Impasse over anti-laundering bill increases prospect of early election – Ramkarran

In the aftermath of the impasse over the anti-money laundering bill, commentator Ralph Ramkarran says it is “not possible” to see how the government can continue in this manner without resorting to the electorate.

Writing in today’s Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran said “The consequences of failing to compromise resulting in the legislation not being passed cannot be anything but …dire. It is not possible to see how the government can continue in this way without resorting to the electorate. Continued governance in a state of parliamentary impasse is not an option for the way forward. The skirmishing will continue and inevitably, another major issue will emerge which will defy compromise. The budget is soon to be presented.”

Ramkarran, who spent nearly 50 years in the party before quitting in 2012, says the government will obviously be thinking of the future and the “certainly unwelcome but perhaps inevitable option, will be elections in the hope that it will recapture its majority.”

The former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly, said that the government would think that it is too early for general elections as it needs more time for achievements to present to the electorate and restore its organizational capacity.

For the opposition, Ramkarran said it would be “absolutely a bad time” to go to polls because it needs more time to raise funds and develop a message.

“And if the AML/CFT legislation is the occasion for the elections, it will be on the back foot in the campaign, being accused of sabotaging the country.  Already accusations of blackmail are being hurled. It would have been preferable if elections were not held in these circumstances but no one can see any way out of this gridlock”,  Ramkarran contended.

Ramkarran, who fell out with the PPP after criticizing the government over corruption, lamented the gridlock over the anti-money laundering bill and said that it would the people of Guyana who will be affected as a result.

Noting that the major issues of contention in the bill were the appointment of the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, Ramkarran, offered his view on possible solutions.

For the Director, he said that a fair compromise would have been his/her appointment by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. He said that consultation today means ‘meaningful’ consultation. The word ‘meaningful’ was added to the word ‘consultation’ in the constitution by the 2001-02 constitutional reforms because of the perfunctory process which took place in the Burnham era. He said that it is hardly possible today under this new formulation of ‘meaningful’ consultation for the President to appoint someone if the Leader of the Opposition disagrees. The present director of the FIU has been in place for many years and the opposition have argued that there was no sign of any serious work done by the FIU.

Ramkarran added that the government lost an opportunity for a reasonable compromise on the question of the no-objection to the award of contracts. He pointed out that the right of no objection for the cabinet of awards of contracts by the Procurement Committee under the Procurement Act, demanded by the government, is already justiciable. He said that an awardee whose contract is objected to by the cabinet has the right to challenge that decision in court. In recent years he said that the reach of public law has extended to all decisions by state authorities, and is likely to extend to a cabinet objection.

“The government therefore might well have been advised to seek or to accept a compromise by which an approach to the court by an awardee is regulated in such a way as to preserve some protection or advantage for the government. As it is, its insistence on the no objection, without more, in the belief that it would bring an end to the award that is objected to, is misplaced.  By failing to explore options, many of which are available but beyond the capacity of this article, the government has lost an opportunity for a compromise solution which may well have been in its interest and acceptable to the opposition. All parties stood to gain”, Ramkarran said.




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