… “We refrain from partisan politics”- COS
By Zena Henry
President Donald Ramotar has sought the support of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), highlighting the underlying security effects the non-passage of the in limbo Anti- Money Laundering Bill (AML) fetches.
The President made his request while addressing senior army officers at the Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference at Camp Ayanganna last week. He charged that the non-passage of the compulsory international law will bring serious results; “exposing our country to the (security) danger that looms.”
“I am not speaking about this only to gather support, but I am speaking because it can affect security, it will affect our economy. It can have a devastating effect that can result in increased poverty, it can increase unemployment. It will affect investors coming to our country and affect our ability to generate more wealth to deal with all the needs we have,” the President warned.
He told the senior officers that they must broaden their understanding of national security to include threats emanating outside of our borders, “not only to seize territories, but our way of life.” International bodies, he said, continue to put mechanisms in place to fight international crimes such as drug running, money laundering and other such activities.
That is why, the President continued, “The Bill before the National Assembly is a very important one. The internationalization of these threats took headlines after the 2001 attack on the US and things became more intensive and more joint activities were held in order to try to protect the world from these types of crimes… which often end up in financing terrorism.”
He said the Bill is currently compliant to the recommendations by the international regulators. “We have a Bill that has reached the requirement of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Trying to close loop holes, the international community has sanctions if legislation is not in place.”
The President continued that the debate now is on the amendments. “And although we are not closed to amendments, we cannot have any type of amendments; it has to be within the confines of the CFATF and FATF regulations. According to an assessor who recently visited Guyana,” the President said, the amendments being forwarded can “change what we have as being compliant to make it un-compliant.” “Our pre-position is that we can deal with that; anyhow the joint opposition has the majority in the Parliament, they can bring it back anytime they wish; and I have assured them if they bring it back after CFATF pronounce that it (Bill) is compliant, then I will assent to those (other) Bills.”
Brigadier Mark Phillips in his inaugural address to the senior ranks as Chief of Staff had earlier stated that the Army will refrain from partisan politics. He said, “As military officers, we subordinate ourselves to the rule of law, civilian control of the GDF and refrain from participating in partisan politics. For us, what is of major importance is the need for balance between civilian control and military effectiveness in the defence of and maintenance of order in Guyana.”
The COS’s statement had come minutes before the President requested support and days after Opposition Leader David Granger had an audience with the army leader.
That visit sparked criticism from the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) led government, with the party’s General Secretary and Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee questioning the motive behind Granger’s visit and his pledged support for allocations to the Defence Force in the upcoming 2014 budget.
Granger a retired Brigadier, party executive Joseph Harmon, also a former GDF officer and former Police Commissioner Winston Felix had met with the COS after Guyana was fingered with affiliates of the international mafia who were busted in the United States more than a month ago.
President Donald Ramotar had instructed Rohee to acquire information from the Americans about Guyana’s connection to the mafia.
On the other hand, a report on the AML Bill was supposed to be presented to CFATF by February 28 last. That report was submitted but showed that Guyana had not passed the legislation. While the Opposition maintains that the Bill cannot be passed without the necessary amendments, the Government has urged the country to brace itself for all-round repercussions in the financial spectrum.
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