In view of developments on Monday afternoon regarding the work of the Special Select Committee on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013 I wish to draw the following points to the attention of your readers. The committee on Monday voted to defer further sittings until October. The government representatives have again started to cry foul and to make claims of lack of patriotism on the part of the members of the opposition.
It will be 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 Chronicle and NCN quoting President 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 In the absence of a satisfactory explanation or a retraction they had withdrawn from the meetings of the committee.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.
Whilst 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. First, that the question of constitutionality and governance be addressed both in terms of the amendments to the draft Bill and in relation to complementary legislation. The spokesmen pointed to the fact 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. They also called for the meeting to discuss and include changes to Sections 8, 9(3) (a) and 22 (1) (d), inter alia 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. 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.
Doubtless, many people would have questions as regards the deadline and likely consequences for Guyana. I would simply say that the GOG has been playing games with the deadline. More importantly, the deadline could have been met if the GOG had been willing to take on board all the issues of concern to the opposition. First, the APNU believes that this legislation is very important and on that basis had fully supported the legislation laid and passed in 2009. Nothing happened ‒ not a single prosecution followed in or by Guyana. 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.
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 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. 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. The very fact that the government would set the emoluments of key officials in the judiciary without reference to their hierarchical position and without reference to the National Assembly, suggests an intent to suborn, if not success in suborning, and the politicising of the judicial system. That cannot be a sensible or reliable base on which to place strong anti-money laundering or anti-terrorism legislation.
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. We must therefore first have in place safeguards of our own fundamental rights.
We will therefore 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.
The APNU was represented at the session by Mr Basil Williams, spokesman on Legal Affairs, Mr Joe Harmon Spokesman on Infrastructure and Mrs D Backer, Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, in addition to Mr Greenidge. The meeting was chaired by Ms Teixeira and the other PPP representatives were Dr Singh and Mr Edgehill. The government side was without the AG, Mr Nandlall, who is abroad.
Carl B Greenidge