Judge reserves decision

by George Barclay
Guyana Chronicle
September 2, 2000

THE hearing of the Esther Perreira 1997 elections petition, which lasted for over two years during which 283 witnesses testified, ended yesterday.

Trial Judge Ms Claudette Singh has reserved decision.

The end came yesterday following a call on the Judge to reflect in her decision the findings of the Caricom Audit Commission which revealed that the 1997 General and Regional Elections were free, fair and transparent and represented the will of the electorate.

The call came from Senior Counsel Mr Doodnauth Singh, representing the Number One Respondent, Chief Elections Officer, Mr Stanley Singh.

At the time Mr Doodnauth Singh was responding to arguments by Senior Counsel Peter Britton, for the petitioner.

Mr Singh noted that among other things, Mr Britton in his submissions had adverted to the evidence of the Voter Identification Cards, pointing out that a substantial number of Voter ID cards were not produced nor distributed.

Calling Mr Britton's submission inaccurate, Mr Singh submitted that if one looks at the very report of Mr Stanley Singh, who was regarded by the Petitioner's lawyers as a witness of truth, they would observe that in every region, there was in excess of 99 per cent of Voter ID cards produced.

According to him, Mr Britton seemed to have forgotten that the cards that were not distributed referred to persons who had migrated, died, or changed their addresses.

It was impossible, he said to distribute cards to persons who had died or migrated.

He pointed out that the Election results were based not on the computer compilation, but the results which were submitted by each Returning Officer to the Chief Elections Officer, and which results, he then compiled and gave to the Elections Commission.

Mr Singh went on to say that there was no evidence in the Court challenging the Registration Process. There has only been insinuations, he said.

After pointing out that Mr Britton had said that the Petitioner was not concerned with votes, Mr Singh said that in the final analysis votes must be the deciding factor, if one party gets 60,000 more votes than another.

In conclusion, he told the judge that when she looks at the Powers of the Court under Sections 29 and 30, it would be impossible for the Court to attempt to say that the electorate had not expressed their will in the 1997 General and Regional Elections.

And that on the basis of the will of the electorate, that the PPP/C was not entitled to a declaration (a) of the Presidency and the allocation of seats in the National Assembly in accordance with the will of the electorate.

Continuing, he said it is unthinkable that this Court will throw aside the findings of the Caricom Audit Commission and come to a contrary conclusion to the Audit Team, which had made an exhaustive review of 1,843 ballot boxes and held an extensive investigation into the allegations of impropriety, conspiracy and others based on suspicious minds and based on rumours and suspicion without any basis on fact.

On the other hand, the Petitioner, Esther Perreira of South Sophia had challenged the validity of the elections and had set out to prove that the elections were flawed and that should be invalidated either in whole or in part.

The legal line-up at the hearing of the petition included Mr Doodnauth Singh, S.C. and Mr Ralph Ramkarran, S.C. for the Elections Commission, Mr Peter Britton, S.C. with Mr Raphael Trotman for the Petitioner, Mr Rex McKay, S.C. and Mr Keith Massiah with Mr Compton Allicock for Respondent Desmond Hoyte, of the PNC and Mr Saphier Husain for the National Independent Party.

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