Trades Union Congress says anti-laundering bill must be shorn of deficiencies

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says that the anti-money laundering bill must be rid of all of its weaknesses in crucial talks today prior to its consideration in Parliament tomorrow.

The TUC also warned of growing hysteria over the bill in light of arguments that a February 13 date has to be met or else the Financial Action Task Force could automatically review Guyana.

Said the union movement: “The present law requires amendment because it was rammed through the National Assembly with the support of some that has today placed us in an untenable position, causing external bodies to send Guyana back to the drawing board to ensure compliance with prescribed standards. This slip shod work must not be repeated and the time has come to end sacrificing effectiveness for expediency”.

The TUC statement follows:

The GTUC is concerned the society is being pushed towards hysteria and not rational and purposeful reasoning on the proposed amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Law to meet standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and United Nations Conventions on Terrorism. The AML/CFT Bill is presently in the National Assembly, before a Parliamentary Special Select Committee. The Bill is scheduled for debate on Monday, 10th February. The CFATF gave Guyana May 2014 to bring the laws and its practices in compliance. The May review deadline is what the society is encouraged to focus on.

The FATF’s Plenary and Working Group meetings are being held in France from 9-14th February 2014. Ms. Gail Teixeira, Chair of the AML/CFT Special Select Committee reportedly said this of FATF- “They can proceed to automatically review us on February 13.  There is no certainty in Ms. Teixeira’s statement but it needs to be reminded in November 2013 it was felt the Bill was dead after being voted down in the National Assembly; in February 2014 the Bill is before the Assembly. Thus, if the FATF happens to review Guyana’s efforts at compliance, it would take note that a Bill once considered dead is back on the table, attracting rigourous debates and scrutiny by the wider society to bring Guyana into compliance.

The hype being created is supported by an atmosphere of polarised negotiations to deceive the society and play the one-upmanship game. The society must call on those responsible to desist from fogging up the atmosphere which is impairing vision/judgment on the way forward. Level-headedness must prevail to proceed in order to arrive at a law which supports the spirit and intent of creating a law built on structures and rights established in the Guyana Constitution and international covenants.

The GTUC notes the calls in some quarters for the National Assembly to pass a Bill. While these calls may be well-intended, we wish to urge they be buttressed with the desire to ensure the Bill that is approved does not conflict with the Constitution because CFAF in its oversight role will capture the deficiencies when Guyanese are equally capable of identifying and correcting these shortcomings before a vote. The present law requires amendment because it was rammed through the National Assembly with the support of some that has today placed us in an untenable position, causing external bodies to send Guyana back to the drawing board to ensure compliance with prescribed standards. This slip shod work must not be repeated and the time has come to end sacrificing effectiveness for expediency.

Further, to pass a Bill and sign it into law when it conflicts with the Constitution opens the door for every accused to use the violations of the Constitution to be exonerated. If the law vests authority in an individual or agency to charge and prosecute when the Constitution vests no authority, it opens the door for the culpable to walk scot free.  Members of Parliament are called on to ensure the Bill is rid of these elements. The GTUC supports the call for political parties, organisations and individuals to be included in the Bill for accountability.  Our laws are universal and all must play by the same rules and held to the same standards.

The GTUC observes the AFC’s call for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) before promulgation of the law.  This would signal the Executive has the political will and is prepared to activate a constitutional body tasked the responsibility to oversee proper management of public goods and services. With this call having been made for a number of months, the public on 8th February is being advised the deadline for submitting nominees to the PPC has moved from 20th January to 14th February. This raises eyebrows. Clearly there is a desire to hold the society to ransom on a hyped claim that Guyana has to meet the artificially created deadline of 13th February for passing the Bill, in the hope that a parliamentary group will either vote against or withhold support to create another manufactured political crisis of division, when the Executive is failing to demonstrate it is prepared to uphold every aspect of the Constitution.  The Executive is taking a similar approach to the APNU who is asking that Bills passed be assented to prior to promulgation of AML/CFT Bill. The PPP responded by accusing the PNC of supporting criminals.

Given the current atmosphere GTUC is confident there will no charge instituted against those engage in money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) even though they walk in board daylight, some are in the corridors of power, and others are the guests of the United States Prison System. MLFT has implications from everyone, from the labourer, sugar worker, bauxite worker, public servant, teacher, nurse, market vendor, grocery store owner to the big businesses and executives. All are touched by illegal practices because they threaten our safety, a clean competitive environment, legitimate development and ultimately peaceful co-existence. The law-abiding must be concerned when a business is erected or the neighbour next door acquires or sells possessions under questionable circumstances when they work hard and make sacrifices but their due rewards seem elusive.

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