Despite AML Bill, CFATF compliant, opposition not budging even as deadline looms –President urges them to put country first
Georgetown, GINA, February 26, 2014
Even as the February 28 deadline is almost upon Guyana, the bartering continues with the parliamentary Opposition with regards to the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill.
Earlier today, the Government made a last pitch to both Opposition Parties; re-emphasising the urgent need for the Bill to be passed; however, the result of that engagement has left the country with very little hope of meeting the crucial deadline.
President Donald Ramotar making a point during the press conference. Also in photo are Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill
A press conference was called subsequently, where President Donald Ramotar lamented that the “blackmail type politics” continue with full force, and urged that patriotism, and putting the welfare of Guyanese first are now needed.
The ANPU remains unmoved from their position that their proposed amendments must be taken on board even though they were cautioned by no less a person than the Financial Adviser and Assessor from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), Roger Hernandez that this move could result in aspects of the CFATF-compliant Act of 2009, becoming non-compliant.
AFC shifts gear
With regards to the AFC, the President said that public records will show that for the past 10 months they have made it clear that they had no problems with the Bill, and that their only demand was the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
At today’s meeting however, they shifted gear and are now calling for the adoption of the position taken by the APNU, including the passage of the risky amendments. The APNU is also insisting that the President affixes his assent to the non-assented Bills.
President Ramotar said that he informed both Parties that the Bill as currently before the House is in compliance with the standards and recommendations of the CFATF and its parent body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). As such, the passage of the Bill should be supported rather than exposing the country to the perils of international blacklisting.
President Donald Ramotar and other members of the Cabinet meet with Opposition parties
He also reiterated his Government’s readiness to set up the joint commission, which came out of previous discussions weeks ago, to examine the non-assented Bills. With regards to the AFC and the PPC, the Head of State gave a commitment to ensure that this would be done by tomorrow morning, but maintained that if the Government is going to be held accountable its ‘no objection’ role must be preserved.
The power of Cabinet to issue ‘objection’ or ‘no objection’ merely affords another layer of oversight by the Government which has a fiduciary responsibility.
“They wanted me to give them all of the assurances that they want but refused to mention to me what concessions they were willing to make on the amendments to the Bill that they have…they refuse to say how they are ready to modify their amendments to meet CFATF standards,” President Ramotar said.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Juan Edghill who is also a member of the parliamentary committee to which the Bill has been referred, reminded that there is absolutely no quarrel between the Government and the two Opposition Parties with regards to the pre-February 2012 recommendations of the CFATF.
Already there is a new set of recommendations (post-February 2012) which will form the basis of another Bill that will be tabled in the National Assembly in the near future.
“Guyana should not face the horrors of blacklisting because at the level of the committee on February 9, we had an agreed Bill that satisfies all of the requirements based on the pre-February 2012 recommendation of CFATF…pre-February 2012 the entire 2009 Act was reviewed, and only those parts that were considered to be deficient, recommendations were made and all the recommendations in Bill No.22 of 2013 satisfy those deficiencies that existed pre- February 2012,” Minister Edghill explained.
He added that what the Opposition is seeking to do under the guise of strengthening the Bill is putting the country at risk of having a Bill that is non-compliant.
CFATF regionally,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Ramotar refuted accusations made by APNU MP, Rupert Roopnarine that the Government is willfully using the ALM/CFT Bill and its looming deadline to create hysteria.
He said that the Government’s efforts at diplomacy and its successful appeals for extensions given its unique situation are being used against it to peddle these accusations.
“We will continue to battle for Guyana, we will continue to argue our case and we do that knowing that when or if we succeed we will be lampooned for creating hysteria…we have no problems passing the Bill as it stand…let us pass what we know CFATF has deemed to be compliant…,” the President said.
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)
The APNU’s proposed amendment that calls for the appointment of the FIU to be done by the National Assembly as opposed to the Finance Minister is another area that parliamentary counsels are finding difficult to translate into the Bill because it changes the model of the FIU which has serious ramifications.
Minister Nandlall said that, “if you change the model of the FIU, then you are interfering with, and are liable to be in contravention of foundational principles of the FIU such as autonomy, independence, conflict of interest and insulation from a political process. If you make it ‘appointable’ by 65 members of a Parliament who are politicians then you are making the FIU a product of a political process and that is in violation of FATF and CFATF’s guidelines and regulations.”
The National Assembly is schedule to sit tomorrow while the deadline for the submission of Guyana’s follow-up report and its amended Bill to the CFATF is the day after (February 28).