It's human to make errors when writing 431,000 slips

By William Walker
Stabroek News
March 30, 2000

Chief Election Officer (CEO) Stanley Singh was handed a 'pink slip' when he appeared in court yesterday afternoon.

Senior Counsel Peter Britton, representing petitioner Esther Perreira, handed the CEO the document which was used in the 1997 elections to instruct voters about their polling places. Britton asked him if he had received hundreds of complaints about the numbers on the slips.

"Only a few...," replied the visibly weary CEO who has been on the stand for eight days. "So you agree that mistakes were made?" asked Britton. "I agree it is human to make mistakes when writing out 431,000 pink slips," the CEO said. Britton, wrapping up his cross-examination, turned to the questionnaires that were given to presiding officers some two weeks after the elections to be filled out when they were to collect their compensation. The first question on the form asks "Did you complete your statement of poll [SOP]?" and Britton argued that this was done so the commission could find out how many SOPs had not been signed. Singh said: "I wanted to find out definitely from presiding officers... to get a direct answer." Britton who always prefers a direct answer asked: "But some POs refused to sign and preferred not to get money than sign any SOPs is that not true?... And up to now you do not have an accurate figure?" The witness: "The exercise engendered a tremendous amount of criticism, allegations and accusations and in fact it was aborted in the interest of peace and quiet. It has been that way with every single thing that the commission has attempted... it has been met with suspicion... listen to the talk shows with their jiggery- pokery (trickery)! ...there we were photocopying like a printery, sending copies to political parties... Can you imagine doing this between December 25 and 30, in Guyana!"

Britton: "Well that is what our petition says, Mr Singh, that there were a lot of inaccuracies." Britton then asked if the regional officers had failed to publicly declare the results.

The CEO: "Yes, publicly."

Britton: "You like it the long way! Like an old civil servant!" The CEO proceeded to explain why; that the count had been done in front of political parties and that had made a public declaration unnecessary; it had not been emphasised in the training manual and the critical point of counting was at the polling station.

"So it was an oversight?" concluded Britton. "Yes," the CEO replied.

The hearing will continue on Monday before Justice Claudette Singh. The petition was brought by Perreira on the grounds that the elections process was so flawed as to be unable to accurately reflect the will of the people.