Doodnauth Singh, S.C., addresses the Court

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
May 23, 2000

SENIOR Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh yesterday told Elections Petition judge, Justice Claudette Singh, that to accept the erroneous part of the Caricom Audit report on page 29 in spite of the presence of the erratum, would be an act in defiance of logic and law.

Mr Singh, who is representing Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Mr Stanley Singh, the number one respondent in the Elections petition brought by Esther Perreira, was at the time addressing the Court on the evidence.

Singh, who will continue his address on the resumption of the hearing this morning, had noted that the erroneous page 29 of the report had indicated that a test count of Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven disclosed that 45,275 persons had voted without voter identification cards.

He added, "If you have an erratum in relation to this page, you cannot bury your head in the sand and say that you are acting in accordance with the law."

Before electing to address the jury, Singh had called 263 witnesses in the almost two-year-long hearing in support his contention that the Petitioner did not make out a case as she had set out to do with the aid of 17 witnesses.

According to him, Petitioner Esther Perreira, a farmer residing at Lot 75 South Sophia, Georgetown, named 12 respondents in her petition. He said that in her affidavit in support of her petition, she states that she was an elector and a registered voter for the General and Regional Elections held on December 15, 1997. She also states that there is no collusion or convenience between herself and any of the Respondents mentioned in her petition.

Singh went on to say that although Perreira's witnesses had testified, the petitioner herself had never appeared. He noted, that among other things, she had said that on December 19, 1997, he (Mr Doodnauth Singh) had declared that Janet Jagan was elected President before all the votes were counted and without the consent and authority of members of the Elections Commission.

Mr Singh reminded the Court that Perreira had also said that the Chief Elections Officer certified the election results on 21/12/1997.

The Petitioner had said, too, that the Chairman of the Commission rejected the certified results as submitted by the Chief Elections Officer and requested him to do a second certificate which differed from the first certificate that was published in the Official Gazette of January 30, 1998.

The General and Regional Elections were not held in conformity with the law. The requirement of a voter identification card as a qualification to be an elector is ultra vires to Article 159 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Mr Singh went on to say that the petitioner had also said the distribution of the voter identification cards was structured and fashioned by the Commission to give the People's Progressive Party/Civic a clear advantage over other political parties. Discrimination in the distribution of the cards was supported by the Commission.

The number of voter identification cards produced and issued did not correspond with the number of registered electors. Bogus identification cards were in circulation and at several polling stations voter identification failed the test for authenticity.

After referring to a number of claims by the Petitioner, Mr Singh told the Court that Esther Perreira concluded that the 1997 General and Regional Elections were not free, fair and valid. She said that the declaration of the election results made on December 29 are null, void and of no legal effect and that the whole electoral process was so flawed, contained so many procedural errors and so many instances of fraudulent and or suspicious actions that the results cannot be credibly deemed to represent accurately the will of the electorate as defined by the final voters list.

Singh said that Perreira had requested an order from the High Court declaring the said election or any part thereof to have been ineffective and to order that fresh Elections be held in whole or part for the purpose of rectifying the said results.

After referring to the petitioner's allegations about the existence of unsigned Statements of Poll and undistributed voter ID cards, Mr Singh said that the ID cards were introduced throughout the country to get away from the pattern in the past where people used to vote on several occasions.

In those days, he said, they would vote, then wash off the ink with bleach and vote again.

He said that the requirement of the voter identification cards was as a result of discussions with all political parties, as well as the Inter-Party Committee.

The distribution of the voter identification cards, he said, was not discriminatory and that officers did everything that was humanly possible to distribute cards to as many persons who ought to have cards.

He pointed that the security arrangements, unparalleled in the history of balloting in Guyana, had been in place for the poll and that the ballot boxes were under the supervisors of both security personnel and election officials.

Mr Singh informed the Court that on Elections Day there was no allegation whatsoever of any irregularity and the two major political parties had agents at almost all the polling stations where some candidates were present too.

For the purpose of appointing election officials, unique training and evaluation were done and every prospective functionary sat a written examination, which was evaluated.

The Senior Counsel maintained that not a single one was appointed without the approval of representatives of the People's Progressive Party/Civic and the People's National Congress.

He said that the Elections Commission had put mechanisms in place for early declaration of the results, special computer-friendly forms were created, and Presiding Officers were required to prepare in excess of ten copies of Statements of Poll (SOPs). Mr Singh argued that the Caricom Audit Commission was unbiased and took pains to satisfy every whim and fancy of the representatives of the political parties during the audit.

Significantly, he said, for the duration (of the process) no political party presented to the Elections Commission a single Statement of Poll and or tally sheet on which results differed from those declared by the Elections Commission and/or by the Caricom Audit.

Neither, he said, did any political party point to at least one discrepancy between the ballots and the voter identification cards

Mr Singh declared that the ballot boxes were intended to collect the votes after they were counted and pointed out that as long as the ballots were counted at the respective polling stations, there could be no reference to boxes to found claims of irregularity.

He then asked, "Where is the evidence of irregularity non-compliance and failure of the Elections Commission to conduct the elections in a free, fair and transparent manner?"

Nintendo game thief gets a year jail

CHIEF Magistrate Paul Fung-A-Fat yesterday imposed a one year jail sentence on Sean Prince, 25, for theft of a $63,000 nintendo game.

The prisoner, of Lot 17 Prince William Street, Plaisance, East Coast Demerara, admitted the larceny from Marlon Norton on May 16.

Inspector Faye Bremner, prosecuting, said Norton left his property in a bag at a stall on Croal Street, Georgetown and, a few minutes later, Prince picked it up and fled the scene.

The booty was not recovered.

Nothing was recovered, Bremner said.