The Opposition parties, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change used their combined majority in the National Assembly on Thursday night to vote down the Anti-money Laundering and Countering of financing of terrorism Amendment Bill.
The move the Opposition parties came after they also rejected a petition from the Private Sector Commission to support the legislation and vote for its passage through the National Assembly.
The Opposition parties still believe that there are several unresolved issues with the Amendment Bill that ought to be addressed before it is passed by the House and sign into law. They want the Bill to be returned to a Parliamentary Select Committee for further deliberations and clarification.
The Government was not buying that position and wanted the Bill to be passed in its current form. Following the vote, the Government warned that serious sanctions could be instituted by the international community and international financial institutions. Government Members of Parliament described the vote by the Opposition as “sabotage” and said the parliamentary opposition parties were becoming too predictable.
The Opposition parties maintain that the Bill was an Amendment Bill and that an Anti Money Laundering Bill is already in place and covers several areas.
The Bill was earlier sent to a Parliamentary Select Committee but the Government used the absence of Opposition members at one of the meetings to conclude the work of the committee. Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh in a statement said “at no point in time did the Opposition offer any recommendations or suggestions on how the committee can move its business forward. Therefore, the Government representatives proceeded to conclude the work of the Committee without any input from the APNU or AFC and tabling it in the National Assembly, it is disappointing that they have made no effort to cooperate or involve themselves at this critical juncture, over such vital legislation.”
See his full statement on the Opposition’s vote below:
Statement by Minister of Finance.
It is highly disappointing that the National Assembly was unable to pass the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill (AML/CFT). It is even more disappointing that the much needed amendment has been impressed upon the Joint Opposition by the People and Government of Guyana, the Business Community and the Diplomatic Community.
Government has made exhaustive efforts over six months through 17 meetings to involve, inform and accommodate the Opposition in the Special Select Committee (SSC) of the National Assembly, to discuss the amendment to the Bill. Due to numerous failed attempts by the Joint Opposition to meet, Government proceeded with the business of the SSC as the Amendments are critical to the economic and social wellbeing of Guyana and its people.
At no point in time did the Opposition offer any recommendations or suggestions on how the committee can move its business forward. Therefore, the Government representatives proceeded to conclude the work of the Committee without any input from the APNU or AFC and tabling it in the National Assembly, it is disappointing that they have made no effort to cooperate or involve themselves at this critical juncture, over such vital legislation.
Yet this lack of involvement and cooperation by the AFC and the APNU further supports Government’s long held position, that the Joint Opposition has but one intention: to disrupt the economic, social, infrastructural and international credibility of Guyana through its one seat majority. This is evident in their constant attacks and inflexible opposition to any and all developmental projects proposed by Government. The more prominent projects that have been subjected to the AFC and APNU’s unwavering opposition are the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project, the Marriott Hotel Project, the Specialty Hospital and now, the AML/CFT amendments.
The failure of the National Assembly to pass this legislation has far reaching consequences that have been shared with the Opposition and the public over recent months. Guyana is now in jeopardy of being labelled a high risk country for international financial transactions, the ramifications of which have already begun to see delays in banking and money transfer transactions. These financial delays will result in increased commodity pricing and higher transaction fees to all Guyanese.
Despite this delay, the public should be assured that Government has done all it can, within reasonable scope, to prevent these unfortunate consequence from ensuing. While this was not the anticipated outcome, Government remains committed to finding a solution to this impasse so that the common man and woman will not have to bear the consequence to this failed legislative action. Government will now return to the drawing board where it will collectively regroup and weigh its options to decide on the most feasible course of action that will benefit all of Guyana.