Anti-money Laundering and countering the financing – Nov. 07, 20132955 07 Nov, 2013
ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COUNTERING THE FINANCING – Nov. 07, 2013
Mr. B. Williams: If it pleases you, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to respond as we are in these hallowed walls and the Hansard is in play. It is important, Sir, that we respond to the Hon. Minister of Finance in terms of how we proceeded to this point.
Sir, I have attended meetings where only I and the Chairperson of the Committee could have been present. I have attended meetings where only the Chairperson and another from that side were present, but the other on that side said that they could have only given us half an hour; they had to leave in half an hour. I have been to meetings… [Dr. Singh: That is not so.] You were not there; you were not the one. The one is not here. The point I am making, Sir, is that we have been accused of dithering. I was wondering if the Government was serious enough about this Bill. We were turning up on most occasions, outnumbering them. Most of the times, and the Chairperson will tell you, when we turned up, it was only the Chairperson. Most times, we were the ones, once work was to be done, who proceeded. That is my first point.
Secondly, Sir, we must not lose sight of the fact that when the Committee had embarked on its work we discovered that CFATF had instructed, by way of letter, the President of this country to consult the Leader of the Opposition and other Members of the Opposition in relation to the citation... [Interruption] Encourage? Consult! It was an instruction too. We discovered at that very late state, if you recall Mr. Speaker, when we were in the process of passing the Budget, that this Bill was sprung upon us. We did not realise what was going on but, in fact, the Government had been culpable of fiddling, like when Nero fiddled and Rome burnt, that is exactly what was happening all the time. They thought that could have been hidden from the eyes of equity, but then the letter surfaced and that disrupted the proceedings. And as you will recall a rare thing occurred and we have to give them credit. For the first time a President of that side apologise to us and the Nation. We have to give him credit for that, but the record must not be distorted.
Next, when we got down to working we were proceeding clause by clause so it is a fallacy to say we never submitted recommendations to the Committee. It is our Committee so what recommendations do we have to submit to the Committee. We were deliberating clause by clause and unlike the Government side we were contributing to the deliberations on each clause. We contributed more times than they did. I keep saying that I had the distinct impression they were not interested in really passing this Bill. A clear decision was taken after we pointed out ab initio, from the beginning, that the Bill was complex. But we felt it did not make sense paying attention to the amendments that were before us in the Bill without having recourse to the principle act, because the powers of supervision were being deepened to be executed by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). We had an FIU of one man. In fact, it was unfair to him; to him alone they were adding more responsibility and no provision was being made to reinforce his structure and his functions and his staff. [Interruption] We said all of that; the Nation knows we have been saying that all the time. My friend Mr. Greenidge the Hon. Member, described it as a problem of governance. But we were always saying from the outset that we had to deal with the question of the structure, the question of how the FIU’s executive was appointed. We were the ones who said that from the beginning. So we talk a decision that we will indeed look at the principal act in our deliberations. The reason we got to that point was because the first presenter, the Director of Public Prosecutions, submitted memoranda and then appeared before us and addressed us. Most of her submissions related to correcting circumstances and elements in the principle act. There and then a decision was taken that we could indeed have recourse to the principal act to help bring about a Bill that we have always been saying we will give to the Guyanese people, a flawless Bill.
Lo and behold they called us terrorists. These things I am saying were deliberately designed to disrupt the workings of the Committee. We were deliberating on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill and we were called terrorists. We did not stay away from the Committee; we appeared in the Committee as usual and the point was raised whether it was misreported, because a lot of these things are said and then claimed to be misreported. We had it there live and direct and no one was contrite, no apologies were forthcoming. So Members on our side felt that we could not proceed on correcting a terrorist situation on a Bill and we were branded terrorists at the same time. I think that would have been a conflict of interest. We thought the better course was to withdraw.
Being committed to having a bill that Guyanese could accept we were persuaded to return to the Committee to do the people’s work. When we returned to the Committee – I think we missed two sessions - we discovered they had travelled almost all of the Bill by the time we returned. They were already at a draft report if I could remember. Then we saw some strange things when we went through the Minutes; that we cannot have recourse to the principal act. In other words in our absence advantage was taken to reverse solid decisions that were made when we were in the Committee. Also, we were told that they were no longer going to have the people who submitted memorandum to come in and make presentations because they decided they were pulling out from what they submitted and did not want to hear from them. All these were decisions made in our absence against decisions taken consensually within the Committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we appreciate that on this side of the House we have always been ready, willing and able to proceed with the work of that Committee to ensure the Guyanese people get a good Bill, and to ensure after we pass that Bill for the first time in 13 years at least we would have an inaugural prosecution.
Mr. Speaker: Two minutes Mr. Williams.
Mr. B. Williams: Yes, Sir. I believe it was important that I correct the record. It seems to me - to reinforce my belief that the Government side is not interested in this Bill - they are hoping that we could be blamed for their intransigence. That is all they are hoping to do. Because of that my colleagues are pressing upon me that I should withdraw my motion and allow the Government side to decide the fate of the Bill.
Thank you Mr. Speaker. I so withdraw.
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