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Opposition walks out of select committee after govt insists that PSC observe all sittings

Opposition members of the parliamentary select committee- set up to examine proposed amendments to the financial crimes law-Monday night walked out of the meeting over bickering with government about whether the  Private Sector Commission (PSC) should be allowed to observe all sittings.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) said it opposed the PSC’s presence in keeping with a previous decision by the committee that observers would be allowed on an ad hoc basis and as the need arose in keeping with the Standing Order governing Select Committee and the press.

“It would not therefore be in a position to invite the PSC as an observer throughout all the sittings,” said APNU in a statement issued late Monday night.

Tempers flared and the opposition walked out of the meeting after Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh proposed a new motion that the PSC be invited as observers to all future sittings of the Select Committee.

“Dr Singh’s motion was regarded by the majority of members at the meeting as contradictory to the motion which had been already approved. They therefore considered it improper and decided that it should not be put to a vote,” APNU said in a statement.

APNU claimed that Opposition members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) walked out of the meeting when the Chairperson, Gail Teixeira refused the desire by a majority of members that the matter be settled by a vote. “The Opposition members refused to participate in the vote and walked out of the meeting.”

In a statement, the Finance Minister maintained government’s position that the private sector of Guyana has a legitimate interest in the timely passage of the legislation given the grave consequences that would devolve on Guyana’s economy should Parliament fail to enact the amendments.

“This is a most unfortunate development, and reflects yet another attempt by the Opposition to frustrate the timely passage of this bill,” said the Minister. “Their refusal to allow the PSC to observe the committee’s proceedings reflects the fact that they are unwilling to be unmasked and have revealed to the world at large the blatant delay tactics they have been attempting in frustrating the work of the committee. “

Minister Singh further noted that government members of the committee emphasised that they would have absolutely no objection to the PSC attending and observing the proceedings of the committee.

“In contrast, the Opposition clearly and persistently objected to the PSC being permitted to attend and observe all of the meetings of the committee,” explained Minister Singh. “They attempted to evade and contort the matter and, eventually, when the Chairperson of the committee attempted to put to the committee the specific matter of whether the PSC should be permitted to attend all meetings of the committee in an observer capacity, the Opposition walked out.”

The Finance Ministry said Monday night’s episode was the second incident where the Opposition has moved to muzzle the PSC in Parliament.  On November 6 last year the combined Opposition voted down the motion for the reading of the PSC petition on the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill prior to its debate in the National Assembly.

The petition represented 17 private sector groups which sought to urge Members of Parliament to recognise the damage to the private sector, local economy and the citizens of Guyana if the legislature failed to enact the bill.

According to the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), jurisdictions that have not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or have not committed to an action plan developed with the FATF to address AML/CFT will be penalised. If Guyana does not comply, it will join countries such as Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen as a blacklisted country by FATF.