Only eight more Presiding Officers to testify

Guyana Chronicle
November 10, 1999

THE lawyer representing one of the respondents in the elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh said yesterday that the list of other witnesses to be called has been substantially reduced from the 150 stated last week.

Attorney-at-law Mr Hubert Robert Rodney told the judge the number had been cut drastically following discussions he had with officials of the Elections Commission.

Counsel said only eight more Presiding Officers (POs) are on the listing but he could not state how many Deputy Returning Officers (DROs).

Rodney said he had drawn to the attention of those with whom he spoke that the judge had many outstanding cases to adjudicate upon as well as new ones to be assigned her by the Chief Justice.

Two POs, Desiree Allen and Nandy Husbands, who began their testimony last week, were cross-examined yesterday by Mr Raphael Trotman, who is also representing the petitioner, Esther Perreira while two others, Premlall Ramessar and Gangadai Persaud, took the oath as well.

Allen had no documentation to establish that she or any other functionary at the polling place where she worked had been employed.

Noting that tendered ballots were specially offered to appease persons who wished to vote but were not entitled, she admitted issuing one to a woman with the same name and voter identification card as someone else recorded as having already voted.

Witness said, although she perceived that the second woman had done something unlawful, she did not see the necessity to call in the Police or inform the Commission.

Husbands disclosed that she switched polling stations on Elections Day because she was fearful of her safety.

She told Trotman she was to have worked at Anandale West but performed duties as PO at Lusignan, also on East Coast Demerara, instead.

Despite the change, Husbands acknowledged that the Statement of Poll (SOP) she signed made reference to Annandale West where she did not work.

Ramessar, who was stationed in Latchmansingh Housing Scheme, recalled, to Rodney, that at the close of poll, he counted the votes and allocated them to the various contesting political parties.

Then he compiled SOPs, two of which he sent to the DRO.

Questioned by Trotman, Ramessar concurred that any election, even if for president of a games club, should be free, fair and transparent.

The witness confirmed that his polling station was his home but said he did not see any just reason for refusing to operate there.

He said the place was opened 45 minutes late and he extended the closing time by 48 minutes without consulting anyone.

The first PO to testify about a polling station situated in his house, Ramessar said, too, that, while he resided at Lusignan where he presided, he was erroneously listed by the Commission as having operated at another East Coast Demerara place called `Nogeems' although, his residence was never identified as being there.

Persaud was posted at Mangru's Residence, Paradise, East Coast Demerara, as well, but she did not receive a letter of appointment.

She was appointed by the DRO the day before the voting but she did not preside at the place where she was assigned.

Persaud remembered preparing an SOP for the general elections but said, to Trotman, that the one for the regional was prepared by someone without her authority.

Perreira, a People's National Congress (PNC) supporter, of Lot 75 South Sophia, Greater Georgetown, is challenging the validity of the December 15, 1997 polls, on the ground that the process was so flawed the outcome cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate.

Among the other respondents cited by her are former Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Janet Jagan, who, like the other List Representatives of political parties that contested, except Hamilton Green of A Good and Green Guyana (AGGG), have pledged to accept the ruling in this case which continues today.

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