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The Government of Guyana has recently proposed legislation aimed at regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under the guise of implementing money laundering controls reported an anonymous source. However, many experts have voiced concerns that this legislation could be used to stifle dissenting voices and target critics of the government.
The proposed legislation would require NGOs to register with a Compliance Commission and undergo a risk assessment. Any NGO found to be a “greater terrorist financing risk” would be subjected to additional measures, such as maintaining information on their activities and those who control them, providing annual financial statements, and being subject to monitoring by the appropriate authorities.
While the government argues that this legislation is necessary to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, many believe that it could be used to target NGOs that challenge the status quo or advocate for change. In fact, there are already concerns that the government has used similar tactics in the past.
The Guyana Human Rights Association and other groups, such as Transparency Institute Guyana Inc and the Amerindian Peoples Association, have been subjected to extensive and continuing attacks by the government. Many experts fear that this proposed legislation will only provide the government with more power to target and intimidate these groups.
Furthermore, the proposed legislation places a significant burden on NGOs, requiring them to provide a considerable amount of information to the Compliance Commission. This could be particularly challenging for smaller NGOs with limited resources.
In a democracy, NGOs play a vital role in holding the government accountable and advocating for change. However, if this legislation is passed, it could create a chilling effect on the work of NGOs in Guyana. NGOs that work to challenge the status quo or challenge structural violence could be at risk of being targeted by the government.
The state is increasingly interested in stifling dissenting voices and using the rule of law to do so. If any of your work involves any sort of change, or challenges the status quo of structural violence, you are in direct opposition to the state. This proposed legislation should concern everyone.