Chief Parliamentary Coun-sel Cecil Dhurjon has delivered awaited draft amendments for the anti-money laundering bill to the special select committee working on the legislation even as government hopes to broker a consensus for needed opposition support.
The committee met last evening and Chairperson Gail Teixeira told Stabroek News afterward that the PPP/C could not close its eyes and ears to the views expressed by the people. “There is a resounding voice in Guyana that says pass that bill so we won’t get blacklisted,” she said.
Teixeira noted that the meeting went well but added that the question remains whether the amendments will be Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF)-compliant.
She disclosed that Dhurjon produced the drafted amendments—proposed by the opposition coalition APNU —and Attorney General Anil Nandlall also produced a set of drafts which consists of modified APNU amendments which the government is hoping “can broker a kind of a middle road approach that maybe the APNU and AFC may be in agreement [with].”
Teixeira said that APNU was holding firm to first evaluating the current drafted amendments before looking at any other possible fixes.
Nandlall stated that Dhurjon tried to capture APNU’s proposals but accused the opposition coalition of even now making changes to them. “Even if we approve it here, I still believe that we need to send it to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force for their imprimatur because at the end of the day we can pass whatever bill we want, unless it received the approval of the CFATF, we would have been engaged in a self-defeating exercise,” he explained.
He said that the government was still of the view that as talks remain ongoing, the amendment bill in its current form, which was CFATF approved, should be passed.
When contacted, APNU MP Joseph Harmon and committee member expressed his satisfaction with the drafted amendments being presented to the committee. “It was worth the wait,” he stated after the committee meeting. He added that the meeting went well and “we have actually completed certain sections that have been provided by Mr Dhurjon and we have explanations to the approach which he took.”
“We are basically dealing with the administrative structure in the act itself and we have discussions going on both sides,” he further said, before adding that the committee will begin to focus in depth on the Financial Intelligence Unit and the structure of the unit taking into consideration the amendments.
Harmon stated that the next step was to discuss and prepare the draft to be sent to the CFATF. He reiterated that the committee still had work to do and denounced the government for hosting a public consultation at the International Conference Centre today.
Harmon said that “while the committee is still deliberating things for you to be going out there to try and create an impression that is not necessarily the final product that is coming out of the select committee, we believe that is a bit premature.”
He said that APNU executive will maintain its decision to not attend the meeting. “It is not for us to go there to lend support to a process which is aimed at providing an outcome which says that the general population agrees with the PPP’s position,” he added while cautioning that it was not a case where the amendments were the same as what was proposed on February 9 and in fact there have been changes and revisions. “We are going through these amendments now and these amendments, actually, we have consensus on both sides to the nature of these amendments.”
The next committee meet is scheduled for March 26.
Guyana has missed numerous deadlines for the completion and submission of the legislation. Guyana is currently regionally sanctioned by the CFATF, which will review Guyana’s progress in May, by which time the government is hopeful of reporting that the legislation is enacted and being implemented.
The CFATF will meet and a decision will be made whether to submit Guyana to the Financial Action Task Force’s International Co-operation Review Group to determine if Guyana is to be internationally blacklisted.