Thursday’s new session of Parliament has a packed agenda but the centre of attention will be occupied by the government’s attempt to have the anti-money laundering bill passed despite warnings from the opposition majority that the legislation is unacceptable in its present form.
Gail Teixeira, the PPP/C’s Chief Whip and the Chairperson of the Select Committee which reviewed the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013, is slated to move a motion for the adoption of the report of the committee. At the committee’s final meeting, the opposition was not present as they had sought a rescheduling and so the government members went ahead and closed the process. A Partnership for National Unity had said that it intended to make amendments to the bill but had not tabled these before the committee up to the time of the last meeting. It is expected that it will attempt to do so on Thursday.
If the motion to accept the report is approved, Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall would then move the third reading of the bill at which point approval from the opposition would be needed otherwise the bill would not be passed. The passage of the bill is seen as necessary to avoid the blacklisting of Guyana by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force but the government and the opposition have differing views about the impact on this country of such action.
Several deadlines set by the CFATF have slipped by and this has sparked an outpouring of concerns from the private sector about the likely impact on the country from the non-passage of the bill. The opposition has argued that the government dithered for years on the amending of the principal act and that many of the provisions of the act have remained unimplemented.
The 32-page Order Paper refers to bills to be tabled and passed, motions to be moved, reports to be tabled and questions to be answered. Among the reports to be tabled are two from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) which is the key mechanism of the anti-money laundering laws. The FIU has been severely criticized by the opposition for the scope of its operations and the manner in which its head has been appointed.
Also down for tabling is the 2012 report from the Office of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Guyana. Recent instalments of this report have been savaged by analysts as being scanty and not holding government accountable for serious problems.
A host of questions is expected to see written replies including one about problematic revetment works in Kumaka and another on whether a report was compiled on the 2008 Carifesta X. Opposition Leader David Granger is also down to ask Prime Minister Sam Hinds about the intrusion of Venezuelan soldiers into Guyana’s territory on August 31, 2013.
Parliament has not met since it went into recess on August 7, 2013.