One more Returning Officer to testify today

Guyana Chronicle
July 13, 1999

ONE more Returning Officer at the 1997 general elections will be called to testify today in the continuing elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh.

Junior counsel for respondent Chief Elections Officer Stanley Singh, Ms J. Munroe said the witness would be the Returning Officer from Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni), Francis Downer.

He is to follow his Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) counterpart, Jeromme Gajadhar, who completed his testimony yesterday after saying that, while he was in charge of distributing them, he did not take part in the distribution of voter identification (ID) cards.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Rex McKay, for People's National Congress (PNC) Leader Desmond Hoyte, Gajadhar said he formulated the plan to distribute the tags to persons who had counterfoils showing that they had been photographed and the execrcise commenced on October 5, 1997.

Gajadhar said 75,057 IDs were given out but there were 79,133 registered voters, meaning that nearly six per cent of those listed did not receive theirs.

He had received complaints about persons not receiving as well as others concerning incorrect information on the documents.

According to him, he forwarded the related documentation to the National Registration Centre and requested replacement triplicates but never got any.

Gajadhar said he incorporated the issue surrounding the cards in his report to the Elections Commission but did not record how many people were hampered by that difficulty

The witness said he had knowledge of a person getting a card with the name of dead Surujnie Ramassar on it.

However, he told McKay he would not be able to say who presented the counterfoil of the deceased.

Answering attorney-at-law Mr Saphier Husain, who is representing himself as List Representative of his National Independence Party (NIP), Gajadhar acknowledged the possibility that people used names of migrants to get voter IDs.

Witness said 2,637 individualas did not have their photographs taken but he could not say whether the NIP truly gained 22 votes on the Corentyne.

Re-examined by Munroe, who is associated with Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, Gajadhar said the ballot boxes were kept under strong Police guard and the Deputy Returning Officers had the keys for the respective rooms where they were stored.

Gajadhar said he prepared his own compendium for the Commission and it was typed by three persons.

In this case, Esther Perreira, a PNC supporter, of Lot 75 South Sophia, Greater Georgetown, is challenging the validity of the 1997 polls, on the ground that the process was so flawed the outcome cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate.

She has cited, also as respondents, President Janet Jagan of the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic alliance and Hoyte, among the List Representatives of political parties which contested.

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

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