Elections petition... Gajadhar cannot verify accuracy of Region Six results

Guyana Chronicle
July 10, 1999

RETURNING Officer in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) for the 1997 general elections, Jerome Gajadhar said yesterday he cannot, of his own knowledge, vouch for the accuracy of the results declared there.

Under cross-examination by a lawyer for one of the respondents in the elections petition, the witness said he was not present for the counting of votes nor preparation of the Statements of Poll (SOPs) from which he compiled his report to the Elections Commission.

Answering Mr Saphier Husain, who is representing himself as Leader of National Independence Party (NIP), Gajadhar said there were 302 Presiding Officers in his Region and, when going through the SOPs, he was paying particular attention to their signatures.

However, he confessed he was not acquainted with their writing and that 17 of the SOPs were unsigned.

The witness admitted signing one SOP on behalf of a Presiding Officer who had failed to sign it but denied a suggestion that he might have also inserted the figures.

Gajadhar said, prior to the voting, he was told results were to be transmitted by telephone and his Region was to use two numbers, one of which he does not remember.

But the phones became unavailable and he used radio sets to communicate.

Gajadhar said he was not aware that, under the Representation of the People Act, ballot boxes were to be stored at Police Stations.

He had recommended they be lodged at the offices of Deputy Returning Officers and it never crossed his mind that the containers should have been left with the Police.

It was not that he had no confidence in the Police. He respected the integrity of the Force and it was after consultation with the (Divisional) Commander arrangements were made to convey the crates to the offices of the deputies with heavy Police escort.

Gajadhar faces more questioning by the same lawyer Monday, on the compendium he submitted to the Elections Commission.

Among other things he also disclosed yesterday is that 88,433 people, including 14-year olds, were registered in his Region and 78,117 were above the age of 18.

He received 78,998 voter identification (ID) cards from the Commission for distribution to 79,133 registered voters.

Explaining how he got more cards than voters, Gajadhar said it was because some people had gone through the clerical aspect of the exercise but did not have their photographs taken to complete registration.

The witness said he could not tell how many persons were above age 18 on Elections Day and he was not required to authenticate in writing the number who were not photographed.

Although he could not recall receiving duplicate IDs, there was a possibility some existed.

Gajadhar said he had completed his compendium on January 30, 1998 and was summoned to appear before the Cross audit team sometime after.

The auditors quizzed him about the polling in Region Six, not concerning his composition and he told them nothing.

In this case, the petitioner, People's National Congress (PNC) supporter Esther Perreira, of Lot 75 South Sophia, Greater Georgetown, is challenging the validity of the 1997 balloting on the ground that the process was so flawed the outcome cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate.

She wants Justice Claudette Singh to invalidate the result and, apart from Chief Elections Officer Styanley Singh, has cited President Janet Jagan of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic alliance and PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte among the List Representatives of political parties which contested.

But, all the named politicians, except Hamilton Green of A Good and Green Guyana (AGGG), have pledged to abide the ruling in this matter.

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