we have not been able to advance” and pointed out that yesterday all that was given to them is a note from Dhurjon saying that he could not complete the work.
“From APNU’s point of view it is quite clear that a delay is being imposed on the process by the Government, the CPC is a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers and we are very disappointed that they have taken this line.”
Asked about the report that will be submitted to CFATF today that will have to document that Guyana did not pass the legislation, Granger said that “it is the government side which is delaying because the government had the amendments, and the government could have incorporated the amendments and brought it back to the select committee.”
This has not been done, according to Granger, who reiterated that the opposition does not have any control over the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, “it is the Minister of Legal Affairs who does that…the ball is in the government’s court….I told President (Donald) Ramotar that the ball is in the government’s court.”
The Select Committee will meet again next Wednesday and even if the Chief Parliamentary Counsel completes the draft amendments for APNU and their amendments are included in the Bill, this does not mean automatic support for it in the House.
Granger was adamant, “the President must respect the Parliament.”
“We are not going to support it without the conditionalities we have already laid down, the President is aware of our position, the two are linked… we are not going to separate the two.”
The Opposition Leader maintained that APNU wants both the amended Bill and good governance “in terms of the President’s respect for the National Assembly.”
He was making reference to the required assent for the Bills already passed by the National Assembly for which Ramotar has refused to sign.
“The President must learn to respect the autonomy and the authority of the National Assembly,” said Granger, who maintained that APNU will not budge from its demands.
When asked about Guyana’s report to CFATF today, Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, told this publication that it will certainly have to document that Guyana has not passed the required legislation.
Nandlall says that this is the major component of the report, given that Guyana has been asked by CFATF to “report specifically on whether we would have rectified the identified deficiencies in the anti-money laundering regime.”
He said that there are other sections of the report that will speak to some administrative issues that have been completed.
Given that CFATF’s Plenary will not be held until May, Nandlall was asked if there was a possibility that a report can be submitted before that meeting.
He responded by reminding that CFATF’s Roger Hernandez, when he visited, Guyana “said unambiguously that the time for submitting the report is the 28th of February (today)”.
Nandlall reminded too that Hernandez at the time explained why the submission date is fixed long before the actual plenary meeting, given that the assessors had to examine the report and the Bill which was supposed to have been attached to the report in order to ensure that it satisfies CFATF requirements.
He said that if CFATF accepts a report from Guyana long past the deadline, it is “their rules and they will decide if they will violate their own rules.”
Asked about a FATF review and possible international blacklisting, Nandlall said that when CFATF made its pronouncement in November last, it stated clearly Guyana has been identified as a country with certain deficiencies and was called upon to remedy this and a “failure to do so will result in CFATF referring Guyana to FATF for a ICRG (International Co-operation Review Group) review.”
Nandlall said that the procedure to which Guyana will be subjected has already been laid out.
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