Judge to be asked to review Voter ID card ruling

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2000

SENIOR Counsel Mr Ralph Ramkarran told trial Judge Ms Claudette Singh yesterday that he intended to ask her to reconsider her ruling against the application for the counting of Voter Identification cards in the Court.

Mr Ramkarran is representing Respondent Mrs Janet Jagan in the Esther Perreira Elections petition.

But the application, which will be made by Mr Ramkarran on Monday, has already met with opposition from Senior Counsel Peter Britton, who said that he and his colleagues would strenuously oppose any move to have the judge sit as an Appellate Court against her own ruling.

Some days ago after the judge had thrown out an application by Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh to have an erratum from Chairman of the CARICOM Audit team Ulric Cross admitted in evidence, Mr Singh asked the judge to order a count of the Voter Identification cards used in the l997 General and Regional Elections.

Mr Singh was hoping by the latter method to prove that what was recorded in the last paragraph of page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Commission report about 45,000 persons voting without Voter Identification cards, was an error.

But the judge, after listening to arguments from both sides, concluded that a prima facie (at first sight) case had not been made out to facilitate a count as requested by Mr. Singh.

Consequently, the application for the count of Voter ID cards was refused.

Towards the end of yesterday's session, Mr Ramkarran told the judge that because of additional evidence which has since come to light, coupled with the law he hopes to rely on, he would on Monday exhort the Court to reconsider the decision against a count of the Voter Identification cards.

Jumping to his feet, Mr Britton, counsel for the petitioner told the Court that such a move would be opposed to the hilt.

On the resumption yesterday, the judge ruled that the copy of a letter that was addressed to Mr Hoyte could not be put in evidence because the proper foundation had not been laid.

It is alleged that the letter was sent to Mr Hoyte in response to his correspondence, complaining that only one person had signed the erratum. The Commission is also saying that vital documents such as the Appendices for Region Six were also enclosed in the letter.

At this stage, Mr Ramkarran told the judge that he had put himself in order by serving a notice on Mr Desmond Hoyte to produce the original document.

The notice, he said, was only sent off yesterday.

Mr Ramkarran expects the matter to be reopened once Mr Hoyte cooperates after receiving the notice.

Mr Joseph Farrier, CARICOM diplomat, and Secretary to the CARICOM Audit team, was then subjected to further cross-examination in relation to documents that were uplifted from the CARICOM Secretariat by the Guyana Elections Commission.

After examining the appendices in relation to the Voter Identification cards for Region Six, as referred to in the test count, and the signatures of the members of the Commission that purport to support the claim of error by Mr Cross, witness in answer to Mr McKay said that there was nothing in the documents to indicate that any of those persons whose signature appeared on the document had seen the Region Six appendices in relation to the Voter ID cards.

In answer to further questions, Mr Farrier said that while he heard rumours about Voter ID cards could not be located, he never heard this from the Commissioners.

Witness said that he could not offer any reasonable explanation as to why the date appeared on one document and did not appear on the other.

He, however, admitted that if a strip of paper is placed on a part of a document over words during photocopying, the hidden words would not be printed.

Cross-examined by Mr Britton, witness said that he was present with the Commission during the Audit exercise. He had witnessed the opening of ballot boxes. On some occasions they were not able to find keys to fit the padlocks on the boxes.

Witness did not have the recollection of seeing some ballot boxes without seals.

Re-examined by Mr Doodnauth Singh, witness said that there was an initial distribution of the CARICOM report without the erratum.

A second report with the clipped on erratum and the appendices in relation to Region Six was sent to all concerned, he said.

Witness could not explain how certain persons did not receive the added documents.