Guyana could become Caribbean `laughing stock'
...if Court closed eyes to erratum

By George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
June 7, 2000

SENIOR Counsel Doodnauth Singh yesterday told the judge hearing the Esther Perreira Elections petition that Guyana could become the "laughing stock" of the Caribbean by the Court closing its eyes to the erratum which showed that page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Report was erroneous.

Mr Singh, lawyer for the Elections Commission and Chief Elections Officer, Mr Stanley Singh, said this while addressing the Court for the sixth day.

He took the opportunity to refer again to page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC) report, which, he said, erroneously stated that some 45,275 persons had voted at the last elections without voter identification cards.

According to him, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who had compiled the PPP/C Observers' Report, had said that everything said on page 29 was totally inaccurate.

And in addition, he pointed out that Mr Joseph Farier, the Secretary of the Audit team, had produced the appendix of the investigation carried out in Region Six which also showed that what was said on page 29 about the test count carried out on Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven could not be correct.

Mr Singh also told Justice Claudette Singh that a copy of the erratum relating to page 29 with the discrepancy, pointing out the error, was sent to Mr Hoyte, but according to him, "My learned friends sought not to look at the matter in the same light."

Continuing, Mr Singh said that the Court cannot shut its eyes to that being available for the determination of the truth.

The Court ought not to shut its eyes to the fact that

the information is available to the Court. He added, "If the Court were to shut its eyes to these two facts, we would be made the laughing stock of the Caribbean."

Mr Singh went on to say that every conceivable argument was raised to prevent that erratum from being led in evidence to the extent of a suggestion that CARICOM Secretary General and Dr Keith Mitchell should not be brought to verify the truth.

Mr Singh also referred to the CARICOM Audit Commission Report in relation to a review of the count and issues of process to show that the elections were transparent, despite evidence to the contrary from witnesses Desmond Trotman and Phillip De Freitas.

According to Mr Doodnauth Singh, both Trotman and De Freitas had spoken about uncreased ballots.

Mr Singh said that in dealing with that allegation, the Audit team said:-

"The appearance was obviously surprising to all. On closer examination of this phenomenon, it was clear that the presence of these ballots was not peculiar to or in favour of any particular party.

"Observers, who were quick to cry unfolded ballots, were often given the opportunity by the Commissioners to hold and examine the suspect ballots. Invariably, they were able to see several creases which were the result of tightly folded ballots which were once opened for a previous count.

"It was not surprising that all concerned soon understood that the straightened appearance of the non-existence of ceases was the result of the positioning of the ballots in the boxes.

"With other election materials resting on them for several weeks it was not unusual that a gradual smoothing of the ballots would result. Other reasons which can account for the answer to this reoccurrence rested with the design of the ballot boxes themselves.

"Some boxes used in the elections because of the wide, built-in aperture to allow for the depositing of the ballots, did not necessitate that the voter fold the ballot with any degree of pressure to allow for its deposit, and in this regard, ballots from these boxes were hardly creased, or the creases were quickly straightened out.

"On examination, another reason for this phenomena was the inconsistency in the manner in which electors treated their individual ballots. Ballots appeared to have been folded with various degrees of pressure. Some ballots appeared to have been rolled and deposited, others folded only once, and still others folded several times."

The CARICOM report added, "In any event this apparent irregularity had its counterpoint in the finding of unfolded ballots which gave the appearance of not being counted at all. Such developments evoked no expression of consternation nor any attempt to judge the situation with some element of suspicion.

"Instead, no cry of unfair practice/procedure were registered by any of the observers.

"From our analysis, the appearance of the unfolded ballots was not viewed as a deliberate attempt to circumvent fair practice, but rather as a reflection of the extent of the handling/treatment of the ballots which passed from the hands of the voter, to the first count by the Election officials, and to subsequent recount thereafter during a verification process, and finally to their placing in the ballot boxes for storage at the Elections Commission over the period."

Mr Singh told the Court that the Commission found that there was no ground for suspicion in relation to the alleged uncreased ballots and asked the judge to find that the evidence of Trotman and De Freitas had been negated totally by the findings of the Commission.

Mr Singh said that he hopes to complete his address today.

In these proceedings, the petitioner is challenging the validity of the 1997 General and Regional Elections.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today