APNU spokesman on finance Carl Greenidge yesterday said that governance concerns are key to the finalizing of the anti-money laundering bill and he accused the government of wanting to appoint all the members of the Financial Intelligence Unit.
On Monday, the combined APNU/AFC opposition opted to adjourn to October, the Special Select Committee charged with considering the Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill. Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh has since said that the insistence in adjourning the committee’s work until October destroys all chances of the amendments being passed before the Parliamen-tary recess at the end of this week.
After Guyana failed to meet the deadline to enact legislation to meet international financial requirements earlier this year, the Carib-bean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) extended the deadline to November but in effect the bill had to be ready by the end of this month. Both Singh, as well as Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall have said that the failure to meet this deadline would result in serious repercussions. The opposition has disputed this.
APNU has said that that the deadlines could have been met if the government was willing to address all their concerns and yesterday Greenidge said that governance-related concerns have to be addressed even as they work to have the Bill passed. “We will…continue to pursue the finalisation of the Bill at issue alongside the passage of legislation and the implementation of the provisions which the constitution requires of the executive regarding respect of our fundamental rights,” he said in a letter published in today’s Stabroek News.
Greenidge reiterated that the deadline for passing the Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill could have been met had the government been willing to take on board all the issues of concern to the opposition. “The PPP leadership is obsessed with total control of everything and under the current arrangements where they exercise such control, enacted legislation has not been implemented and the FIU has never even produced a single report,” he said.
Highlighting the coalition’s concerns, Greenidge said that in relation to the 2009 Act, nothing happened and the international community is aware of this. “Additional legislation passed could suffer the same fate as the original Act. We do not believe that the international partners are blind to this possibility. They cannot fail to recognise the role of poor governance in this outrageous inaction. In any case, the logic of the government’s performance in this regard over the last decade would dictate that the international community focus their efforts not on penalising the people of Guyana but on persuading the government to equip itself to enact all the relevant legislation, whatever its name, and to expeditiously enact all Bills and assiduously implement the same in a manner required by and consistent with Guyana’s Constitution,” he asserted.
“We also believe that the problem of governance is critical and without a solution to it, that problem of non-implementation of the current legislation and absence of prosecutions will continue. The key is discontinuation of the unconstitutional behaviour to which the GOG (Government of Guyana) has become accustomed. We know that the PPP government cannot be trusted to implement any of this legislation properly if they do not behave constitutionally in general,” he said.
“A government that will not arrange for judges to be paid according to the constitution, which refuses to enact legislation seeking to correct such unconstitutional behaviour, or a government which refuses to put in place offices such as the Ombudsman and PPC, required by the constitution in order to protect our fundamental rights cannot be trusted to implement such powerful legislation,” Greenidge added.
Greenidge said that in any case, the rule of law and protection of citizens, or even foreigners, against the arbitrary use of power by the executive and against terrorists cannot turn on the passage of a single piece of legislation. “It depends on a regime of laws and the executive’s respect for the country’s constitution. Having promised to institute and implement local government reform the PPP has refused to lay for a second reading the four Local Government Bills concerning that reform,” he said.
“We must therefore first have in place safeguards of our own fundamental rights,” he added.
In relation to the deferment, Greenidge recalled that as a result of a motion brought by the APNU, a majority of the committee members had sought a clarification of a statement carried by the Guyana Chronicle and NCN quoting President Donald Ramotar deeming opposition members terrorists. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation or a retraction they had withdrawn from the meetings of the committee.
“The PPP members met during their absence and sought to draft the committee’s report on their own. A meeting scheduled for last Friday was postponed to Monday at 5pm without reference to the opposition members, most of whom had prior commitments at that time. At Monday’s session the PPP chair sought to justify the procedure but that debate was cut short when Mr. Carl B Greenidge of APNU moved a motion for adjournment of the sitting to October. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ramjattan leader of the AFC and was passed by a majority,” he wrote.
Greenidge said that while the AFC cited the refusal of the government to contribute to the process of establishing the Public Procurement Committee (PPC), the APNU insisted on two points. He said that firstly, they wanted the question of constitutionality and governance to be addressed both in terms of the amendments to the draft Bill and in relation to complementary legislation. The MP said that it was pointed out that in the opposition’s absence, the PPP members of the committee had not permitted the broader civil society to make any oral presentation to the deliberations, a process which the opposition had called for and on which they thought that agreement had been secured during the initial sessions.
Greenidge said that they had also called for the meeting to discuss and include changes to Sections 8, 9(3) (a) and 22 (1) (d) of the Principal Act, for inclusion in the draft report. “These amendments were intended to correct relevant weaknesses in the main Act. Among those weaknesses is the question of the governance of the system. Thus, although the PPP (via the President and/or the Minister of Finance) already appoints the Chancellor of the Judiciary, the CJ, the judges, the COP and the DPP they are also seeking to appoint all the key members of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as well as the Chairman and the members of the supervisory body,” he said.
The parliamentarian said that while many people would have questions in relation to the deadline and likely consequences for Guyana, government has been playing games with the deadline. “More importantly, the deadline could have been met if the GOG (Government of Guyana) had been willing to take on board all the issues of concern to the opposition,” he said, adding that APNU believes that this legislation is very important and on that basis had fully supported the legislation laid and passed in 2009.