President Donald Ramotar today said that Opposition Leader David Granger has rejected the latest government offer to have the anti-money laundering (AML) bill passed.
In an address to the nation, Ramotar said he proposed to Granger yesterday that the government would pass the opposition’s proposed amendments to the AML bill but not meet the other other conditions set by the opposition including the assenting to bills passed with the opposition majority but rejected by the President. Ramotar said that Granger rejected this proposal.
The text of Ramotar’s address follows:
My Fellow Guyanese,
I have decided to address you today on an issue that has been occupying the nation’s attention for more than a year now.
As you are aware, the Government laid in National Assembly the AML/CFT Bill in April of 2013. This Bill, as was stated before, came out of an international process. I thought that because of the nature of the Bill and the serious consequences that can follow from the National Assembly not passing the Bill that it would have passed unanimously and easily through the National Assembly.
That, unfortunately, was not to be. The Bill was sent to a Special Select Committee by the joint Opposition on the grounds that they had amendments to make. From April to November that year, they made no proposals for any change.
The Bill was then taken back to the National Assembly in November of 2013, just before the CFATF meeting. This was done because that regional body had confirmed that the Bill met the requirements of that body.
Unfortunately on November 7, 2013 the joint opposition voted against it.
The Bill once again went back to the National Assembly on November 19, 2013. The joint Opposition again sent it to a Special Select Committee.
From December 2013 to February 7, 2014, they made no proposals for amending the Bill.
It was not until Sunday, February 8 at 9 pm in the night that they proposed some amendments.
The amendments they proposed made the Bill non-compliant with CFATF standards.
This was not only the Government’s position, but was later confirmed by CFATF assessor Mr Roger Hernandez when he was invited to address the Select Committee.
Despite knowing this, the Opposition continued to hold on to their amendments. Moreover they also put conditions including that the President should sign all Bills passed by National Assembly, and that the Government must agree to a Public Procurement Commission, without the issue of Government’s concern of maintaining Cabinet’s role of granting its no-objection to all contracts above $15M (GYD).
On Friday last, June 13, 2014, Gail Teixeira, Chairperson of the Special Select Committee tried to summon a meeting of the Committee in an attempt to have an anti-money laundering legislation passed in the National Assembly before the FATF meeting on June 23, 2014 in Paris. Her efforts were re-buffed by the Opposition members.
On Monday, I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition urging him to have the members of his side attend the Parliamentary Special Select Committee meeting to be held on the same day or the next day. I even told him that if he could not get a meeting for Monday, then they should meet on Tuesday.
I told him that I was willing to excuse the four (4) Government members sitting on the Special Select Committee from attending the Cabinet Meeting of Tuesday, June 17, 2014, so that they could meet.
On Tuesday night, contact was made with the Head of the Presidential Secretariat informing him that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to meet with me soonest.
On Wednesday morning, I called the Leader of the Opposition and he asked that we meet at 5 pm on the same day.
I met with the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 and I proposed to him that the Government was willing to pass the Bill with the Opposition’s amendments, even though we felt it was non compliant, and even though we did not agree with it that we would vote for it so that we can have a Bill before the FATF meeting later in June, 2014.
I also proposed to him that if CFATF and FATF were to find that the Bill had non-compliant provisions, that the Opposition would support amending the Bill accordingly.
I also proposed that because of the urgency of the matter, that the Opposition would not link my offer to pass their Bill to their other demands: (1) My assent of all Bills passed by National Assembly and (2) My support for the Public Procurement Commission being established without Cabinet retaining its role in granting no-objection to awards above $15M (GYD).
The Opposition Leader declined my offer.
We have worked hard to get the Legislation through because we believe that the consequences could be very serious for our people. We said before that it was a patriotic duty to have this Bill passed and spare you the Guyanese people the negative consequences of not doing so.
Unfortunately the Opposition seems to have put more importance on its own narrow political, party agenda before the welfare and interest of our people.
Compatriots, I wish to assure you that we would continue to do all we can to protect our nation’s interests.
Regrettably, this is now being made much more difficult because of the clear unpatriotic stance taken by the Opposition, APNU.