Ramotar, Granger for talks in face of regional blacklisting over stalled anti-laundering bill

President Donald Ramotar and Opposition Leader David Granger are due for talks next Monday in wake of the call by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) for countries in the region to step up countermeasures against Guyana over its failure to update its anti-money laundering legislation.

Although the regional body this week decided to refer Guyana to the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), neither government nor the opposition parties have signaled a shift towards compromise for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill. FATF is slated to hold its next Plenary in Paris, France from the 23rd to the 27th of next month.

In light of the CFATF calling on its members to step up countermeasures, President Donald Ramotar called on the opposition to “unconditionally” pass the bill, while taking no responsibility for the country’s regional blacklisting.

 Donald Ramotar
Donald Ramotar

During a press conference yesterday, Granger said main opposition APNU still does not see any reason to change its position. APNU wants its proposed amendments added to the principal legislation, and it has asked that President Ramotar assent to the four bills that he vetoed after they were passed by the National Assembly.

Granger repeated this position to the president during a conversation on Thursday. He said he is slated to meet the president again next Monday, although he would not divulge the reason for next week’s meeting. He did indicate, however that the anti-laundering bill may be up for discussion.

When asked if APNU, in light of Guyana being failed by CFATF, is willing to compromise to any degree on its position, Granger said that the coalition is willing to examine whatever stumbling blocks stand in the way of getting the legislation passed. He also said that Basil Williams, the coalition’s Shadow Legal Affairs Minister, would be willing to sit down with Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall to find an amicable solution. At the same time, he said APNU maintains its beliefs that its current demands are geared towards the betterment of the Guyanese people.

Granger, when asked about APNU’s openness to mediation, further said that he has informed CFATF officials that there is no need for them to make further visits to Guyana since their presence can do nothing to change the situation. The solution, Granger said, lies in Guyana with the local stakeholders. He says that if government takes the necessary actions, APNU will give its support to the bill as early as next week.

David Granger
David Granger

AFC, meanwhile, has already amended its position once and Executive Member David Patterson yesterday said he does not know what more the party can give. Initially, the AFC, which demands the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) in exchange for its support to pass the bill, required that government set up the commission in accordance with the provisions of the Procurement Act 2003. According to the Act, Cabinet’s no-objections role in the procurement process would cease with the establishment of the commission.

Government, which conceptualised and voted to pass the legislation in the first place, now wants Cabinet to retain its no-objection powers even after the setting up of the commission, and refuses to contribute to the forward movement of the process until the AFC and/or APNU votes to allow it to retain those privileges.

As a compromise, AFC is willing to allow Cabinet to keep its no-objection powers, but Patterson says the government will make its objections to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). The NPTAB will then consider Cabinet’s objection, but would reserve the authority to make its decision without Cabinet’s influence.

AFC says that the necessary steps to set up the PPC can be finalised in 72 hours, after which it would be willing to support the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill.

Government has not accepted AFC’s compromise and Nandlall has repeated said that he cannot, in good faith, advise the president to sign the bills APNU wants. What is more, even if the bill is passed, it may take years before Guyana is considered compliant enough to come out from under FATF’s scrutiny, Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira has said.

While the political parties remain at loggerheads, the private sector and other stakeholders in Guyana await the fallout from CFATF’s decision.

The “countermeasures,” CFATF explained, can include “the requirement of enhanced due diligence measures; introducing enhanced reporting mechanisms or systematic reporting of financial transactions; refusing the establishment of subsidiaries or branches or representative offices in the country concerned; or otherwise taking into account the fact that the relevant financial institution is from a country that does not have adequate AML/CFT systems and limiting the business relationships or financial transactions with the identified country or persons in that country.” The measures adopted would be determined by CFATF’s member states.

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