Law must be amended for counting of ID cards
-- S.C. Doodnauth Singh

By George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
May 24, 2000

SENIOR Counsel Doodnauth Singh yesterday told Justice Claudette Singh in the Esther Perreira Elections Petition that the law will have to be amended to facilitate the counting of voter ID cards, in the same way as it provided for the count of ballots.

Counsel, who was addressing the Court for the second day, said that he was not criticising the judge's ruling. Justice Singh has stated that while the law permitted her to look at ballots, there was no such provision in the law for voter identification cards.

The legislature, Mr Singh said, will have to look into this matter.

On the resumption yesterday, Mr Singh began by dealing with the evidence of Francis Downer, Returning Officer of Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni).

According to Singh, Downer had said that a total of 5,544 persons were registered in his area with 4,879 entitled to vote.

He collected 4,850 voter identification cards of which 4,125 were distributed and he returned 725 to the Elections Commission.

Downer, he said, had uplifted 36 ballot boxes which he distributed to 36 polling stations. On Elections Day he had visited 13 polling stations where he observed representatives from the PPP/C, the PNC and the AFG as well as observers from the EAB.

Mr Singh said Downer's evidence was to the effect that he collected Statements of Poll (SOPs), ballot boxes and that he prepared his report and submitted same to the Chief Elections Officer. He said that some of the SOPs were not signed by the Presiding Officers. Mr Singh went on to say that there was no evidence whatever from any witness about any irregularity whatsoever.

There was also no evidence, he said from the PNC or any other party that the results as counted and declared by Mr Downer for submission to the CEO was inaccurate.

Dealing with the testimony of the Returning Officer for Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Mr Ramjit Singh, counsel said that that Returning Officer had stated that:-

Ballot boxes were stored at his office under armed Police protection for 48 hours. Security arrangements were made with the Police commander for the Region. There were 27,500 registered electors in Region Two. He (the Returning Officer) collected 27,458 voter identification cards of which 1,440 were not distributed.

The cards were distributed on a house-to-house basis from the proposed 112 polling stations, his office and the deputy's office.

According to Mr Singh, the Returning Officer had said that he prepared his report and that some Statements of Poll were not signed by the Presiding Officers and that there were certain typographical errors in the preparation of the report.

The Returning Officer had said that a number of persons had exercised their franchise. He stated that there were representatives of the political parties including the PNC at the Polling Stations and there was no allegation of corruption or any impropriety whatever.

Mr Singh went to deal with a number of Polling Stations in the various Regions including Region Four to show that none of the PNC polling Agents who were present at the polls and the count complained about any irregularity or corruption.

He contended that there was no evidence upon which a Court could make a finding that the elections were not conducted in accordance with the rules.

About Region Four, he said that the figures that were declared by Returning Officer, Mr Europe as the results of the elections for the Region, have not been challenged in any way whatever.

Referring to allegations by the Petitioner that the Commission had appointed coordinators when they had no authority to do so, Mr Singh explained that the Commission had the administrative responsibility to make rules of administration and give administrative directions and to take decisions for the function of its obligations under the Constitution.

Commenting on the allegation about the wrongful declaration of the President, Mr Singh recalled the evidence of the Chief Elections Officer, Mr Stanley Singh, who had said that a letter was sent to Mr Hoyte stating that no final declaration would be made until the verification process was concluded.

According to him, the letter to Mr Hoyte had also requested him to ignore the first certificate which was void because of errors.

He noted too that there was nowhere in that letter in which it is stated that the declaration of the Presidency would not have been done until the end of the verification exercise.

He told the Court that there was a difference between the announcement of the final results and the declaration of the President.

The law, he said provides for the Commission through the Chairman to declare a person as President as long as that person had acquired a certain number of votes which could not be surpassed by any other person even if all the remainder of the votes went to him.

According to law, he said, that person with the majority of votes is deemed to be elected President.

Referring to the decision in which Justice Claudette Singh had said that because of the state of the law she could scrutinise a ballot but could not do the same thing with a voter identification card, Mr Singh advocated that the particular law will have to be amended.

Pointing out that while he was not criticising the ruling, Singh said he was placing the blame on the legislature for not taking the latter into account when the law was amended to provide for the introduction of voter ID cards.

Mr Singh will continue his address when the hearing resumes today.

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