Private sector, transparency group urge implementing of US democracy project

-call for expediting of anti-laundering law

The Private Sector Com-mission (PSC) and the anti-corruption group (TIGI) yesterday called for the implementation of the US democracy project which the government here has tried to stop and also appealed for political parties to expedite the anti-money laundering bill which faces a crucial deadline next week.

The PSC and Transpa-rency Institute Guyana Inc met on Wednesday and in a joint statement yesterday, the two said that in relation to  the US Democracy and Leadership Project:  “We are in full support of the Project. In this regard, we urge the Government to do everything possible to resolve with the United States Embassy any outstanding issues to ensure the smooth execution of the Project. We believe that legislators, political parties and the general citizenry are likely to derive enormous benefits from the Project.”

The government here had announced it was pulling out of the project and but it later softened up its position and said that it was prepared to have talks with the US on it once the project is halted. The US had said that despite government’s objection to the project, it would proceed on it with the other stakeholders. This stance has triggered charges from the government that Washing-ton was challenging the country’s sovereignty. Talks are to be held between the two sides.

The joint press release also called for local government elections arguing that this was an integral part of democracy.

“We are indeed disappointed that since 1994 no such elections were held. We call on our political leaders to set aside their differences and take urgent measures to ensure that Local Government elections are held as early as possible to allow residents to elect their leaders among the local communities and to hold them accountable”.

On the vexed issue of the Anti-Money Launder-ing and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, the two groups said that they were “extremely disappointed” at the  distrust among the political parties  which has led to the failure  to amend the existing legislation to bring it in line with international standards. They said that their disappointment was further compounded in the wake of recent reports that Guyana and Mozam-bique are rated as the lowest in the world in terms of  legislation dealing with anti-money laundering.

 Blacklisted

“As citizens, we cannot allow our country to be blacklisted for the failure to bring its legislation on the matter in line with international standards. The consequence of blacklisting and sanctions will almost certainly have a significant adverse impact on the activities of the business community and on the lives of ordinary citizens. We issue an urgent call to our political leaders: to set aside narrow political and partisan interests; to put the broader interest first i.e. the interest of the country; and to do whatever it takes to meet next week’s deadline for effecting the appropriate amendments to the existing legislation”, the two groups urged.

On the Public Procure-ment Commission im-passe, the groups again voiced deep disenchantment that after 13 years, the constitutional body is not in place.

“We call on the Public Accounts Committee to: (a) expedite the selection of the five best candidates for appointment to the Commission from among the list of 20 persons who have been nominated; and (b) present their names to the National Assembly for ratification.  It is our sincere hope that once these two actions are taken, the President will be in a position to make the appointment”, the two groups said.

They noted that for several years now, the Inte-grity Commission has not been functioning because of  the failure to appoint the Commissioners.

“We believe that a Commission that is staffed with independent, and technically and professionally competent officials, and provided with adequate resources, is the single most important institution in any fight against corruption”, the two groups declared.

They noted that  Guyana has signed on to two key conventions – the Inter-American Convention against Corruption; and the United Nations Conven-tion Against Corruption and that the country therefore has an obligation under these two conventions to fight corruption wherever it exists particularly given Guyana’s  low standing on the Transpa-rency International Cor-ruption Perceptions Index.

“We urge the Govern-ment to appoint the members of the Integrity Com-mission without further delay”, the statement said.

On the 2014 budget and the implications of the Chief Justice’s ruling, the two groups said that they are aware of the differing views  on the Chief Justice’s ruling on whether the National Assembly could reduce the Estimates of Expenditure as presented.

“Regardless of how we may feel about the ruling, we urge our legislators to respect the ruling unless a higher court decides otherwise. The country cannot afford a third year of political bickering over sums to be allocated for undertaking the essential services of the Government and for infrastructure works. In this regard, we call on our political leaders to display magnanimity to each other; sit together in the spirit of compromise; and decide what is best for the country. It is not too late to engage in such discussions”.

They said that they would welcome the opportunity to be of help in this process. The opposition has already said it is too late for meaningful budget consultations to be held.

On recent allegations of police brutality and involvement in criminal activities, the two groups said that as  civil society organizations, they are extremely disturbed at the allegations.

“While we acknowledge that the majority of officers carry out their duties diligently and in a professional way, there is a serious deficit in public confidence in the Police Force precipitated by the actions of undesirable elements in the Force. For too long these rogue elements have been allowed to operate with impunity. We call on the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police to do whatever it takes to lift the standards of performance of the Police Force so that citizens can feel comfortable in the belief that the Force is truly embracing its motto of service and protection to the citizens of this country”, the two groups urged.

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