Impasse over anti-laundering bill isn’t grounds for new elections

– opposition leaders

The stalemate over the anti-money laundering bill is not good enough grounds for calling general elections, according to the opposition parties.

“I don’t think so. I think the issue could be resolved. I don’t think this is a matter that requires general elections,” leader of the main opposition APNU David Granger told Stabroek News when contacted yesterday. His position was echoed by AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan. “At this stage no, we don’t feel we should call general elections just because the anti-money laundering bill has not been passed,” he said.

Attorney-General Anil Nandlall declined to comment and pointed to a statement he made on Face-book. “I don’t want to speculate about elections. It’s not a matter for me,” he said.

The Caribbean Finan-cial Action Task Force (CFATF) last week called for countries in the region to step up countermeasures against Guyana over its failure to update its anti-money laundering legislation. The regional body also referred Guyana to the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Despite this, neither government nor the opposition parties have signalled a shift towards compromise for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill, which has been stuck in the National Assembly for over a year. President Donald Ramotar has called on the opposition to “unconditionally” pass the bill, while taking no responsibility for the country’s regional blacklisting. Granger has said that 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.

AFC, meanwhile, has already amended its position once and Executive Member David Patterson has said he does not know what more the party can give. Granger reiterated yesterday that APNU is not changing its position. He noted that they do not feel the issue is one that warrants general elections to be called as he pointed out that it will cost money and take time. He said that they were confident that measures that APNU and AFC have recommended will not harm the economy.

He said too that the issue could be resolved in a short time and asserted that APNU had made a very clear statement on the matter and their position is clear. “There is no trick up our sleeves. There is no hidden agenda. We have put our cards on the table,” Granger said.

Ramjattan also said that the issue does not warrant the calling of general elections. “I do not feel that there is sufficient cause,” he said. He said that a number of factors have to be taken into consideration and local government elections should be called first. He accused the government of taking the country to the brink by politicking and questioned why they would not want to set up the Public Procurement Commission which the AFC has demanded as a condition of their support for the bill.

Nandlall, meanwhile, said he is not optimistic about the opposition’s utterances that the bill can be passed within a matter of hours. “They didn’t pass it in over a year. Nothing prevented them from so doing. However, mere passage of this bill will not automatically extricate us from this morass. It is a process. It takes years to exit the FATF supervision once you become subject. As far as I am aware, the opposition have not relinquished their demands. The bottom line is, they have put Guyana in this cesspit and they must haul us out now.

“Their demands must be the focus of some political process which is separate and apart from this bill. There is no connection,” he said in his Facebook post.

Meanwhile, former PPP Minister of Foreign Trade and International Coopera-tion, Dr Henry Jeffrey, noting that when the PPP chose to govern alone it was implying that it could do so, listed several options. “If the anti-money laundering bill is as important as it claims for Guyana and it cannot get it passed, the government, rather than staying in office and thus hurting the nation should recognize that it cannot rule alone; make single issue concessions to the opposition; form a government of national unity or simply resign and let the people decide how we move forward,” he said in an emailed response to Stabroek News.

“I don’t know elections will solve the problem. The most likely outcome of an election will be another hung parliament. I do not believe the PPP will lose the plurality. If PPP gets an overall majority it may be able to pass the bill but it might of necessity push the opposition into more direct action,” he said while adding that maybe the opposition should be more proactive in any case.

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