Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 24th 2013 Contents The Caribbean Financial
Action Task Force (CFATF)
has patience. Within limits.
Last Thursday luck ran out for
Guyana and Belize. After a final
warning in May, the task force
wound up its November meeting
in the Bahamas by asking mem-
ber states to consider "counter-
measures to protect their finan-
cial systems" against money
laundering and terrorist financing
risks from those two countries.
Bigger fish are likely to bite.
The big boys Financial Action
Task Force, based in Paris, meets
in February. It, too, may cast
beady eyes on Guyana and Belize.
The US, Britain, France, Cana-
da, the Netherlands, Spain and
Mexico are CFATF "Cooperating
and Supporting Nations." They
and 190 other countries will take
note. "The implications are far-
reaching," says executive director
Guyana and Belize have had
plenty time to tighten controls.
The Caribbean Task Force
warned them of their deficiencies
two years ago and drew up
timetabled action plans.
Big country diplomats in
Guyana were signalling a year
ago that money laundering was
the play to watch.
"It s blacklisting," said influen-
tial presidential adviser Gail
Teixeira on Thursday. But
accountants Ram & McRae cau-
tion against "alarm and panic."
Banks will scrutinise fund
transfers to guard against drug
dealers and money launderers.
That means searching questions.
There will be delays, because
asking questions takes time.
There will be extra charges,
because banks do not ask ques-
tions for free.
Says one Georgetown business
owner, "Nobody knows what
happens next. Will I have prob-
lems if I want to pay someone in
America by credit card? Will I
have trouble with bank transfers?
What about families who depend
on Western Union for remittance
He says, "Someone with con-
nections told me that anyone
with money will try to hold it in
US dollars. So what will happen
to the exchange rate?"
Indeed, the Guyana dollar has
already been under slight pres-
sure, in part because of the slid-
ing gold price. Gold hit US$1,780
in September, last year. It was
down to US$1,246 on Friday.
It took close to G$208 to buy
one US dollar on Friday; the rate
was close to G$204.50 from the
start of 2012 until March this
year. Guyana this month
launched its G$5,000 bill, worth
around $150 (TT).
Republic Bank is a big player
in Guyana, with a market share
of more than a third. Managing
director David Dulal-Whiteway is
clear about the need for careful
procedures. Republic in T&T will
give "arms length" treatment to
its own Guyana operations,
applying any necessary checks.
What does the Task Force
want? Guyana has been asked to
fully criminalise money launder-
ing and terrorist financing, and
identify the beneficial owners of
financial assets. It must strength-
en procedures for reporting sus-
picious transactions, cooperating
with international requests for
information, and freezing or con-
fiscating terrorist assets. Guyana
must fully implement UN con-
ventions on money laundering
and terrorist financing.
Belize is asked to tighten due
diligence checks, implement con-
trols on terrorist financing, give
its Financial Investigation Unit
greater financial independence,
and prohibit dealings with "shell
banks" which have no real exis-
tence. Belize must extend money
laundering controls to casinos,
accountants, lawyers, real estate
agents and others.
So why the mess? Guyana s
government blames the opposi-
tion parties which hold a majori-
ty in the National Assembly.
After doing very little for years,
the Government hurriedly drafted
some legislation. The opposition
parties refused to rush it through
without further reforms.
Anand Goolsarran, Guyana s
former auditor general and presi-
dent of the Transparency Inter-
national chapter, argues that
there is no point passing legisla-
tion unless it is implemented. He
says that only 30 per cent of the
money laundering measures
passed by Parliament in 2009
have been put into practice.
Passing legislation by itself is
not enough to keep the interna-
tional partners happy. Belize
rushed through a flock of new
laws in October. It is up there on
the naughty list with Guyana.
Goolsarran argues that money
laundering legislation must go
hand-in-hand with controls on
corruption. Since 2001 Guyana
has had a constitutional require-
ment for a Procurement Com-
mission to ensure fair play in
public contracts. It has still not
been appointed. Nor has an
Integrity Commission, also
required by the Constitution. The
president in May unwisely vetoed
a Fiscal Management and
Accountability Bill passed by
Parliament in January.
Said a prominent Opposition
MP, Moses Nagamootoo earlier
this year: "The issue is not the
law. It s the political will to go
after money launderers." And
there are plenty of them to
chase. According to former police
commissioner Winston Felix,
now shadow home affairs minis-
ter: "There is no escaping it
around Georgetown." An IMF
study in 2003 estimated the
"underground economy" at 35
per cent of GDP.
Guyana s government lost its
parliamentary majority two years
ago. In a sane country, the next
step would either be a power-
sharing coalition, or a working
arrangement for negotiation and
compromise. The French do it
routinely: they call in cohabita-
tion. The US Congress does it,
only with more fuss and fire-
works. If Guyana can t, the only
way out would be fresh elections.
It s always interesting to watch
newly arrived people to our
islands. We wonder how long it
will take to break them down.
They start off edgy, pumping,
squealing with delight at our pan
and palms, taking in everything.
Then they are deflated.
But we have inbuilt armour.
Crusts of it. We are ready for the
news of the next murder, the
traffic, the bad drive, the under-
paid steupsing shop girl, the dis-
integrating WASA pipes, the
streets in the rat-infested city.
Yes, we can gyrate on a pole
and fornicate with the pavement
on a Carnival Tuesday, and sit
demurely in a darkened church
on Ash Wednesday, but we are
not taking off our crusts. We are
not telling you what s in our
heart. Perhaps we ve forgotten.
Enter another sort of inhabi-
tant. Straddling two continents,
two worlds, the writer Monique
Roffey. We don t know what to
do with her.
Monique was born here in the
60s. She grew up here, went to
school here as a child. She s run
wild on the sand till her hair
matted into a sandy tangle of
gold. She s lived seamless days in
a house by the sea. She grew up
hearing her parents, young
migrants from Europe and the
Mediterranean in the 60s, speak
about us with a sense of marvel.
Her family watched a young
country unfurl into independ-
ence. She watched her parents
navigate this place. She listened.
Watched. She kept her child s ear
for conversations, intonations,
language, rhythm and uncon-
scious subconscious rhyme of our
speech. She looked at the land-
scape through her parents eyes
of wonder. She touched the rub-
bery tropical plants through their
exploring hands. The senses were
magnified as they are for new
Monique Roffey s parents came
here as young people from the
old world, from Europe. She
knew of conversations in French
drawing rooms in the 40s
because her grandmother lived it
and brought it to Port-of-Spain.
She knew what London was like
after the war. She knows about
Trinidad just after independence
because her parents lived it. She
has a bird s-eye view, going back,
and now on a wide canvas. She s
not attached to the rhythm of
our lives here. She doesn t have
to gyrate or go to cricket or
church. She won t do what any-
We can t ignore her because
she seems to know something we
don t about us. Her novel The
White Woman on the Green
Bicycle, a story of ex-colonials
living in Trinidad, was short-list-
ed for the Orange Prize. Her
novel Archipelago won the 2013
Bocas Prize for Caribbean Litera-
ture. It was a regional story
about floods, small island states,
the sea. Now she will come out
with a novel about the 1990
attempted coup, which, having
read excerpts, I am convinced is
Booker Prize material.
"How," we ask, bristling, "does
this white woman with an Eng-
lish accent, who divides her time
between Trinidad and Europe, tell
us about ourselves and win prizes
I was grappling with this when
I signed up for her creative writ-
ing workshop in Grande Riviere,
where I met other fledgling writ-
ers and poets from the
Caribbean. She was doing the
workshop for free, to give back to
Trinidad. She was supporting the
initiative taken by Marina
Salandy-Brown, who, as founder
of the Bocas Lit Fest, Bocas Prize
for Caribbean Literature and co-
founder of the Hollick Arvon
Caribbean Writer s prize, has
almost single-handedly helped
advance writers in this region.
Over the next few days,
Monique held together workshops
where people had their work cri-
tiqued by strangers. She spoke
freely of her struggles as a writer,
her love life (her memoir With
the Kisses of his Mouth, about
her midlife sexual odyssey, albeit
not her best book, was hailed for
its "honesty" and "bravery"), and
her relationship with the world.
That first evening, to the
rhythm of the waves, she picked
up baby turtles mid-conversation
and took them back tenderly to
She wore pyjamas to breakfast
and lunch and dinner. She told
us the obvious---like: nobody
pulled out a book from his or her
a---s; like: wealth could never
buy talent. I saw a generosity in
sharing her knowledge that is so
rare, it made me want to weep.
She took writing very serious-
ly---she prepared us for a disci-
pline done in isolation over many
hours, for months, over years.
Over five days I stopped wear-
ing lipstick. The glasses came on.
It became about finding some-
thing, before we could work.
On the last day she gave us an
exercise to do. She wanted us to
go out on the beach and focus
on one object. It could be any-
thing. We each chose something.
I liked the spreading almond tree.
Others chose the river, shells, a
swing and coconut husks. "Look
at it," she was saying, "listen to
it---even objects have a sound.
Touch it. Smell it." As we scat-
tered towards the sea, she shout-
ed: "---And lick it." This resulted
in much nervous laughter as we
watched one another lick the
river and leaves, the sand and
It was an exercise in peeling
off the layers, watching veils fly
off, seeing into the heart of
things. It s what Monique Roffey
does. It s what she can teach us.
November 24, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
TRUTHS BENEATH THE CRUST "How," we ask, bristling,
"does this white woman
with an English accent,
who divides her time
between Trinidad and
Europe, tell us about
ourselves and win prizes
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