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Govt willing to consider opposition concessions- Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar and other members of the Cabinet meet with Opposition parties

President Donald Ramotar on Wednesday said he was willing to strike a compromise to ensure that amendments to the anti money laundering legislation are passed by Thursday, but the opposition has said it cannot trust the government because of its poor track record.

“In the discussions today, they wanted me to give them all of the assurances they want but the APNU has refused to mention to me what concessions they were ready to make on the amendments that they have,” he told a news conference.

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall said so far the Parliamentary Counsels (legal draughtsmen) have been unable to amend the 2009 Anti Money Laundering Act and the government-tabled amendments to include proposals by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). They include the establishment of an Anti Money Laundering Authority by the National Assembly and empowering police and customs to seize the Guyana equivalent of US$10,000 if there is reasonable suspicion that the cash and/ or valuables are proceeds of crime.

The President appeared willing to sign into law amendments by the opposition once they are CFATF compliant. “They wanted me to give everything that they want and then they said that they would discuss their issues in the special select committee,” he said.

Nandlall said the principles, models and manuals by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the France-headquartered Financial Action Task Force (FATF) do not permit a role for so many persons such as the 65 parliamentarians to be involved in appointing top officials of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Among the considerations are autonomy, independence, conflict of interest and insulation from the political process. “If you make it appointable by 65 members of a parliament who are politicians then you are making the FIU a product of a political process that is in violation of FATF regulations and guidelines and CFATF regulations and guidelines,” he said.

CFATF has said that accepting APNU’s amendments ran the risk making Guyana non-compliant.

Ramotar said he earlier Wednesday told representatives of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) that he was willing to take all practicable steps as time permits to establish the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) only if cabinet’s right to no-objection in the award of contracts is preserved.

He, however, noted that AFC has switched its position from the establishment of the PPC as the only conditionality to joining APNU in its demands. “Now, they have changed their position. They have now adopted all of APNU’s position including all of the amendments of APNU,” the President said.

The opposition has expressed grave scepticism in striking any good faith agreement with the government, saying that it has a poor track record in keeping its promises.

APNU point-person on the committee, Carl Greenidge has said that he preferred to ensure that all the required amendments are passed in the House rather than banking on government’s assurances.

Among the assurances is the establishment of a joint committee to consider opposition-sponsored Bills that the President has not assented because he said they were unconstitutional. If agreed to, the committee would have explored ways of fine-tuning the laws and returning them to the House for a two-thirds approval before sending them back to the President for his assent.

The opposition is also demanding that government take steps to operationalise laws that have been assented.

The Organisation of American States (OAS), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the American, British, Canadian and European envoys here, and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) have all called on law makers to pass the amendments.