Georgetown, GINA, March 11, 2014
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at their 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines have issued a call for Guyana to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill currently in a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly.
The Heads discussed the impasse in Guyana in caucus today, and agreed that the non-passage of this piece of legislation will have devastating economic impacts, not only for Guyana, but the rest of the region, if Guyana is blacklisted internationally.
The meeting is expected to issue a statement calling for a resolution to the issue.
“The meeting noted with dismay, the fact that Guyana has been unable to pass the bill which incorporates the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). The meeting noted the implications it will have for Guyana, the Guyanese economy, the people of Guyana, and more importantly regional integration and the complications that will arise in the region should Guyana be blacklisted. The meeting decided to issue a statement calling on the relevant parties to pass the legislation with dispatch because of the complexity and the problems that will arise in the region and economic and financial activity,” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, who participated in the meeting said in an invited comment.
On March 7, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart wrote to President Donald Ramotar, expressing concerns over the non-passage of the bill and its implications to the Caribbean.
“Without any doubt, this situation and the threatened action by CFATF will affect Guyana and the entire Caribbean region, and will negatively impact the well-being of our people. I trust that during our inter-sessional meeting we will be able to discuss this matter in caucus, and see what other action we can take as a group to assist Guyana at this juncture,” Prime Minister Stuart had said in his letter to President Ramotar.
Guyana on February 28 last, missed a second CFATF deadline to pass the legislation. In November, it 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 opposition at the last moment, proposed two amendments, both of which are not related to the CFATF compliant Bill, but to the principal act, which was passed in 2009. One of the proposals seeks to give police and customs officers the authority to seize $10M in currency from Guyanese on the grounds of suspicion. Initially they had proposed $2M.
CFAT has no objections to bill in its current form, and its Financial Adviser, Roger Hernandez said the regional watchdog body has concerns in relation to the amendments that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) proposed. Hernandez explained that some of the amendments put forward deal with previous areas of the Act that were deemed compliant
“The concern that we have is that the amendment put forward may make those areas that were formerly compliant, non-compliant, he said.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the end of its plenary in France recently, said Guyana has to submit a report to the CFATF on its follow-up process by February 28, which means that the Bill has to be passed, enforced and submitted along with the report by that date to the CFATF. This body was expected to analyse the Bill on aspects of compliance with international standards subsequent to which a report will be made to its plenary in May.
If the May plenary is dissatisfied with Guyana’s progress, the 2013 November statement (CFATF) already provides the decision for the country’s referral to FATF. In June 2014, the FATF is slated to meet, when it will make a decision as to whether Guyana should be subjected to a prima facie review by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG).
There has been tremendous public outcry over the opposition’s proposals, with the Private Sector Commission, religious groups, the National Competitiveness Council, labour unions, and residents across the country calling on the political parties to pass the bill. Their urgings have since fallen on deaf ear as the opposition continues to be intransigent.
More recently, residents in several communities such as Lusignan, Mahaica, Anna Regina and Greenwich Park have demanded that the bill be passed or elections be held.