Lawyers clash over Cross's letter

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
April 12, 2000

LAWYERS clashed at the hearing of the Esther Perreira Elections Petition yesterday over a letter from the Chairman of the CARICOM Audit Commission, Mr Ulric Cross. The letter sought to correct an alleged error in the CARICOM Audit Report, which according to Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh, erroneously showed that 45,275 persons had voted at the 1997 General and Regional Elections without Voter Identification cards.

Mr Doodnauth Singh, representing the Elections Commission, was attempting to submit the erratum in evidence through the witness, Chief Elections Officer, Mr Stanley Singh, when Attorney-at-law Mr Raphael Trotman for the Petitioner Esther Perreira, objected on the grounds that the document was inadmissible under the Act.

This sparked off a battle of words between the two lawyers, each stressing his point with confidence causing laughter from spectators in the gallery and resulting in Justice Claudette Singh having to call for order.

One female spectator, who stated audibly that Mr Doodnauth Singh was losing ground, was told by lawyer in a loud voice, "Shut up, or I'll have to ask the Court to put you out."

Apart from the letter from Mr Cross, Mr Singh also wanted the Judge to admit in evidence the report by the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB), computer data and statistical appendix.

On the resumption yesterday, Justice Ms Claudette Singh ruled that the EAB report was not admissible in evidence under the Act, but held that page 31 of the said report, upon which the witness was cross-examined, was admissible in evidence.

Mr Doodnauth Singh asked the Judge to reconsider her ruling in the light of new evidence given by the witness in relation to the EAB and the Audit Commission reports.

After Mr Trotman pointed out that the letter from Mr Cross was signed only by himself and not by the five other members of the Audit team, Mr Singh said, "We might have to bring Mr Cross for cross-examination."

Reacting to the statement, Mr Trotman retorted, "We would like to have him!"

During the arguments, Justice Singh told Mr Doodnauth Singh that the law was against him. However, the Judge is expected to rule this morning in relation to the admissibility of the documents after listening to further submissions on the law.

In support of his contention that the appendices of the CARICOM Audit Commission report should be admitted in evidence, Mr Singh pointed out that Stage 1 of the report made it clear that the document could be used for the purpose of an Elections petition.

But the Judge had earlier told him that the CARICOM report that was admitted in evidence, was put in by consent of all the parties. She made it quite clear that the appendices were not in evidence.

Mr Doodnauth Singh was continuing his re-examination of CEO Mr Stanley Singh yesterday when the witness admitted that he was cross-examined at length about the details on page 29 of the Audit report, which among other things, disclosed that a statement on Voter ID cards in Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven had showed that 45,275 persons had voted without ID cards.

Lawyer Singh, who claimed that that aspect of the report was an error, was attempting to submit a letter from CAC Chairman Mr Ulric Cross, which letter had been sent to the CARICOM Secretary General, in relation to that part of the report. It was at this stage that Mr Trotman made the objection that the letter was inadmissible since it was not a document that emanated from all the members of the Audit team.

After the proposed tendering of the letter was objected to, Mr Singh said that he was at a loss to see how an erroneous aspect of a report could be accepted and the correct version of the report rejected.

At the invitation of counsel, the witness, Mr Stanley Singh referred to aspects of the CARICOM Audit Commission report, which dealt with the method of ballot counting applied by that body, the summary of the findings of the Audit Commission, and the final declaration.

The CEO said that when his final declaration was compared with the findings of the Audit team, the variance was minimal.

And, according to him that resulted from the fact that he did not challenge the rejected votes whereas the Audit team made challenges resulting in some of the rejected votes being regarded as valid ballots.

Reading from a comparison of the results between the Elections Commission and the Audit team's declaration, Mr Singh gave a breakdown of the numbers in order to show that the variance was minimal.

The breakdown for the official and audited totals disclosed that the AFG received 4,803 votes as against the audited 4,783; AGGG - 1,570 as against 1,537; GBG - 326 as against 315; GDP - 2,515 and 2,566; JFAP - 1,288 and 1,248; NDF - 106 and 111; NIP - 253 and 258; PNC - 161,719 and 161,798; PPP/C - 220,138 and 220,505; TUF - 5,940 and 5,903; valid votes - 398,654 and 399,024; rejected votes - 8,462 and 5443; official total - 407,120, audited total 407,413 with a variance of 293 in respect of the total votes.

The hearing continues today.