Judge defers ruling on documents

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
May 4, 2000

THE trial judge in the Esther Perreira Elections Petition, Justice Claudette Singh yesterday deferred her ruling on an erratum allegedly signed by all members of the CARICOM Audit team, and a copy of a related letter said to have been sent to PNC Leader Mr Desmond Hoyte.

Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh, representing the Guyana Elections Commission, is seeking to have admitted into evidence these documents along with other appendices from the audit team. His purpose is to disprove a statement on page 29 of the Audit report which erroneously states that 45,000 persons voted at the 1997 General and Regional Elections without Voter Identification cards.

However, the judge is hearing evidence from CARICOM Audit Team Secretary Mr Joseph Farrier in relation to appendices and other documents from the Library of the CARICOM Secretariat, which Mr Doodnauth Singh is also seeking to tender in evidence.

Senior Counsel Mr Rex Mckay, representing Mr Hoyte, and Senior Counsel Mr Peter Britton, appearing for the petitioner, are opposed to the documents being admitted in evidence on the grounds that they are "hearsay documents".

In these proceedings, the petitioner, Esther Perreira of South Sophia, is challenging the validity of the elections on the grounds that they were flawed by irregularities.

Taking up his position in the witness stand on the resumption of the hearing yesterday, was Mr Joseph Farrier, who apart from being Secretary to the CARICOM Audit team is the Director of Computer Services in the CARICOM Secretariat.

Mr Farrier stated that he attended sittings of the CARICOM Audit Commission.

He recalled reading the CARICOM report of which page 29 referred to a test count that had been carried out in Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven.

According to him, the record of the count was detailed in information which could be examined in the library of CARICOM.

Witness said that the original copies of the appendices relating to the count of Voter ID Cards were circulated to all the political parties.

Mr Farrier said that about one week after the report was published an erratum was circulated from the CARICOM Audit team and that he had clipped on a copy of the erratum to each report that was sent to the various political parties with the exception of the `God Bless Guyana Party' whose representative could not be located.

Witness tendered for identification, a copy of the erratum in respect to Region Six.

He said that he was aware that after the erratum had been received, Mr Hoyte had written a letter pointing out that only one member of the Commission had signed the document.

Witness also said that he was aware that Hoyte's letter was responded to, and was about to tender in evidence a copy of the response when Mr Britton objected on the grounds of inadmissibility.

Counsel submitted that the witness could not submit a copy of a copy. The copy could only be tendered if the original letter to Mr Hoyte was unavailable. So far, he said, no approach had been made to Mr Hoyte for the alleged original.

At this stage Mr Doodnauth Singh made an application to have tendered in evidence the letter sent to Mr Hoyte in 1998 as well as the erratum.

Lawyers on the other side opposed the tendering of the documents on the grounds that a prima facie case had not been made out for their tender.

Secondly, they said that Mr Singh was facing an insurmountable hurdle in respect to the other document, the erratum which is not a copy of the original, but a photo copy of a copy.

The judge deferred her ruling on those two documents in order to look up the related law.

But she elected to continue hearing evidence in relation to appendices for Voter ID Cards for Region Six.

In answer to Mr Ralph Ramkarran, Senior Counsel, Mr Farrier said that he was familiar with the signatures of the members of the Commission. He identified two different exhibits of the Court with the signatures of the team and declared that the signatures appeared to be familiar.

Cross-examined by Mr McKay, witness said that when he received the erratum it was only signed by one person - Mr Ulric Cross. He then sought to get the signatures of the missing commissioners.

He also said that he did not prepare the documents but supervised the preparation. When the hearing continues this morning, Mr Farrier will be further cross-examined by Mr Rex McKay.