Opposition members last night walked out of a meeting of the anti-money laundering select committee in a dispute over whether the private sector should be an observer at all of its meetings.
Deliberations of the Select Committee of the Anti-money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill have been mired in disputes and the problems continued yesterday when the opposition walked out over what it said were the actions of the chairperson of the Committee, PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira.
The government is supporting the presence of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) at all of the meetings as an observer while the view of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is that in accordance with the Standing Orders governing such meetings, the PSC can be invited to attend as the need arises.
Last night, the Ministry of Finance and APNU issued duelling press releases on the walkout. Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh said: “This is a most unfortunate development, and reflects yet another attempt by the Opposition to frustrate the timely passage of this bill”.
APNU’s position was that the first matter on the agenda yesterday was a request by the PSC to participate as observers at the meetings of the committee. APNU said that at the previous meeting of the committee it had said that it had no objection to the participation of stakeholders in the committee’s deliberations but only on an “ad hoc basis and as the need arose”. At yesterday’s meeting, APNU said that its spokesman on Finance, Carl Greenidge reminded the meeting of the earlier decision and proposed that a response to the PSC be sent setting this position out. APNU said that this motion was passed last evening.
APNU said that the Finance Minister then proposed an additional motion authorizing the PSC to be invited as observers to all future meetings of the committee. APNU says that Singh’s motion was seen by the majority of members as contradictory to the motion that had already been approved and therefore considered it improper and decided against putting it to a vote.
“The Chairperson contended that she was not bound to be guided by the meeting and put the matter to the vote. Her Government colleagues invited the Opposition to oppose the motion, if they dared. When a majority of members called for the matter to be resolved by way of a vote Ms. Teixeira refused. The Opposition members therefore refused to participate in the vote and walked out of the meeting”, APNU said.
In his release, Singh maintained the Government’s position that the private sector has a legitimate interest in the timely passage of the legislation given the grave consequences that would befall Guyana’s economy should Parliament fail to pass the amended bill.
“Their refusal to allow the PSC to observe the committee’s proceedings reflects the fact that they are unwilling to be unmasked and have revealed to the world at large the blatant delay tactics they have been attempting in frustrating the work of the committee. ”
Referring to last evening’s meeting, Singh said “They attempted to evade and contort the matter and, eventually, when the Chairperson of the committee attempted to put to the committee the specific matter of whether the PSC should be permitted to attend all meetings of the committee in an observer capacity, the Opposition walked out.”
This is the second select committee to deliberate on this matter. The first was dissolved without the final opposition input on the bill and this resulted in a new committee having to be constituted.
Guyana has been blacklisted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force as a result of numerous missed deadlines over the absence of the amended anti-money laundering bill and there may be further trouble for the country if the global body, the Financial Action Task Force takes the matter up this month.