The political opposition continues to prevaricate (quibble), even as Guyana is days away from facing estrangement from 190 countries for failing to pass the critically needed Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCT) Bill. This Bill incorporates the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, speaking on the National Communications Network (NCN) yesterday, said that the Select Committee considering the Bill was not able to meet over the last two weeks because “the Opposition members have manufactured one reason after one another for their unavailability to meet.”
At the meeting yesterday, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) failed to show up. Khemraj Ramjattan from the Alliance For Change (AFC) was present.
Guyana is required to have the Bill passed on or before May 26 or be declared non grata by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to its member states as a country that is non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism.
“This now seems a given,” Minister Nandlall said.
“All these amendments that they have proposed are in relation to the Principal Act, the Principal Act that they passed unanimously in the Ninth parliament. Now they have some epiphany and they want now to change all of these things which are not the recommendations of CFATF.”
Nandlall said, “So it would appear at this point that it is unlikely that the Bill will be passed. What I presume or what I predict would transpire at the CFTAF meeting from May 26 is that simply a decision would be made to give effect to the decision which was already made at the November 2013 plenary. Guyana shall be recommended to the Financial Action Task Force in Paris, France for an ICRG (International Cooperation Review Group) review…and that in essence is the blacklisting we are speaking about,” he added.
Guyana has missed two deadlines to pass the CFATF cut-off date to pass the legislation; one on November 28, 2013 and the other on February 28, 2014. Guyana failed to meet the first time limit after the opposition used their one-seat majority in the National Assembly to vote down the bill, which led to the country being blacklisted at the regional level.
The second failure was due to the opposition at the last moment, proposing amendments, which are not related to the CFATF compliant Bill, but to the Principal Act, which was passed in 2009.
Minister Nandlall reported yesterday that CFTAF has rejected the Opposition’s amendments. After the CFTAF Chairperson Allyson Maynard-Gibson and the Executive Director of CFATF met with both the government and Leader of the Opposition and outlined the importance of passing the Bill and the consequences that would flow following non-compliance, the Government of Guyana was invited to send to the CFTAF for examination by its technical personnel for compliance, a copy of both the Government’s draft and the Opposition’s draft of the legislation, he explained.
In an effort to arrive at compromise, Minister Nandlall had presented counter proposals to the opposition’s recommendations.
For the reason that Government’s amendments were already approved by CFTAF, Minister Nandlall said that Government sent a covering letter along with the Opposition’s draft to the CFTAF, “and as I predicted, the CFTAF rejected every single one of the amendments that they are proposing,” he said.
One of the proposals calls for a removal of the role of the Attorney General from the process. “The CFTAF’s answer to that suggestion was that it is wrong. The Attorney General is put there because he/she is legal advisor to the Government and would be recipient of all legal materials that would come into the Government’s position in relation to its relations with organisations such as the United Nations Security Council and other international organisations.
“And it is the Attorney General that will have to go to court for and behalf of the Government to seek certain orders to give effect to the Government’s obligation under various treaties, and therefore the Office of the Attorney General is important in the legislative apparatus of the AMLCFT regime,” Minister Nandlall explained.
The Opposition also proposed that Parliament appoint an authority to oversee and supervise the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), its operations and officers.
Government has long maintained that this type of mechanism would undermine the functional autonomy of the FIU which by all international standards must be functionally independent and autonomous in the discharge of its day to day function, and as well, must be free and insulated from political interference and influence both apparent and real, a view shared by CFTAF. Minister Nandlall said that CFTAF has rejected as well this proposal.
“The CFTAF’s advice on that particular proposal of the Opposition was that it does not meet the international standards, that the mechanism for appointment is politically contaminated and that the method or the mechanism that it creates removes from the FIU and its staff and directors that important requisite autonomy and functional independence,” Minister Nandlall disclosed.
The third condemnation relates to what was submitted of the Opposition’s draft with regards to seizure of cash. This was rejected on the basis that it was not part of the requirement and that it is a completely unnecessary imposition, Minister Nandlall said. (GINA)
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