Gov’t, opposition for weekend meetings on anti-laundering bill -Teixeira

The select committee on the anti-money laundering amendment bill will convene over the weekend with the participation of opposition members, Chairperson Gail Teixeira said yesterday.

A day after the committee moved to conclude its deliberations in the absence of opposition members, Teixeira said that there would be a special effort to finish work on the proposed legislation before returning it to the National Assembly for a vote next Monday after APNU representatives were not prepared for work last evening.

“Regrettably, the opposition was not ready and not prepared at that time, or as yet, to look at the bill and the work that had been done [on Tuesday] in relation to the stakeholders submission… they needed more time [so] the government affirmed, as it has from the inception, that we are prepared to meet every day,” she told Stabroek News following last evening’s meeting.

Teixeira said that the committee’s government members proposed today as the next date for meeting but that the opposition members, who were in attendance yesterday – APNU MPs Joseph Harmon and Basil Williams – argued that a meeting today would not be possible.

Attempts to contact both Williams and Harmon on the development were unsuccessful.

The absence of APNU MP Carl Greenidge, who is currently overseas, was one of the reasons given by the opposition to justify the inability to meet yesterday and Teixeira suspects that the chance of a meeting today was also shot down because of his absence.

“Therefore we agreed to meet on Saturday and Sunday,” she explained, adding that the APNU is adamant that it has amendments to propose when the committee again meets.

Teixeira, who served as chairperson for the previous select committee on the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill, has expressed deep concerns in relation to the opposition’s behaviour.

“After all these months [and in the second round] why only now are they talking about bringing amendments, when none have been brought in the previous committee? And so, now, we are still waiting for these elusive amendments to the bill that is before the House,” she lamented.

Teixeira said that government is still looking to bring the bill back to the house next Monday – the last sitting before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meets on February 13th – and though Opposition Leader David Granger, during a press conference last month, committed the coalition to working toward finishing the work in the committee and having the bill passed before FATF meets, she says she now harbours doubts.

She said that APNU members walked out of a meeting on Monday, and refused to attend Tuesday’s meeting. APNU members walked out of the meeting on Monday after the government moved to vote on having the Private Sector Commission (PSC) attend the committee hearings, while APNU said its members could not attend Tuesday’s meeting since they were required to attend the weekly Shadow Cabinet meeting.

Teixeira also referred to a letter sent to President Donald Ramotar by Granger, in which she said the opposition leader threatened to leverage the coalition’s support for bills brought by government for Ramotar’s assent to opposition bills as well as the implementation of the bills that have been passed but not been made operational. Though APNU was not specific on which bills it would leverage, Teixeira is convinced that the coalition is targeting the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill.

When the committee met Tuesday, it considered the proposal submitted by the PSC and went through the bill itself clause by clause. The government was intent on going these developments over with the opposition and finishing the committee’s work yesterday but the opposition members reportedly told the committee they needed more time to study the document and required the presence of Greenidge as he is the coalition’s point person on the committee.

“We will see what happens on Saturday and Sunday,” a measured Teixeira said.

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