Elections Commission lawyers fail to appear

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
April 6, 2000

CHIEF Elections Officer (CEO) Mr Stanley Singh has threatened to make a statement if his lawyer does not appear at the Election petition hearing within a reasonable time.

Singh, who for the past two days had been under cross-examination without legal guidance yesterday threatened to make a statement if his lawyer does not turn up in Court within a reasonable time.

Senior Counsel Mr Peter Britton, for the Petitioner Esther Perreira, observed that neither Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh nor Mr Hubert Rodney, representing the Elections Commission, was present.

Noting that the lawyers on his side had never been accused of delaying the Courts during the past one and a half years of the sitting, Mr Britton suggested that the Court should take steps to have the lawyers for the Commission to be present in Court.

If they don't attend, he said, it will be open to the Court to hear what statement the witness has to make and "then let us get on with the case".

On the resumption yesterday, Mr Britton told trial Judge, Ms Claudette Singh, that he did not wish to further cross-examine the CEO as planned, but would wait until the re-examination of the witness by Mr Doodnauth Singh is completed, when, if necessary, he would seek leave to clarify any point that might arise.

It was at this stage the lawyer for the Petitioner noted that for the second successive day, Counsel on the other side had been absent.

The day before, the Judge had said that she had learnt that Mr Doodnauth Singh was in Trinidad.

On the said day, Mr Rodney had indicated to the clerk that he would turn up late. But according to reports, he did not live up to his promise.

Yesterday, Mr Stanley Singh, who is still to be re-examined, intimated to the Court that he would like to make a statement.

He was told that he could only make a statement through his lawyer.

On the advice of the Court, an unrobed Mr Stephen Fraser who was at the bar table, borrowed a robe and consulted the witness in the role of amicus curiae (a friend of the Court).

After speaking to the witness on the Court's gallery, Attorney-at-law Fraser told the Judge, "May it please your Honour, I would like it to be very clear that I have been asked by the Court to appear amicus curiae (a friend of the court).

"I have spoken to Mr Singh and Mr Singh has asked me to indicate to the Court that he has been left to his own devices, and if within a reasonable time his Counsel does not appear, he would like to know whether the Court would permit him to make a statement.

"I hope that that would reflect entirely what Mr Singh has asked me to say to the Court," Mr Fraser said.

Mr Britton wanted to know what was considered by the witness to be within a reasonable time in the interest of justice.

He thought that if the Commission's lawyers did not turn up the witness should be given a chance to say what he wanted to say so that the case could proceed.

Justice Singh, who will be engaged in the Full Court tomorrow, took another witness, who was put up for cross-examination, before adjourning the hearing to Monday, when it is expected Mr Doodnauth Singh S.C. will turn up to re-examine Mr Stanley Singh.

Taking his stand in the witness box for further cross-examination by Mr Raphael Trotman, lawyer for the Petitioner, was Mr Calvin Benn, Senior Manager in the Management Team of the Elections Commission.

Benn said that there was a basic force set up for Region Four and that he was the manager responsible in regard to the distribution of Voter ID Cards for Region Four.

Mr Ganga Persaud, he said, was the manager who monitored the other nine Regions in relation to Voter ID Cards.

Witness said that there was evidence to the effect that Cards distribution started in some regions as early as September, 1997 whereas the distribution did not start in Region Four until late October.

Benn said that the decision to start the distribution in October was not his. He knew of no reason why the decision to distribute the cards in Region Four did not start in September.

"If I had my way, distribution would have started earlier," he told Trotman.

Witness said that a large number of Voter ID cards with false information were returned to the office of the Elections Commission to be rectified, but he could not say whether they were attended to.

Benn also agreed that Voter ID cards for 6,511 persons of Region could not be located.

Trotman suggested to the witness that the 6,511 cards that could not be accounted for represented votes that were fraudulently cast without matching cards.

Mr Benn denied the suggestion. He is expected to be further cross-examined by Mr Saphier Husain.

Further hearing continues on Monday.