Ramkarran seeks to certify CANA report

By George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
May 30, 2000

JUSTICE Claudette Singh noted yesterday that CARICOM Audit Commission Chairman, retired judge Mr Ulric Cross was the best person to give evidence on the erratum.

Her challenge was not taken on.

However, in a dramatic last-minute move yesterday, Senior Counsel Mr Ralph Ramkarran sought to have CARICOM certify as correct, a CANA report in which Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and Secretary General Edwin Carrington admitted knowledge of the original erratum from Chairman Cross.

In the event that certification is received from CARICOM, Mr Ramkarran will produce same to the Court on the resumption today with the purpose of showing that the CANA report is credible.

Mr Ramkarran, who is appearing for the Elections Commission and respondent Mrs Janet Jagan, is pursuing the application to have Prime Minister Mitchell and CARICOM Secretary General Carrington testify about their knowledge of the erratum.

On the resumption yesterday, Attorney-at-law Mr Raphael Trotman for the petitioner Esther Perreira and Senior Counsel Mr Rex McKay for respondent Mr Desmond Hoyte, replied to the submissions by Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh, and Mr Ramkarran.

The submissions were made in keeping with a CANA report which quoted Prime Minister Mitchell and CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington expressing knowledge about the existence of the erratum relating to page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Commission report.

That section of the report had stated that a test count carried out in Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven disclosed that 45,275 persons had voted without voter identification cards.

While lawyers for the Petitioner and Respondent Mr Hoyte are holding on to this aspect of the report as evidence of irregularity, lawyers representing the Elections Commission are contending that the report was erroneous and were able to get Audit Commission Chairman Ulric Cross to forward an erratum in support of their contention.

The opposition has successfully submitted that the original erratum cannot be located and that the copies of the document in Court are faxed copies, which are not admissible in evidence under Guyana law.

On the resumption yesterday, Mr Trotman, replying to the submissions by Mr Doodnauth Singh and Mr Ralph Ramkarran, submitted that the section under which the Court was asked to summon the Prime Minister of Grenada and the CARICOM Secretary General, Edwin Carrington, did not provide for extra territorial effect, and therefore the Court did not have jurisdiction to bring the witnesses here unless the witnesses wish to waive their diplomatic immunity.

Trotman said that there was nothing before the Court to indicate that Mr Carrington was willing to waive his diplomatic immunity.

But he warned, if Mr Carrington wishes to waive his immunity he would have to realise that he would be placing himself in a position where he could be subject to cross-examination on other matters different to what he came to speak about.

Trotman went on to say that information from a CANA reporter was not sufficient fact or circumstance to cause the Court to go on an inquiry, or to be concerned.

According to him, "We ought to have an affidavit sworn to by these gentlemen that they have knowledge of these affidavits and that they are willing in the absence of any credible evidence to testify."

Attorney-at-Law Mr C.M. Llewellyn John, in his presentation said that while nothing should be done to keep out evidence, he would support the view expressed by Mr Trotman in relation to the Court not having jurisdiction of an extra territorial effect.

Mr McKay first told the Court that the question of diplomatic immunity must be considered.

Among other things McKay said that he considered the application was an illicit one bordering on insulting the intelligence of the Court.

He accused the lawyers on the other side of relying on a newspaper report purporting to originate from CANA which had been discredited before that very Court not so long ago.

McKay said that there was no legal process whatever to found the application, and he cited legal authorities in support of his contention that an application of the kind ought not to succeed unless in special circumstances.

And he added, "This is not a special circumstance."

He concluded by asking the Court to reject the application.

At this stage, Mr Ramkarran contended that the Section of the Act under which the application was made had the legal effect of getting concerned persons to testify at an Elections Petition case.

Reacting to Mr McKay's claim about relying on a newspaper report, he said, "We have a report from a credible newspaper and a credible agency.

At this stage, Justice Singh said that what troubled her was the fact that Mr Cross, the person who sent the original erratum, was not called.

Mr Ramkarran observed that the original erratum was sent to Mr Mitchell and pointed out that a newspaper report from a credible press and a credible agency is admissible.

And he declared that they were asking the Court on the basis of that report to take steps to have those witnesses testify.

Mr Ramkarran went on to point out that the cases cited by Mr McKay were irrelevant. And he asked the Court for an adjournment to enable him to ask the CARICOM Secretariat for a certificate in relation to the accuracy of the CANA report.

Mr Trotman told the Court that he would object to any such application.

Mr McKay had requested a ruling right away, but the judge adjourned the hearing until this morning when she is expected to rule after hearing Mr Ramkarran's proposal to have CARICOM certify the CANA report.

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