Stabroek News’ position that the “fight against the use of the global financial network for criminal activities is as effective as the weakest link in this chain of effort,” succinctly captures the crux of Guyana’s problem which is again being manifested around the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill (AML/CFT). The AML/CFT law in its present form has failed to address the plague of money laundering and financing of terrorism given its weak institutions and the fact that government has allowed the informal economy to parallel the formal, with persons from the former known to have association with some officials.
That Guyana since 2013 has been placed on the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) Watch List/ Blacklist for its non-compliance in meeting institutional requirements to hold accountable persons/ organisations engaged in illegal practices, has been in the making since 2009. And it is behind the stated backdrop the argument that passage of the AML/CFT Bill should not be tied to political conditions is seen as either a failure to acknowledge or a demonstrated disinterest in this country’s lived experiences under the Jagdeo and Ramator administrations. Had this country a reputation for upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights of citizens under these men, sections of civil society and the opposition would have no need to peg this law to 1) strengthening it and, 2) conditions for support.
The administration had and continues to demonstrate contempt for every institution of state when procedures, prescriptions, votes or rulings are not consistent with its agenda. The administration has so far demonstrated it will not respect the will of the electorate, will disobey the court’s rulings if they runs counter to its interest, will ignore bills passed by the National Assembly if it did not support them, will disregard the constitution if adherence means protection for the people and institutions it has no regard for, or requires being held accountable.
While others have sought to speak to this matter either from a distance and therefore not directly affected by having to live in a society where the rule of the lawless has replaced the rule of law, or others indigenous to the society can turn a blind eye, are afraid to speak out or benefit from same through favourable consideration or association with the powers that be, the masses are the ones reeling from the effect. And these are the people the opposition and civil society should have foremost in their minds in addressing issues of governance. In a society established on the principle of One People, One Nation One Destiny, it requires adherence to uniform standards.
To continue to ignore Professor Clive Thomas and the international financial institutions’ concerns about the presence of the informal economy in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product would be to the peril of all. For while the USA may be able to bring to justice the Roger Khans and Dennis Morgans in our midst, we have to be more than concerned about those who walk free in broad daylight, knowing that once they do not leave these shores they can continue their illegal practices, because the administration will ignore them. These persons and their activities pose threats to our security, our nationhood. For those who want to play by the rule of law, in a nation established on laws, they must be given the opportunity to enjoy the freedom that comes with its protection. This nation has a choice to make. We either desire to live free under the rule of law, or surrender our freedom to those who want to foist upon us the reign of the lawless.
And this brings attention to the just concerns about the potential or further fall-out in terms of remittances or other forms of financial transaction we have come to rely on as we go about our daily business. The administration is well aware that these may hurt, and it must be asked what kind of caring government would set out to punish the masses to please a few. It must be asked what kind of government will use its majority to pass laws that it knows will compromise the spirit and intent of stamping out money-laundering and the financing of terrorism and ignore CFATF’s recommendations since 2009.
It must also be asked what manner of government, through its Junior Minister of Finance, would unashamedly find excuses not to establish the constitutionally prescribed Public Procurement Commission, even though it knows some may even be prepared to give gratis service in order to restore this country to some form of integrity. It must also be asked why the government does not want to respect all the elements in the Guyana Constitution. The answers are clear for all to see.
The open contempt for the constitution and people started under the presidency of Bharrat Jagdeo. The incumbent, President Ramotar, is yet to demonstrate he has the will to veer off this destructive path. And where a government has abrogated its responsibility to the people, the people must protect themselves by standing up and being counted.