Bakker admits free and fair report is hearsay

Guyana Chronicle
June 11, 1999

RETURNING Officer for Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) at the 1997 general elections, Nelson Bakker said yesterday his previous report that the polls were free and fair was based on hearsay.

Testifying in the elections petition launched by People's National Congress (PNC) supporter Esther Perreira, he denied, under cross-examination, that someone else had done the compilation.

Bakker confessed that, as Returning Officer in the Region, it was not possible for him to be present at the 96 polling stations in the district on Elections Day and he only visited 10.

He was not there for the counting at the places of poll and, therefore, had to rely on Statements of Poll (SOPs) and tally sheets sent him by the Deputy Returning Officer and Presiding Officers for his composition.

Because he was absent when the tallies and SOPs were being written, he could not vouch for the correctness nor the genuineness of the documentation, Bakker acknowledged to Husain.

Witness said he knew most of the presiding officers but was not familiar with their signatures, hence he cannot authenticate them on the documents he received.

That being so, Bakker said he was forced to agree with Husain that what he compiled was not on the basis of his own knowledge.

Witness said, though he prepared it on his own volition, Chief Elections Officer Stanley Singh, a respondent, had, prior to the balloting, requested that he prepare one and he did so about a month after the voting.

He told attorney-at-law Mr Saphier Husain, also a respondent as Leader of the National lndependent Party (NIP), he could not remember what time he started to write it and when he finished.

But he was certain it had been completed and was in his possession during the CARICOM audit of the votes.

Bakker, of Mackenzie, Linden, said, although he had been summoned to appear before the Audit Commission, he did not make his compendium available to the team.

"At the time, I did not think it was necessary," the witness answered the lawyer.

In another answer, Bakker said 27,000 voters were registered within Region 10 and he received 23,159 voter identification (ID) cards.

Explaining the 3,841 difference, he said persons 14 years old and above were registered but the IDs were only for people 18 and above.

Bakker said 533 people in Region 10 were registered but not presented with IDs because they were not photographed.

Perreira, of Lot 75 South Sophia, Greater Georgetown, has challenged the outcome of the 1997 electoral process, on the ground that it was so flawed it cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate.

In her quest, before Justice Claudette Singh, the petitioner has cited, as well, other List Representatives of contesting political parties, including President Janet Jagan of the People's Progressive Party/Civic and PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte. But, all of them, except Hamilton Green of A Good and Green Guyana (AGGG), have pledged to abide the ruling in this case that is continuing today.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples