Agents quizzed on poll statements discrepancies

Stabroek News
January 14, 2000

There was a discrepancy in two poll statements from a Herstelling polling station which appeared to award the PPP/Civic 93 additional votes in the 1997 elections, the election petition hearing heard yesterday.

There is also a possibility that by next week the court will hear the timetable for lawyers representing Chief Election Officer (CEO) Stanley Singh, who still have more witnesses to call in a case that started in September 1998.

Bissoon Dyal was led on Wednesday by Jeanenime Munroe, counsel for the CEO, a co-respondent in the petition proceedings. Dyal was a PPP polling agent at one of four stations at the Herstelling Health Centre on December 15th. He testified in Justice Claudette Singh's court that he had witnessed the vote count and signed a Statement of Poll (SOP) totalling 288 votes with the PPP/Civic garnering 257 of those. He furnished his copy of the SOP to the court indicating this.

However under cross-examination yesterday by attorneys Raphael Trotman, counsel for petitioner Esther Perreira and Saphier Hussein representing the National Independence Party (NIP), Dyal was presented with a SOP given to the court by CEO Singh some months earlier indicating that the results for this polling station were 350 votes for the PPP with a total vote count of 378.

In addition the witness was forced to admit that the signatures on both documents were different.

He said that after the polls had closed he had witnessed along with a PNC agent, the signing of the SOPs and of their placement along with the voter ID cards in the ballot box which was then sealed. Dyal told the court that he and the PNC agent departed, leaving the Presiding Officer and a policeman alone with the box. He said that soon after arriving home he telephoned PPP headquarters and transmitted his vote count to PPP official and Minister of Information Moses Nagamootoo. He said that the SOP presented by Singh must have been prepared after the day of balloting.

After being led by Munroe, Reginald Dipu a PPP agent at a polling station in the same Herstelling Health Centre was asked by Trotman how the SOP for his station - and submitted to the court by the Returning Officer for Region Four, Henry Europe - had the word "rejected" written on it in red ink.

The retired staff sergeant was unable to explain this and said that no one had written "rejected" on any SOP in his presence and he had witnessed the SOP being sealed and placed in the ballot box. This admission allowed Trotman to have Dipu conclude that this document had been written at a later date.

Gena Sukdeo a PPP agent for Little Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara acknowledged under Trotman's cross-examination that there was "something highly irregular" in the fact that signatures affixed to his SOP had also been on an SOP from a polling station at Paradise on the East Coast. Trotman mused as to how it was possible for the persons to be in two distant places at one time. Netram Persaud a PPP agent from Grove, was cross-examined by Trotman yesterday having been led by Munroe on Wednesday. Under persistent questioning by Trotman, Persaud finally admitted that the Statement of Poll before his very eyes had not been signed by the presiding officer.

The elections petition was brought by Perreira on the grounds that the 1997 elections process was so flawed that the results did not accurately reflect the will of the people.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples