Report found no concern about ballot boxes integrity
December 3, 1999
A REPORT by the PPP/C Observers which document was read in evidence at the hearing of the Esther Perreira Elections Petition yesterday said that the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC) did not indicate any concern at any time about the integrity of the ballot boxes.
Member of the PPP/C Observer team, Joseph O'Lall, who explained this to Justice Claudette Singh, added, "No box was found with any evidence that its integrity could be questioned."
O'Lall was giving evidence at the hearing in which Perreira is challenging the validity of the 1997 General and Regional Elections.
At yesterday's hearing, a section of the PPP/C Observers' report on the CARICOM Audit which accused two female members of CARICOM of causing problems and confusion at the exercise was also raised.
Page seven of the PPP/C Observers' report prepared by Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Omar Shariff, Joseph O'Lall and Sandra Khan, had accused one of the staff women of making disparaging remarks about the process and pointed out that her record had to be corrected several times.
According to the report, "We discovered that she was a live-in mate of Dr. McEwan, a nephew of Mr Haslyn Parris.
"She made open, disparaging remarks about the process and her record had to be corrected several times.
"She made observation difficult because we had to pay close attention to ensure that she wrote the correct information down.
"It is our collective belief that Ms ... was being utilised to cause the same kind of confusion that ensued in the aftermath of the elections."
The report went on, "Miss .... was reprimanded twice by the CAC members, but was not replaced. These reprimands resulted from two complaints by PPP/C observers - Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Mr Odinga Lumumba.
Senior Counsel Peter Britton and Mr Raphael Trotman for the petitioner, Esther Perreira, cross-examined witnesses O'Lall and Desmond Mohamed on the accuracy and credibility of the PPP/C report.
Both witnesses said that they were aware of certain aspects of the report but claimed that they had no knowledge about the part which had inferred that the woman was a live-in mate of Dr Mc Ewan, a nephew of Mr Haslyn Parris.
In answer to further cross-examination, Mr O'Lall said that he could not deny the suggestion that Mr Haslyn Parris being the only child of his parents could not have a nephew as alleged.
Both witnesses denied that they contributed to that aspect of the report involving a relationship.
The offending remarks in the PPP/C Observers' report of the CARICOM Audit had come under Part D - D.I. Examination of Election Materials and Recount of Ballots and ID Cards.
The report read: "The observers were allowed to observe and record the activities of the Audit Team at the Elections Commission. They were allowed to ask questions and to query any unusual occurrences. The activities of the CAC Secretariat at the Le Meridien Pegasus were private and not open to the observers.
"On Day 1, the team divided into two groups. The two groups carried out their tasks on two tables referred to as Table 1 and Table 2. Table 1 utilised Mr Ulric Cross as the recorder.
"Dr Gajadar appeared to be the lead member of the team. Other members were Mr Noel Lee and Ms Carol Jerome Horsford. Table 2 utilised Mr Denis Smith as the recorder. The other members were Mr Daniels and Mr Frank Phillips.
"With this arrangement, the teams were able to examine and count ballots for about 30 boxes (15 each) a day. This was considered too slow and would place the team on a schedule that would occupy them until the end of July.
"This arrangement was changed to three groups after two weeks of counting. A third table, referred to as Table 3 was started. The teams at that point were Dr. Gajadar and Ms Horsford (Table 1), Mr Noel Lee and Mr Frank Phillips (Table 2) and Mr Daniels and Mr Smith at Table 3.
"The Tables 2 and 3 assignments were changed after a few days whereby Mr Smith and Mr Lee exchanged positions so as to improve the speed of Tables 2 and 3. With this arrangement the team was able to count an average of 70 boxes a day."
The report went on, "At the time that the decision was taken to shift to three tables, CARICOM staff members began to assist in the record taking. Mr. P. Brome of Barbados was assigned to Table 1. Mr Ronald Joseph of St Lucia was assigned to Table 2. Table 3 had two different female staff members, first ... and then Ms ... Both proved to be problems. In the case of ..... , we discovered that she was a live-in mate of Dr Mc Ewan, a nephew of Mr Haslyn Parris. She made open disparaging remarks about the process and her record had to be corrected several times. She made observation difficult because we had to pay close attention to ensure that she wrote the correct information down. It is our collective belief that Ms ... was being utilised to cause the same kind of confusion that ensued in the aftermath of the election.
"Ms .. was reprimanded twice by the CAC members, but was not replaced. These reprimands resulted from two complaints by PPP/C observers, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Mr. Odinga Lumumba," the report emphasised.
It was that aspect of the report that engaged the attention of Justice Singh at yesterday's hearing.
On the resumption yesterday, O'Lall was cross-examined on the report.
He was also cross-examined on his notes which he said were used in the compilation of the report.
In answer to Mr Rex McKay, Senior Counsel, for Respondent Mr Desmond Hoyte, witness agreed that it was the Audit team which counted the Voter ID cards and made the announcements about the number counted. The observers, he said, were never in physical possession of the cards.
Under re-examination by Mr Doodnauth Singh, Senior Counsel, witness referred to page 13 of the PPP/C Observers' report in which it was mentioned that no ballot box was found with any evidence that its integrity could be questioned.
According to him, all the boxes were intact. The CAC, he said did not indicate any concern at any time about the integrity of the ballot boxes.
Next to testify was Mohamed, an employee of the Ministry of Works and Communications. He was the 186th witness to be called to testify since the hearing of the petition began in September of last year.
He, too, was a member of the PPP/C Observer team that monitored the CARICOM Audit. He presented notes which he made at the Audit exercise.
The hearing continues today. (GEORGE BARCLAY)
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