Guyana's opposition to pass anti money laundering bill wakes up to parliamentary power
BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 5/31/2013, 11:53 a.m.
Guyana's two parliamentary parties are readying to flex their power in ways not seen since they won control of the assembly following general elections in late 2011 by vowing to vote against efforts by government to rush anti-money laundering amendments without meeting opposition demands to reduce runaway corruption.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC), which together have a one-seat majority in the 65-member house, say they will oppose efforts to pass the bill this week, despite the fact that the country will face penalties from international bodies like the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is dominated by Western countries like the U.S. and the regional financial action task force.
The parties say government has dithered on demands to set up a national procurement and state tender commission and to take other steps to eliminate corruption, including dismissing several well-known high-profile persons tainted with credible allegations of corruption from key positions, including the country's cabinet. They will, therefore, allow the government to default on having the legislation approved by Parliament in time for a crucial OECD and financial action task force meeting scheduled for May 27 in Nicaragua. Should the deadline be missed, commercial banks and other agencies involved in international money and other financial transfers could face problems, as the country could be listed as one not cooperating with global efforts to eliminate money laundering at the level of a government.
"We will use the leverage we have in Parliament to force them to reduce corruption and put things in place like a procurement commission to oversee contracts and tenders. Unless those are in place, the bill is dead," said Ramjattan, whose AFC holds seven of the 65 seats.
The APNU's Mark Archer said, "The bill will not pass as it stands now. We will not vote for it."
Ironically, the Hindu-led governing People's Progressive Party (PPP) has over the years fought off every effort by Western nations, rights groups, the opposition and the media to cut links with the local and international narcotic underworld and to tighten up laundering regulations.
Currently, the Guyana financial intelligence unit is staffed by only one person. The parties want independent experts to be hired and plan to withhold support until this is fixed and a procurement and tender system is put in place.
Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon has said that the former British colony will be labeled as "a delinquent" and subjected to heightened financial scrutiny by the international community if the bill is not approved. So be it, say his political opponents.