Opposition a ‘no show’ at AML Committee meeting

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Government Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira
Government Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

[www.inewsguyana.com]Opposition members of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee considering the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill did not show up for the meeting on Tuesday, February 4, according to Chairman Gail Teixeira.

This is a day after the Opposition members walked out of the February 3 meeting, in protest of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) observing each and every meeting of the Committee.

However, despite this, the main opposition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has said that it is committed to the passage of the Bill. Teixeira, through the Government Information Agency (GINA) revealed that APNU’s Carl Greenidge and Jaipaul Sharma, are the only two members of the committee who have indicated that they are out of the country.

Despite the absence of the opposition members, Teixeira noted that in the interest of time, the members of the Government side proceeded to examine the new submissions that were received. The committee is slated to meet again today, Thursday February 6.

Government is hoping to finish the review of the Bill and have it passed in the National Assembly before February 13, the deadline for which Guyana will be up for review after being blacklisted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

It is the intention of the Government to return the Bill to the National Assembly by February 10 or 11. Teixeira informed that the Opposition is yet to propose any amendments they want to see effected to the Bill.

“How can you be telling the country that the Bill needs to be strengthened and more comprehensive and you haven’t said, in the committee, what must be done…clearly this is bullyism and holding the Government and the nation at ransom,” she said.

The Chief Whip said that the inconsistent positions that the Opposition, particularly the APNU, has taken on this issue is worrying and has left many bewildered.

Opposition Leader, David Granger and President Donald Ramotar.
Opposition Leader, David Granger and President Donald Ramotar.

She recalled that around mid – January, Opposition Leader, David Granger in a public statement assured that the Bill will be passed by February 13. However on January 29, a letter was sent to President Donald Ramotar, while in Havana, Cuba attending the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) Meeting of Heads.

In this letter, the APNU changed course from its previous position and informed the President that they will withhold their support for the AML/CFT Bill if he (the President) does not assent to the Bills which he sent back to the Parliament.

“You have the President in a bind…what is worrying is the inconsistency in the Leader of the Opposition and the behaviour of the Opposition members in the committee, they have given no indication that they are desirous of concluding this matter,” Teixeira lamented.

Teixeira noted that should this deadline be missed, it is highly probable that the international body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will put Guyana under a prima facie review.

This would be much more stringent in terms of the standards and requirements that have to be complied with than that of the preliminary review conducted by the CFATF, the regional body.

While this is being done, Guyana will remain blacklisted, but more importantly, the banking, insurance and financial systems will be required to take protective actions against Guyana. As it stands right now, they have only been issued advisories to take precautionary measures.

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