Another PPP/C observer testifies

Guyana Chronicle
December 8, 1999

PPP/Civic Observer team member Desmond Morian yesterday gave the Judge hearing the Esther Perreira Elections petition a different view in relation˙to the integrity of ballot boxes to that put forward in the Party's report prepared by Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

Each ballot box was examined by the Audit Team to see if one or more of the mechanisms instituted at the end of counting of the votes to seal the boxes were still in place.

These included: a lock, a metal seal with a specific number, signed tapes around the cover, signed tapes over the slot, and wax seal.

Dr Ramsammy, the leader of the PPP/C Observer team that observed the auditing of the election materials by the CARICOM Audit Team had said in his party's final report:-

"No box was found with any evidence that its integrity could be questioned. All the boxes had more than two of the above intact. The CAC did not indicate any concern at any time about the integrity of the boxes."

But his associate and member of the PPP/C Observers' team Desmond Morian, who is a PPP organiser attached to Freedom House and who testified that he attended the Audit and made notes, told the Court that his notes showed that there were ballot boxes without padlocks, without seals, without tapes and with odd Voter ID cards.

Morian also said that there was a key problem which resulted in some padlocks being cut.

And in a direct question from Petitioner's lawyer Mr Raphael Trotman, Mr Morian, whose attention was drawn to the comment by Dr Ramsammy in relation to the integrity of the boxes, admitted that his notes showed that in the particular cases the integrity of the boxes could be questioned.

In answer to further questions, Mr Morian said that he did not read the Cross Report and therefore could not comment on its content.

Witness admitted that although at the 1997 General and Regional elections, the system was, `No Voter ID Card - No Vote ' he had come across odd Voter ID cards in the ballot boxes during the count.

When told that the Audit Team had reported that a test count carried out in Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven disclosed that 45,275 persons had voted without Voter ID cards, witness said that he was not in a position to confirm nor deny the truth of the report.

Mr Morian will be further cross-examined today when the hearing resumes.

Another witness, Clarence Rodney, testifying Monday, had related how the count by the CARICOM Audit of Election materials revealed that C.N. Sharma's Justice for All Party which had secured two General votes at the elections during a district count, could have obtained a further two from rejected ballots.

Rodney, of 89 Second Street, Alexander Village, the 187th witness to testify since the hearing began on September 28, 1998, made the disclosure when being cross-examined on his notes that he made during the audit.

(The case for the petitioner had been closed after the testimony of 17 witnesses.)

Led by Mr Doodnauth Singh, S.C., Rodney a PPP/C Member of Parliament who is attached to the New Guyana Company, had presented 105 sheets with notes that he had made during the Audit exercise.

According to Rodney, he had presented those notes to Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who compiled the report that was handed to the then President Mrs Janet Jagan and the Party's General Secretary, Mr Donald Ramotar.

On application by Mr Singh, the notes were tendered and admitted in evidence.

Rodney was being questioned about his notes on the Justice for All Party (JFAP), when he revealed that he was just a recorder of notes.

He explained that the Elections Commission in its declaration of the particular Division had recorded Sharma's JFAP as receiving two General votes.

But according to Rodney, the Audit count confirmed the two Regional votes. He pointed out that when the rejected and spoilt votes were examined, it was discovered that the Justice for All Party could have gotten two more votes.

The witness testified that there were instances where the Audit team had found certain rejected ballots to be valid ballots.

In his evidence-in-chief, witness told Justice Claudette Singh that he attended the sittings of the Audit Commission and had made notes of what he observed at the count.

Cross-examined by Mr Britton for Petitioner Perreira, witness said that he began working with the New Guyana Company in October, 1996.

Prior to that, he was an organiser of the party. The New Guyana Company, he said, publishes the Mirror newspaper which is owned by the PPP.

Mr Rodney, who said he knew as a rule that ballots and Voter Identification Cards should not have been placed into ballot boxes, told Mr Britton that during the exercise he did not observe ballot boxes without ballots but he had observed padlocks for ballot boxes which could not be opened with the keys provided.

In those circumstances, he said, the padlocks had to be cut.

Asked whether he did not observe Voter Identification Cards bags without padlocks, witness said that he had that experience on a single occasion.

He said that he also observed Voter ID cards folded in ballot boxes but declared that he could not recall observing Statements of Poll in ballot boxes.

In answer to further questions, witness said that he did not see any photo copies of Statements of Poll but recalled seeing counterfoils of ballots in ballot boxes. He examined them and noted his observation.

Witness agreed that he questioned the use of a stamp machine which was in use and concluded that if it were not used properly it was likely to produce a wrong result.

Rodney said that his notes were uplifted from Freedom House where they were kept.

He however admitted that there were erasures on some of his documents which were not made by him.

According to him, he had submitted the notes to Dr. Ramsammy whose job it was to write the report.

Rodney also testified about a signature appearing on a ballot box which indicated that there was a recheck of the particular box.

He said that he had seen some figures on his notes which were not made by him.

The notes on one of his sheets recorded him as saying that it was observed that there were instances where a number of Voter ID cards carried five digits due to a correlation with the numerical basis with the particular voters list namely, the sub-division.

The majority of stamped numbers were six, he said. But he pointed out that there were occasions when the Voter ID cards carried five numbers, due to the electoral list.

PNC supporter Esther Perreira is challenging the validity of the Elections and has named 11 respondents including Chief Elections Officer Mr Stanley Singh, the number one respondent.

In these proceedings, 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.

Other respondents in the case include former Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Janet Jagan, among the List Representatives of political parties which contested.

The hearing continues today. (GEORGE BARCLAY)

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