By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Political compromise, general elections and electorate referendum were salient among calls for ensuring the passage of the Anti – Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Amendment Bill at a National Consultation hosted by President Donald Ramotar at the Guyana International Conference Center today (March 13).
The event was attended by hundreds of citizens from a wide cross section of the Guyanese populace which included religious organizations, civil society, the private sector, labor unions, women and farmer’s organizations and the government.
At the end of the consultations, those in attendance signed a petition which urged for the passage of the Bill in the National Assembly.
Intentionally absent were members of the Parliamentary Political Opposition who days in advance made public its intention to boycott the event.
One citizen reasoned that all political parties should accept responsibility for the failure to pass the Bill because there is a clear lack of compromise, a suggestion that was immediately rejected by President Ramotar.
Ramotar reiterated his Government’s commitment to the passage of the recommended amendments by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) as he recalled what he said were delaying tactics employed by the opposition since the Amendment Bill was introduced to the House in April 2013 and the many deadlines which have been missed, causing Guyana to be blacklisted.
Meanwhile, a man from Albouytown also called on the executive to reach a level of compromise with the Opposition; suggesting that the government bargain, “give and take” in order to pass the very crucial amendments.
To this end, the Head of State said he had sought to do just that in the pass but cannot give into demands which he said seeks to trample on executive powers and are unconstitutional.
In relation to the Alliance For Change (AFC’s) demand for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission before it can lend its support to the passage of the Bill, the President said “it was this administration that brought it on the books, but we insist that cabinet’s right to a no – objection must maintain, it’s an executive function and I want to remind that we also had the power to award contracts and we gave that up voluntarily, Guyana’s Cabinet is the only Cabinet in the Caribbean that does not award contracts.”
President Ramotar added that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) wants him to sign Bills that he did not give his assent to in the past. According to him “I vowed to uphold the constitution and cannot give my assent to bills that are clearly unconstitutional… I have a moral problem with that.”
Ramotar added that the opposition continues to shift the ‘goal post’ which continues to delay the passage of the AML/CFT Bill. “This is fixable, it is not a natural disaster it is a human disaster that is ahead of us but the opposition seems to think that we are the ones creating hysteria… everyone must make their cries heard and demand the passage of the CFATF compliant amendments to avoid the pitfall that lies ahead.”
Guyana is up for review by CFATF in May and is required to pass the amendments or face further global blacklisting. The Opposition has insisted in order to pass the CFATF amendments it also has amendments of its own, to the principal Act that must also be passed.
The Government’s fear and that of CFATF Representative Roger Hernandez is that the proposed amendments by the Opposition could make the already compliant Act, non-complaint, hence the administration’s hesitation to support the APNU amendments.
On a separate note President of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ronald Webster said the PSC does not support the political selection of members of the Financial Intelligence Unit and suggested a Barbados model that sees members of the Unit being drawn from agencies involved in the fight against money laundering and terrorism.
His recommendations was met with rejection from some participants who argued that such a model already exists in Guyana at institutions like the University of Guyana but is still made up of political influences.
There were rejections to some of the amendments put forward by the Opposition and calls for general elections to be held if the current stalemate persists.
President Ramotar had said “this doesn’t call for making deals, this calls for patriotism and putting the interest of the people first, we are ready.”
The administration expressed profound regret at the absence of the political opposition.
Today’s National Consultation follows others held across the country which the opposition had disregarded as staged and coerced.