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Opposition boycotts financial crimes law committee until Ramotar withdraws “terrorism” comment

The combined opposition has decided to boycott a parliamentary select committee that is examining proposed changes to the financial crimes legislation until President Donald Ramotar withdraws offending remarks.

At issue is the Guyanese leader’s remarks that the opposition’s refusal to approve a motion and a bill related to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) amounted to an “act of terrorism.” But Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon on Wednesday said that the President never uttered those words. When told that the Government Information Agency (GINA) had disseminated Ramotar’s address titled “An act of terrorism against the development of Guyana”, Luncheon remarked that “the obvious conclusion is that which was received and sent out was wrong.” He said the President has personally told members of the opposition that he never referred to them as terrorists.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) had initially stated that its members would have returned to the parliamentary select committee based on advice by Opposition Leader, David Granger.

Less than 24 hours later, APNU announced that it would not participate anymore in work to amend the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering/Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) unless the President rescinds his comment.

“APNU Members of Parliament will not be attending meetings of the Special Select Committee on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism Bill until President Donald Ramotar withdraws his statement referring to the actions of the Opposition as an “act of terrorism”, with reference to the Government Bill on the Hydro Electric Act,” that opposition coalition said in a statement.

APNU’s Greenidge had told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that their walk-out of Monday’s select committee was not permanent and was not linked to an apology from Ramotar.

Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan had first vowed not to go back to the committee unless Ramotar scrapped his remark made last weekend in an address to the nation.

“I then walked out of the meeting, saying as I did so that, I will not participate further until the President retracts his description of myself and all the Opposition Parliamentarians as a terrorist,” Ramjattan has said.

Boycott of the AML/CFT parliamentary select committee could jeopardize Guyana meeting a deadline this year to amend the law. If the country fails to do so, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) could impose severe sanctions that can make international financial transactions time consuming and costly.

The AFC and APNU on Thursday voted against the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 and a motion to increase guarantees under the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act. The bill would have brought the local law into conformity with the Inter American Development Bank’s (IDB) environmental policies while the motion would raise the government guarantee on borrowing from GUY$1B to GUY$150 billion.