Impact of CFATF sanction on small man a major public concern
THE People’s Progressive Party (PPP) last evening hosted a symposium where members of the public were engaged on the current issue of the day, the repercussions of Guyana’s blacklisting as a result of the non-enactment of the critically important Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill.
Guyana was effectively blacklisted internationally last Thursday, following the announcement by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) that the country was referred to the international body, the Financial
Action Task Force (FATF). The regional watchdog body’s review was in relation to the protection of the international financial system from money laundering and financing of terrorism risks, and the encouragement of greater compliance with standards. The body made it clear that Guyana has AML/CFT deficiencies, and has not made sufficient progress in addressing these. CFATF also detailed counter-measures to be taken against the country by its members.
IMPACT ON THE SMALL MAN
Among the main concerns raised by members of the public last evening at the Red House meet were the consequences that will be felt by the average Guyanese man, woman and child.
Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, who was among a panel that included Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, and PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee, explained that no Guyanese will be spared the impacts of blacklisting.
According to him, the price for goods and services, timely transactions in the banking sectors, remittances that many depend on, the local foreign exchange rants and even Guyana’s credit worthiness will be affected.
“The typical question that the people of Guyana ask is why the party in Opposition in Parliament would try to present themselves as a responsible party and take such a destructive position?” Dr. Singh asked.
He stressed the gravity of the consequences that are staring at Guyana.
“These will bring the economy to its knees; we must reject this,” he said.
The AG, in responding to the possibility of successful dialogue, stressed that the admission by the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) that the AML/CFT Bill can be passed within 72 and 48 hours, respectively, is an effective admission of the time wasting that characterised the delay in having the legislation enacted.
He pointed out that their admission that the Bill can be passed in a matter of hours indicates that the Bill, which will be passed, is the Government’s Bill, which is not only CFATF-compliant, but also a Bill that was agreed to by all three parties since February this year, long before the deadline.
“All the masquerading was a package of farce,” Nandlall said.
The AG explained that the Bill, to meet CFATF’s requirements, was tabled in the National Assembly in April, 2013, but referred to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee and was eventually voted down by the joint Opposition in November, 2013. He added that it was re-tabled December, 2013, but again referred to the Parliamentary Special Select Committee, where it has been since.
Both Opposition parties are calling for certain conditions to be met before they do so, with the exception of the AFC relaxing its demands a trifle.
APNU, for instance, has proposed three amendments, but given that the APNU’s proposals were viewed as problematic, the AG, on behalf of the Government, earlier this month offered them counter-proposals, in the interest of ensuring that the amendments made are CFATF-compliant, and reaching a compromise. These counter-proposals are being considered by the Parliamentary Select Committee, which has been reviewing the AML/CFT Bill, which held its most recent meeting on May 22, 2014. The APNU maintains its position on conditional support for the Bill.
On the other hand, the AFC, which is fully behind APNU’s position, is demanding the establishment of the PPC (Public Procurement Commission), which the government has agreed to, providing that Cabinet retains its no-objection role in the process; but the latter position has been rejected by the AFC. However, last Thursday evening, after the announcement by CFATF, the AFC, in a statement, noted that it is now willing to budge on its position and support Cabinet’s retention of its no-objection role.
Nandlall added that APNU’s amendments, which largely address the powers of the Ministers of Finance and Legal Affairs, are no “extraordinary” powers; rather are powers vested in the proper authorities to execute what is an executive function.
He said too that the vesting of these powers were not a decision arrived at by the Executive, but based on a model legislation formulated by CFATF itself.
The Bill, he stated in response to another question, is an all-embracing legislation that addresses the issue of monies being generated by illicit sources or activities.
The PPP General Secretary decried the actions of the combined Opposition as power grab mechanisms.
“We have a special breed of political animals; a special breed of political species that is not found anywhere else in the Caribbean. These people believe in governing over ruins,” he said.
Rohee referred to the fact that it is the same politicians that now represent APNU who formed part of the People’s National Congress, the party that ran Guyana’s economy into the ground and presided over the worse economic period the country knew – a period that lasted almost three decades.
He opined that the combined Opposition is seemingly intent on causing “economic and social chaos” that will ultimately destabilize the country – a situation they seem to expect to extract political advantage from.
“The Government is working hard to get Guyana on the ‘White List,’” Rohee said, bemoaning the fact that these efforts are being thwarted by the combined Opposition.
“There is a high degree of political cynicism, to the extent that it has become so corrosive that it is destructive…why do we want to pressure our people?” he asked.
The General-Secretary questioned where Guyana will go, if history is allowed to repeat itself.
“The country cannot stay at a standstill…the population is waiting for answers,” he said, adding that no Guyanese wants to go backward.
On that note, Rohee also questioned who it is that will feel the “wrath” of the people, were they made to suffer unnecessarily.
He made it clear that the problem is that the issue at hand is “all about politics” and not about the people of Guyana.
“This is political subterfuge that is being engaged in by the Opposition,” Rohee posited.
He pointed out too that, as the events in the 10th Parliament clearly reflect, the combined Opposition is not interested in compromise in the national interest, but reflects the political strategies of the past, that of bullyism.
“The PPP will be on the front lines to try to find a solution to the political problems,” the General-Secretary assured.
FATF’s next plenary meeting is slated for June 23 to 25, 2014 in Paris, France, at which time the international body is likely to put Guyana up for review by its International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG).
Last evening’s activity is the first of several planned by the ruling party to sensitize the general public on the matter and garner their views on the issue.
(By Vanessa Narine)