Britton continues address

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
July 21, 2000

JUSTICE Claudette Singh, the trial judge hearing the Esther Perreira Elections Petition was told yesterday that the allegations of irregularities relating to the Statements of Poll (SOPs) was one of the most important allegations in the petition.

The judge was told this by Senior Counsel Mr Peter Britton, for the petitioner. Britton was addressing the Court for the seventh day. Perreira of South Sophia is challenging the legality of the elections.

Britton traced the history of the Representation of the People Act, under which the Statements of Poll were formulated.

The Act, he said, was assented to by the then President Desmond Hoyte, and was the stepping stone for a free and transparent elections. It could be better described as the document of transparency.

He told the judge that the Act provided for Presiding Officers to sign and certify Statements of Poll at the end of the count.

But according to him, there was evidence that a number of SOPs were unsigned, not certified, while others had to be restructured, which was contrary to the Act.

Britton said that the statutory provisions were clear and to the point. Parliament had declared that there should be no laxity in relation to the Statements of Poll.

The Law provided, he said, for the Statements of Poll to be placed in an envelope and sealed. Statements of Poll were not expected to be found here, there and everywhere.

Mr Britton told the Court that what happened was a clear and distinct breach of the Statutory Provisions.

He submitted that the Statements of Poll cannot be altered. There is no provision in the Representation of the People Act for alterations, duplications and photocopying of Statements of Poll.

Counsel quoted the report of Mr Stanley Singh, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), whose report recorded him as saying that many Statements of Poll were found to be incomplete - meaning they were not signed and certified.

The CEO, he said, had tried to perfect that imperfection which was not permissible under the Act.

Mr Britton pointed out that one of the explanations given by Mr Stanley Singh for the irregularity was that the Presiding Officers were in a hurry.

That explanation, Counsel said, cannot be accepted under the Act. He also referred to the submissions of the Commission's lawyer, Mr Ralph Ramkarran, Senior Counsel.

Britton submitted that Page 6 of Mr Ramkarran's submissions under the heading Statements of Poll and I.D. Cards had stated:-

"The evidence suggests that about 250 Statements of Poll were reconstructed by the Elections Commission as a result of the loss of the original forms."

Mr Britton added, "My learned friend, Mr Ramkarran in his address is adverting the Court to an illegality. The Acts do not provide for the reconstruction of Statements of Poll."

Mr Britton pointed out that if there was a gap in the law, what ought to be done was for the actors to go back to Parliament and find out what should be done in respect to lost or missing documents.

He pointed out that there are rules by which the loss of documents are established.

Counsel said that he would like to know how many voters were involved in the 250 restructured Statements of Poll as detailed by Mr Ramkarran.

He said that Mr Ramkarran had made no attempt to answer the question.

Mr Britton declared that if the restructured Statements of Poll were wrong, then the results were wrong.

The hearing resumes Tuesday.

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