News day / The legislation under attack is the Credit Union Bill 2014 and the Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2014.
Joseph Remy, head of the Cooperative Credit Union League, said it was a historic turnout of persons defending their credit union movement.
He bemoaned that the proposed bills treat credit unions as if they were commercial banks, and shifts their regulation from the Commissioner of Cooperative Development to the Central Bank.
His point was backed by President of the Association of Co−operative Credit Union Presidents, Fitzroy Ottley, who said the bill will severely hit the finances of credit unions many of which would be put out of business, due to incurring extra costs to comply with the oversight rules of the Central Bank.
The protest was also supported by the members of the Central Finance Facility and TT Credit Union Deposit Insurance Fund.
Remy scoffed, "All this has occurred because someone believes all credit unions operate like the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), but we want to say emphatically that the HCU was an aberration, and was not a representation of how credit unions operate".
He demanded the Government, reconsider the bills that he said will destroy a people−based, indigenous movement that persons of modest means an avenue for economic and social development.
"For us the credit union movement is very sacrosanct, and if there is any move to implement new legislation, it must be done in the image and likeness of the owners of the movement, all those people you see here," explained Remy.
"Whereas in the banking industry they are customers', every member you see here are shareholders, and as such have an equal say in the management, operation and governance of their credit union. Bringing these bills will take away that shareholders' democracy that we enjoy at this time."
The Central Bank's failure to stop the CL Financial crash means it is unsuitable to regulate credit unions, he added. He urged that regulation stay with the Commissioner of Cooperative Development whose office must be enhanced for this role. "We are not afraid of new and improved regulations, but what is being pushed down our throats now are regulations that govern banks, and will turn credit unions into operating like banks, and take away the ownership, control and sense of belonging from the ordinary member. That to us is very dangerous, particularly now, in this time of economic downturn."
He vowed more protests if the bill is not withdrawn, and if they are not consulted.
Remy alleged that former attorney−general (AG), Anand Ramlogan, had "justified" the legislation by citing the anti−money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but Remy now urged new AG, Garvin Nicholas to not follow suit. To the new AG, he said, "Allow the commitment that the Minister of Finance gave publicly on two occasions to take place. He did say he'd engage the movement in further talks, and may even send the bill to a JSC."