Candidate cross-examined on elections audit report
November 25, 1999
HEARING of the Esther Perreira petition against the December 1997 general elections continued yesterday with a candidate being cross-examined on a report on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) audit of the polls.The audit team was led by former Trinidad and Tobago judge Mr Ulric Cross.On the resumption of the hearing before Justice Claudette Singh yesterday, People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) candidate at the elections, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who had testified about compiling a report for the PPP/Civic and Cabinet on aspects of the Caricom Audit exercise, was cross-examined.
In answer to Mr Rex Mc Kay, S.C., representing respondent Mr Desmond Hoyte, the opposition People's National Congress (PNC) leader, the witness said that during the 1997 general elections he was an activist of the PPP/Civic.
He was also head of the PPP/Civic observer group that later monitored the Audit Commission for his party. Apart from the witness, Omar Shariff, Joseph O'Lall and Sandra Khan also contributed to the report.The report, an exhibit of the court, was intended to be forwarded to the party's General Secretary Donald Ramotar and then President Janet Jagan, the witness said.Ramsammy agreed that the report was dated June 10, 1998, six months after the elections petition was filed.In answer to further questions, he first said he did not accept the Cross report but changed that to "I do not agree with one statement from the Cross report."That statement in the Cross report which witness was speaking about related to page 29 which stated, "A test count of Voter ID Cards was carried out in Regions 2, 4, 6 and 7. The results of this test revealed that a significant number of electors voted without Voter ID Cards and in this regard meaningful attempts to reconcile Voter ID cards with those of ballots cast proved futile."Earlier in his testimony, Ramsammy had said that after reading the report and disagreeing with the observation by Cross, he brought the matter to the attention of his party and the Audit Commission.On Monday, he was about to tender a response which he solicited from Cross, when Mr Peter Britton, S.C., for the petitioner, objected to the letter being tendered in evidence on the grounds that it was a photocopy of a faxed document which was not addressed to Ramsammy.
The response which was tendered for identification but was not used to cross-examine the witness, was described as 'Erratum of the Caricom Audit Commission'.It read, "I wish to correct an error in the first part of the Report of the Caricom Audit Commission. The figures appearing in the table of page 29 were from an earlier computer print out and did not include additional ID cards captured later in the process."The statement in the report therefore that a significant number of electors voted without Voter ID Cards is incorrect. The figure for ID cards for Region 6 is approximately 69,000 instead of the approximate figure of 42,000 mentioned in the report." Earlier in the hearing, Counsel for the petitioner declared that the alleged response by Cross as was published in the newspapers was not legally admissible since it was not approved by the other Commissioners.Cross-examined by Britton, the witness said he was in the employ of the Government of Guyana since September 1998.He agreed that the counting of ID cards by the Audit Commission was done only in respect to seven regions.
He did not know whether the Audit Commission had dealt with all the Statements of Poll (SOP) from all the regions. As far as he knew they dealt only with regions One, Four, Six and Seven.Ramsammy admitted that at one stage his team asserted that the SOPs should not be examined in the presence of observers. The observer teams of other parties at first agreed but later recanted on the proposal by the PPP/Civic observer team.The witness agreed that page 11 of his report had stated that his team was of the view that about 160 Statements of Poll were unsigned. He could not say how many votes would have been involved in that number.Ramsammy said he did not know that Chairman of the Elections Commission, Mr Doodnauth Singh had expressed his concern on elections night about the late arrival of the Statements of Poll.
But he agreed that the Cross Commission had reported "It was uncertainty over the Statements of Poll that led the Chairman of the Elections Commission to employ the imagery of the Olympics to convey his concern at the length of time the SOPs were taking to arrive."The witness could not recall hearing the Chairman say that the runners with the results might have gone to the Olympics but pointed out that as a candidate he knew that there was a considerable time in declaring some of the results.Layers Mr Saphier Husain who is representing his National Independent Party, questioned Ramsammy about his dual citizenship and suggested to him that under the Constitution of Guyana he was illegally elected to Parliament. Husain also suggested to Ramsammy that a U.S. citizen cannot be a member of this country's parliament.
When Justice Singh interrupted to point out that Ramsammy's position was not an issue in the case, Husain countered by saying that his petition had queried the unsuitability of certain candidates, and as such he had a right to complain.In answer to Husain, Ramsammy admitted that he had sworn allegiance and obedience to the U.S.A. while he was contesting the 1997 elections but disagreed with counsel's contention that this would disqualify him from contesting the elections in Guyana.
Husain argued that he was supported in his contention by Article 155 of the Constitution of Guyana and suggested to the witness that he did not state in his affidavit for nomination that he was a citizen of the United States.The witness said he could not recall whether he had done so. In these proceedings, Perreira, a PNC supporter of 75 South Sophia, Greater Georgetown, is challenging the validity of the December 15, 1997 elections.
The hearing continues today. (GEORGE BARCLAY)
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