PHILIPSBURG--Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams has put a different light on the law changes tabled by Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever aimed at beefing up the country’s ability to stem money-laundering and combat any possible financing of terrorism.
Speaking at a press conference in Parliament House on Friday, Wescot-Williams said a very small number of the draft law changes can be tagged to the recommendations passed on by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). For the others, more time is needed to review and understand about the underlying reasons, she said.
Unlike several other MPs, particularly from the opposition, Wescot-Williams is not in favour of stalling the passage of the changes required by CFATF to prevent the country becoming blacklisted as of November for non-compliance with international requirements to fight money-laundering and financing of terrorism.
Instead, she suggested that De Weever hold off on the changes to the Penal Code, Civil Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure that are not directly connected to CFATF recommendations and just move forward with those that are related.
If the minister wants to focus on the specific changes, for instance, the addition of a chapter to the Criminal Code to deal with terrorism financing, Wescot-Williams said: “Let's handle that.” As for the changes unrelated to CFATF, she said, “Leave some of the other improvements out. … Let the others come later.”
“We are on thin ice. … Changes are necessary, but we have to make sure the rights of citizens are protected,” said Wescot-Williams. She is concerned that De Weever, as part of the legislative package, wants to skip having the changes go to the ombudsman should they be passed by Parliament. This speedier route is allowed by the Constitution under special circumstances.
The Council of Advice, she noted, also expressed concerns about the limited time government has to do its own due diligence with the law amendments. The Council recommended that government do more research, especially on how the changes would affect the community.
“If laws were rejected, that would be like throwing out the baby with bathwater. We need to avoid that,” Wescot-Williams said, adding that De Weever must consider a different approach. This will be raised with him when the Central Committee meeting on the draft laws resumes in Parliament House on Monday afternoon.