The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) (Amendment) Bill, and issues surrounding this critical legislation featured during a discussion between Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Basil Williams and United States Charge´ d´Affaires Bryan Hunt.
The Attorney General said that the government is working towards laying the bill in the National Assembly by the next sitting which is slated for June 25. The legislation will proceed through the parliament, “swiftly” whether or not the political opposition takes up their seats, he added. “We are confident that we will be able to put the bill into the House and pass it through the various stages,” Mr Williams stated.
The bill is basically complete since it is based on the draft that government had promulgated in the Select Committee, whilst it sat in opposition, Minister Williams stated.
The move by the PPP/C not to take up their parliamentary seats, suits that party admirably, according to the minister. “You recall that they did nothing since 2000. The very first Act was in 2000, then it was improved in 2009 and the countering of terrorism and financing was added to it. The world knows that no one was ever investigated, no one was ever charged or anything… We really felt that they didn’t have the political will to pass it, and so I’m not surprised that they would sit out of parliament until it is passed,” he said.
Asked about the failure thus far of the opposition PPP/C to take up their Parliamentary seats, the US official said he was more concerned than worried about this, “It is very important in a democratic system to have not just a government, but also a very vibrant opposition”.
He added that 49% of the population wanted the PPP/C to represent them in parliament; hence it was his hope, as it should be with all Guyanese that the PPP/C take up that challenge and represent those who voted for them during the elections.
AML/CTF and Parliamentary Select Committee
In November 2013, the AML/CTF Amendment Bill was referred to a Special Parliamentary Select Committee, comprising persons from the then opposition political parties, APNU and the AFC, and the then PPP/C government, in a bid to arrive at a common ground on a final document for passage in the National Assembly.
But after several months of what could be described as protracted discussions, there was no consensus, since the political opposition parties viewed the Bill as incomplete. This was because their proposals were not accepted by the government of the day.
In December, 2013, the government, in light of the threat of looming sanctions, decided to remove the Bill from the Parliamentary Committee, thereby returning it to the House. The combined opposition parties defeated this renewed attempt, citing that it had been prematurely removed from the Committee.
The Bill was subsequently returned to the Special Committee after a three- hour debate in the House. This meant that the Bill had spent almost five months in a similar committee.
While APNU contended the incompleteness of the provisions, the AFC announced that it was prepared to support passage of the Bill, provided that the PPP/C government was going to consider the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission. Further amendments were then proposed by the APNU opposition party for consideration by the Committee. These were then referred to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel for final preparation for the Assembly’s consideration.
The Bill’s passage was further stymied when the Parliament was prorogued in November 2014 by then President Donald Ramotar. The 11th session of Parliament was convened on June 10. (GINA)