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Prime Minister promises consultation with non-governmental organizations after “forced” non-profit organization legislation

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2023. 10:17 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: At the last meeting of the House of Representatives, a Non-Profit Organizations Bill was introduced “to provide for the regulation of Non-Profit Organizations; to protect Non-Profit Organizations from terrorist financing abuse; to satisfy the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations with respect to laws regarding combating the financing of terrorism; and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

After being read a first time in the House on March 10, the Bill has already been sent to the House’s Public Service, Labour, Industry and Trade Committee for examination, consideration, and report and will be read a second time after that report is made back to the wider House following the conclusion of the Budget Debate today, Friday.

In response to complaints by the Belize Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (BNN) which also organizes non-profit organizations that they were not consulted before the Bill was promulgated and introduced, Prime Minister John Briceño said on Wednesday that the Government was being pressured by the international community: “The issue with the [NPO] bill is that things that are being forced upon us by the international community when it comes to the issue of money laundering and anti-terrorism and that kind of stuff, but we have no control over it and the [NPO Bill] makes that very straight forward. All we’re saying is that you just need to give an account of where you get your money from just to report it to the FIU [Financial Intelligence Unit] so then the international community, they can see we are doing our part.”

And the Prime Minister added that critical corresponding banking relations are at stake: “We can’t take any risk when it comes to the issue of the corresponding banking situation, we lost about 80 percent of the corresponding banking relationships that we had earlier, probably 10 years ago, so the ones that we have, we have to do everything possible to keep and so the financial action task force from the Caribbean will be making a new review of our work, by the end of December, they will be here in June to see how far we are and these are some of the obligations that they have imposed on us.”

To the NGO/NPO community, the Prime Minister made this request: “We’re just asking them to cooperate with us, it has nothing to do with the government, that we want to control anything to do with them, it’s simply that the international community is saying, everybody needs to account for the monies they are getting, where it is coming from, and so forth so but we’ll meet with them and hear them out and if we can make any changes to make it better, but at the same time meet the standard that is being asked of us, we’re prepared to do it.”

 

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