A public “cast-iron” guarantee that the four bills rejected by President Donald Ramotar will be assented to would see the main opposition APNU supporting the anti-money laundering bill, the coalition’s leader David Granger has said.
“We want to ensure that there is a public guarantee that the bills that we are concerned with are going to be assented to,” he told Stabroek News when asked whether APNU’s support of the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill is contingent on assent to the four bills or a guarantee that the bills would be assented to by the President.
Granger had previously announced that APNU would withhold support from certain government bills in the National Assembly unless it gets an assurance from the executive that bills already passed would receive presidential assent and those already enacted would be operationalised.
Granger later signalled that an agreement on the bills would be crucial for APNU’s support of the anti-money laundering bill, in particular.
The four bills passed by the House and not assented to by Ramotar are the opposition-crafted Fiscal Management and Account-ability (Amendment) Bill 2012, the Fiscal Manage-ment and Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2013 and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2013 which were passed by the combined opposition parties using their one-seat majority in the National Assembly but which were not assented to by the President over concerns about their constitutionality. Ramotar has also said that he would not assent to bills passed without executive input.
The remaining bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2012, was passed with the support of both government and opposition but Ramotar subsequently said that he found the bill to be unconstitutional.
The anti-money laundering bill has been stalled for months now with the AFC also demanding the setting up of a Public Procurement Commission before its parliamentarians support the bill.
Granger, earlier this month, had written to the President indicating that the opposition stood ready to meet him as early as possible to discuss a way forward on the bills. In the letter, dated February 9 and titled ‘Relations between the Executive and Legislative Branches,’ Granger said the coalition believed that there is an opportunity for progress to be made in improving relations between the executive and legislative branches of government in the national interest.
He urged that they meet as early as possible to determine a way forward. However, he said it was proposed that first the work of the special select committee on the AML/CFT Bill be brought to a mutually acceptable conclusion. He also floated the proposal that both sides should seek common ground on crafting a definite process by which the unassented bills could be returned for presidential assent.
Towards this, he had urged that Prime Minister Sam Hinds – as Leader of the House – make a mutually agreed statement in the National Assembly at its past sitting on Monday, committing both the President and Leader of the Opposition to re-examining the bills with a view to their reconsideration and reactivation by a definite date.
Asked about a response from the President, Granger said that Ramotar suggested that they go about approving the anti-money laundering bill without amendments and the other bills would be dealt with later down the road. “We don’t feel that is an acceptable position,” Granger said, adding that APNU wants a cast-iron public position from government that the bills will be dealt with.
The opposition leader emphasized that APNU is committed to continue to clean up the bill to ensure that agencies such as the Bank of Guyana, among others, are strengthened. As far as passage of the bill is concerned, he referred to the letter to Ramotar about embarking on a mechanism for the issue to be resolved.
The opposition leader reiterated that they will complete their revision of the bill but are not proceeding to agree to it unless the government agrees to put in place a mechanism to return the four rejected bills to the National Assembly then on to the President so that they could be assented to.
Meantime, asked about a call by the Guyana Trades Union Congress for workers’ grievances at Rusal/Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) to be addressed before the passage of the bills, Granger said APNU was aware of this and it will be considered when the coalition’s shadow cabinet meets on Tuesday. He added that they support good governance at the Rusal’s subsidiary operation but he could not comment further as the issue had not been discussed by APNU’s shadow cabinet.