By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – As the Anti – Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill (AML/CFT) remains in limbo, the government and the political opposition continue to trade blame for the deadlock in passing the Bill in the National Assembly.
At an impromptu press conference on Tuesday, March 4, Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira accused A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) of holding the Bill hostage in the Parliamentary Select Committee, which is reviewing the Amendments.
“It is very clear that the Bill is being held hostage by the APNU and the AFC. Since February 26 there has been no indication that they have changed their minds,” Teixeira told the news conference.
Teixeira, who is also the Chairperson of the Committee further accused the opposition of doing everything within its power to ensure that the Bill is not returned to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh explained that members of the private sector are already suffering as a result of the non – passage of the Amendment Bill.
He told the news conference that one member of the Private Sector complained that an overseas bank account will be closed since that country did not want to do business with Guyana as a result of Guyana not meeting the requirements of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
The Finance Minister also explained that another private sector member reported that another overseas bank has refused to transfer funds “unless lengthy information” is provided.
“Transactions are being delayed and it is affecting the well being of workers and putting businesses in jeopardy,” Dr. Singh told reporters.
He added, “The Opposition in my mind is being irresponsible and unreasonable in withholding support to the Bill.”
The APNU has proposed three amendments to the Principal Act of the AML/CFT which includes for Police and Customs Officers to have the power to seize currency worth over $2M (US$10,000) and arrest persons if it is suspected that it is the proceeds of or the subject of money laundering.
Additionally, APNU also proposed that the Finance Minister no longer have the power to appoint the Director of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and be placed in a committee of the National Assembly.
They further proposed the establishment of an authority comprising 10 persons nominated by the National Assembly after consulting with stakeholders.
These are all amendments which the government is not in favour of, and which is not required by the CFATF. According to Teixeira, President Donald Ramotar tried to compromise with the APNU by asking them to support the compliant Bill in the National Assembly without the amendments, since he (Ramotar) will establish a joint partisan committee to examine the amendments and send them to CFATF for consideration.
Teixeira said that this was rejected by the APNU. However, when she noted that there is no guarantee that the President will assent to the Bill if it is passed in the National Assembly with those amendments.
The Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 5, however it is believed that nothing substantial will come out of that meeting, since both the government and the Opposition refuse to budge on their stance.
Guyana has until May as its final deadline to have a compliant piece of legislation, and failure of such will see the country being internationally blacklisted by the CFATF, something which the business community is in fear of.