Opposition upset over new delay in drafting anti-laundering amendments

The main opposition APNU is convinced that government is sabotaging the work of the select committee on the anti-money laundering amendment bill after Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) Cecil Dhurjon again failed produce a legal draft of the coalition’s proposed amendments.

Members of the committee expressed hope last week that Dhurjon would have completed the drafts in time for a meeting last Thursday morning. If Dhurjon was successful the amendments would have been deliberated on at the meeting and returned to the House for further consideration during a sitting later that day.

Whether it would have been passed is another story, since APNU and the AFC are leveraging support for the amendment bill for government’s support on other matters—the Public Procurement Com-mission (PPC) and the president’s assent to several bills which he previously refused to sign into law.

Dhurjon did not finish in time and he asked for more time to get the work done, although he did not specify how much time he would have needed. The select committee met again yesterday and its members particularly those representing APNU, were hoping to see their proposed amendments fully drafted in legal language.

All such hopes were abandoned though, after Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, speaking on behalf of the absent Dhurjon, informed the committee that the CPC would not be attending the meeting, since he has not finished his work.

Joseph Harmon
Joseph Harmon

“They failed to produce the CPC, [and] have failed to produce the amendments in the form we require it… he [Dhurjon] is not there today and the AG sought to give a report on behalf of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel which we do not accept,” explained APNU MP Joseph Harmon who had said that the opposition parties wanted Dhurjon present at the meetings so they could direct questions to him for clarification.

Nandlall told reporters last evening that he spoke to Dhurjon and his Deputy. “In essence they informed me that they were unable to complete the task of reducing the proposals given to them by APNU members of the committee into legislative forms,” he explained.

Harmon, obviously upset at the development, said that several excuses were offered to justify Dhurjon’s inability to complete the work by last evening. “They spoke about a number of things about constitutionality, the same sort of nonsense that the AG speaks about all the time,” he told Stabroek News.

Harmon added that yesterday’s meeting was intended to facilitate the scrutiny of the drafts Dhurjon was to produce. Since there was nothing to scrutinise, the meeting did not last very long. Noting the consistency of the delays, Harmon’s comments suggested that he suspects government of intentionally meddling so as to delay the work of the committee.

“The [CPC] is not ready after almost a month and we consider this to be inexcusable… madam [Gail] Teixeira [chairpersons of the committee] is saying that we are holding the committee to hostage, [but] it is the Attorney General, it is the Chief Parliamen-tary Counsel. By [his] failure to produce the work of the committee they are holding us to hostage,” he retorted.

More work to be done

According to Nandlall, however, Dhurjon’s inability to finish the work before him is understandable considering that he also has to look at other Acts to ensure that the opposition’s amendments are not in contradiction with existing laws. In examining existing laws, he continued, the AG’s chambers has already uncovered laws which the opposition’s amendments threaten.

For instance, he explained, there are a series of statutes which permit citizens to carry undetermined sums of money around to execute various transactions, and one of the opposition’s amendments will give certain officers the authority to seize these sums if it suspected that the funds were garnered via illicit routes.

APNU committee member Basil Williams had said that this particular excuse was a farce since Guyana’s laws already make provisions for large sums of cash to be seized if is suspected that they were garnered via illicit routes and are intended to be used for illicit purposed.

Asked about this yesterday, Nandlall corrected that the legal provision authorizes the seizure of cash from persons who are suspected to be members of terrorist organisations and he added that even in such cases the authorities vested with the power to make such seizures have to ensure that strict criteria are satisfied before such a seizure is made.

“There is a provision that authorises the seizure of cash if it is found on a person who is a member of a terrorist organisation, not a rice farmer, not an ordinary Guyanese citizen…that is in the law, but that point is being obfuscated by the opposition,” he argued.

Nandlall also reiterated that the opposition’s amendments, as pointed out by government and Financial Advisor to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Roger Hernandez, run the risk of reducing the compliance level of the amendment bill.

Moreover, he reiterated that the opposition’s proposal that parliament be the body to appoint the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is flawed. Nevertheless, he said that efforts are being made to ensure that the concepts put forward by the opposition are captured in the product of Dhurjon’s work.

Due to these realities, Nandlall said he had been informed by Dhurjon that “what may be presented to the committee may not be verbatim what they [APNU] requested because he will adjust their instructions in accordance with the law, the CFATF guidelines, as well as the constitution…as a legal draftsman Dhurjon cannot draft laws which he knows will contradict existing laws, or the guiding principles of CFATF.”

Dhurjon said that he will finally be done next Monday, Nandlall said, after which the committee is expected to meet again to continue the consideration of the bill as efforts are made to get it back into the House by the next sitting on the 27th.

 

 

 

 

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