Absent PPP witnesses cause furore, case adjourned again

Stabroek News
January 20, 2000

Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, lead lawyer for the chief election officer (CEO) is contemplating closing his case in the light of what he said were "totally disorganised" representatives of the PPP who have furnished only one witness in the last two days of the elections petition.

The stormy session yesterday started off quietly with Totaram Bachan, a PPP agent for Nabaclis during the 1997 election, being led by Jeanenime Munroe counsel for the CEO, Stanley Singh. However when Senior Counsel Peter Britton, for the petitioner Esther Perreira, declined cross-examination Munroe was obliged to inform the court that she had no more witnesses despite having assured Justice Claudette Singh the day before that five were to appear.

A furious Britton thundered that he would not be present in court either tomorrow, next week or the next month without there being witnesses. He said that though the respondent may be trying to drag the petition into the next election he would not be dragged with it and sweeping up his papers he hastily left the court.

An exasperated Justice Singh berated Munroe for the "ridiculous" situation. Munroe requested a short adjournment to find Senior Counsel Singh who appeared and read a statement to the court saying "A decision was taken that the polling agents for the PPP/Civic would be called on behalf of Region Four, on behalf of the respondent, the CEO.

"As a result we have been in communication with representatives of the PPP/Civic to organise witnesses and for them to have the relevant documents. We have made several requests of the PPP/Civic and its representatives for the witnesses to be available in batches.

"It is obvious that the PPP/Civic representatives are totally disorganised and that this matter has a very low priority. As a result we are embarrassed and I would ask for an adjournment until Monday to either have arrangements put in place or I will close the case for the respondent after I have called two witnesses." Senior Counsel Rex McKay, appearing for PNC leader Desmond Hoyte, who had arrived in the middle of Singh's statement, suggested that he had never known the PPP to be disorganised and that this "might be an orchestrated disorganisation in order to frustrate the completion of the petition". McKay said that in any case, let alone a serious one such as a petition it could not be right for witnesses to be unavailable. He recalled that since the respondents began their case the court has been "overly indulgent" in granting adjournments for the respondents to bring witnesses. He respectfully submitted that there was no basis to grant an adjournment until Monday.

Justice Singh did grant an adjournment but only until today and implored Munroe to provide witnesses.

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

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