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Several govt MPs refused to vote for FIU staff duty free vehicle concessions because motion was illegal

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin

Several government ministers did not vote for duty-free concessions for two officials of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) because the route that was being used was illegal, a number of ministers said Tuesay.

Those abstaining were Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge who is a former Finance Minister.  Current Finance Minister, Winston Jordan was not in the House’s Chamber at the time of the vote. Usually, a bell is rung to call on all parliamentarians to return to their seats to allow for the vote to be taken.

A parliamentarian told Demerara Waves Online News that the motion, which was taken to the House by Chairman of the Appointment Committee, George Norton, could not have been used to seek parliamentary approval for duty-free concessions to FIU Accountant Surendra Lall-Boodhoo and Attorney-at-Law, Yonette Romao-Scarville for a vehicle at 2000 CC.

“The motion in parliament was obviously a way of getting around getting  duty-free concessions when the Statute provides that it is the Minister of Finance and the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority who have to grant it and I found it not the right manner of getting around to amend the law,” a source close to the process told Demerara Waves on condition of anonymity.

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

Minister  Norton  confirmed that Chief Whip, Amna Ally had asked him to withdraw the motion, but he had received different advice from more than one person. It was not immediately clear whether Attorney General, Basil Williams’ advice was provided in this instance.

Sources said a number of government parliamentarians were convinced that the wrong route was being taken after listening to arguments by People’s Progressive Parliamentarian, Juan Edghill on the floor.

Norton said the the PPP members did not attend the Appointment Committee meetings where the motion was discussed and a decision made.

Government members of that committee include Amna Ally, Cathy Hughes and David Patterson. The PPP members a Gail Teixeira, Ganga Persaud and Edghill.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin on Tuesday said his decision to abstain from voting for duty-free concessions for two officials of the Financial Intelligence Unit had more to do with concerns about its legality instead of being part of an effort by the Alliance For Change (AFC) to reassert its identity ahead of local and genera elections.

Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr.George Norton.

Not a thing! Don’t read anything into it. Not a thing. There is absolutely no connection. This is not something that was discussed. This was something that caught us by surprise and I simply did what I thought was the sensible thing to do at the time,” Gaskin told Demerara Waves Online News.

Gaskin said he did not expect the motion to be put to a vote, but when the it did it was not something he could have supported. “I couldn’t see it having the intended effect…a motion to grant a concession that wasn’t catered for by law or perhaps would not have provided the result that might have been envisaged,” he said.

Gaskin, who is also the AFC’s Treasurer, also rejected suggestions that his abstention was aimed at pressuring A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to give into demands in negotiations for the Local Government Elections scheduled to be held in November. “I didn’t enjoy doing it. It is not something I would have wanted to do under normal circumstances,” he said.

PPPC Shadow Public Infrastructure Minister, Juan Edghill

Gaskin and Minister of Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan abstained from the vote on a motion moved by Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Appointment

Prior to the AFC’s decision to coalesce with APNU to contest the 2015 general elections to remove the People’s Progressive Party from office, Ramjattan had always maintained that a coalition would have resulted in his party losing its identity and East Indian support and financing.

The Minister of Business said he did not consult with Ramjattan beforehand on abstaining if a division had been called, and he did not contemplate his move ahead of time.

FLASH BACK: Foreign Minister Greenidge reports to the National Assembly.
Photo by Adrian Persaud

Minister Norton, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of Appointment, explained that the committee deliberated at its 30th meeting on March 28, 2018, and agreed to offer 

Boodoo and Scarville were appointed accountant and attorney of the FIU in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act of 2015.