– Opposition Leader and President to meet by Monday
By Kiana Wilburg
The man-in-the-street is even more worried by the recently issued advisory by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and its implications for his money.
CFATF has called on its members to further distance itself from conducting business transactions with Guyana.
Failure to pass the legislation on required deadlines has left the regional body with no choice but to refer Guyana to its parent body, the Financial Action Task Force, which can see Guyana being possibly blacklisted on the international level.
The political opposition party, The Alliance For Change (AFC), which remains committed towards having a stronger Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill (AML/CFT) has made it clear that even though the regional body has taken that action, the Bill can be passed within 72 hours.
But A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has gone further to state that 72 hours is simply too long; that the amended Bill can be passed within 48 hours.
The leader of the political coalition, Brig. David Granger made this assertion yesterday at his head office on Hadfield Street during a press conference.
Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, beat the Member of Parliament to the punch in the “blame game” Thursday last. He said that the political opposition is solely responsible for the action taken by the regional body.
Granger, however, sought to make it pellucid to citizens at the press conference that the Opposition does not accept responsibility and blamed instead, the People’s Progressive Party Administration for the advisory that was issued.
The CFATF in the advisory called on its members to consider implementing further counter measures to protect their financial systems from the ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Guyana.
This advisory was issued due to the fact that Guyana has, failed to meet certain deadlines, the last being May 29 for the passing of the amended Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill. As such, the regional body has indicated that Guyana will now be referred to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
He added, “Now we have been discussing the AML Bill for 13 months and government is aware of our position and the conditions. I met with President Donald Ramotar on May 12 where similar sentiments were expressed during our discussions.
“But while the AFC which I support in its call for the Public Procurement Commission has said that it would only take 72 hours, I would reiterate that it would only take 48 hours. APNU demands that the amendments be accepted and that Government put in place some process of getting the non assented Bills, assented to by the President.”
He said that his partnership repeatedly called on the government to abandon its “winner-takes-all” attitude to governance. Granger also mentioned that the results of the November 28, 2011 general and regional elections should have made it clear that an “inclusionary” approach was needed to promote the national interest.
He added that the current “dispensation” in the National Assembly requires consultation and cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of Government instead of confrontation.
The politician stated that greater national unity will bring greater national benefits including; the elimination of a one-party domination of the government, the encouragement of dialogue within the formal councils of government, the enhancement of multi-ethnic space and the elimination of ethnic insecurity, the enrichment of cultural life and national consciousness and pride.
APNU, the Leader said, renews its commitment to “inclusionary democracy” as enshrined in the Constitution.
“We have stated previously that Guyana has had the legislation for 14 years and not a single prosecution was done. In May 2011, exactly three years ago, Guyana was placed on a list of jurisdictions with strategic Anti Money Laundering deficiencies that have not made sufficient progress in addressing them and requires Guyana to take steps to address it and correct it by November 2013. Government has been delaying and has been taking its own time. Government has called for Parliament to resume on June 19. It has no interest in strengthening the Bill and it is asking us to pass it unconditionally? That will not happen.”
Granger has said that while the President has not made contact with him since the CFATF announcement, the two are expected to meet by Monday to speak on the amended legislation and the way forward.
“I am concerned about the consequences of not passing the amended AML Bill. I am, also, about not strengthening the governance of it. To pass it unconditionally would mean that the country is going to suffer. We want good governance. I believe the public appreciates our position in protecting our economy from dirty money and we know where it is coming from.”
As it is now established that both government and the political opposition remains fixed with their positions, Granger was then asked if mediation by the members of the Caribbean Community is still being sought at this stage.
The Opposition leader said that he wrote to Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who is also the Chairman of CARICOM and to two other CFATF officials.
He added, “I spoke with them last Thursday and we asked the same thing about mediation and whether it is likely to be given… But the solution is simple and that’s why the thrust of this press conference is national unity.
“We must, as politicians, be able to sit at the table and discuss our issues. It doesn’t have to go to the Bahamas or Trinidad and Tobago. We can solve this by Monday night.”
On Thursday, the Finance Minister said that the action by CFATF was the inevitable consequence of the opposition’s refusal to enact the CFATF compliant bill.
When questioned about the mechanisms the government plans to put in place to cushion the effects of the blacklisting, he said that Government’s instruments to address this are finite.
He said that he wished not to speculate about the possible effects that the foreign exchange rate will suffer but stated that the government however, remains open to dialogue with the opposition on the way forward.
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