The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, currently the subject of intense speculation and national debate, was being considered by a Select Committee prior to the National Assembly proceeding on its two- month recess.
Despite the urgency that the Bill be passed into law to prevent Guyana being deemed as non-compliant with its international obligation, no work was done by the Select Committee for the entire ten weeks or so from the recess date.
We have since learnt that shortly after the Select Committee’s resumption, at a meeting which none of the opposition members could attend, lead PPP/C member Ms. Gail Teixeira, Chairperson, abruptly terminated consideration of the Bill and brought the Committee to an end. Her action deprived not only the opposition MPs but also members of the public the opportunity to appear before the Committee to present their views.
She will now be presenting the Bill to the National Assembly with recommendations that it be passed with all its several and serious flaws on which both of us have written publicly, and one of us made written submissions to the Select Committees of the original 2009 Bill and the Amendment Bill.
It is against this background that we express our dismay over a statement attributed to Mr. David Granger in which he distanced himself from the public commitment of the AFC that essentially states that that party would not support the Bill unless the constitutionally mandated Public Procurement Com-mission is established. Mr. Granger states that he sees no nexus between the two.
Fundamentally we find it regrettable that after so many months considering this Bill, the Leader of the Opposition could not bring the opposition parties to find common ground in addressing the Bill, or indeed a legislative agenda that serves the national interest.
On November 28, 2011 the people elected them to the National Assembly to make laws as well as oppose any bad laws proposed by the ruling Party. We are not the first to call on these parties and their leaders to get their act together.
We share Mr. Granger’s interest in having a proper anti-money laundering Bill that will work to stamp out money laundering. Where we disagree strongly with him is that there is no nexus in the elements of a meaningful national legislative programme.
In taking such an approach, Mr. Granger is acting as the PPP/C wants him to.
It is more than twelve years since the Guyana Constitution mandated a Procurement Commission; a Local Govern-ment Commission; legislation to set a fair mechanism to allocate resources among the regions; and a Public Service Appellate Tribunal to protect the interest of public servants.
It is years since we last had an Ombudsman, the defender of the interest of the poor. To call for these immediately is not petty politics but the essence of our democracy and responsible and responsive leadership.
We therefore believe that it is entirely unacceptable that the Leader of the Opposition should act in any way that gives support to the PPP/C’s belief that they are free to decide those of our constitutional rights we will enjoy and those which we will not; whether the National Assembly will function as it was intended to do or merely to serve the interests of the PPP/C; which Bills will be properly considered by Select Com-mittees and those which will not; those Bills the President chooses arbitrarily not to give his assent to and those to which he will; if and when we will have local government elections, a Procurement Commission and an Ombudsman; and which projects will be passed through the National Budget and which will be diverted through NICIL. Two years into this new Parliament is more than enough time for these fundamental questions to have been resolved.
With or without the Anti-Money Laundering Amendment Bill, the matters referred to above are vital to our democracy and are linked in our constitution.
Mr. Granger must therefore resist any attempt by the Govern-ment, the PSC or the diplomatic community to designate these as secondary issues.
We fear the consequences of not having the democratic and governance structures much more than we fear the consequences of a delay in passing the amendments.
We believe that the consideration of the Anti-Money Laundering Amendment Bill which the Government and the PPP/C are now rushing to pass presents the ideal opportunity to deal with this unacceptable state of affairs.
It is for these reasons that we propose that the Opposition Parties demand action on these critical issues as a necessary precondition for even agreeing to discuss the Bill and the Principal Act.