'We were ready for polls'

Stabroek News
April 4, 2000

The National Independence Party (NIP) received votes in the 1997 polls which it should not have, the elections petition heard yesterday.

According to Saphier Hussein, in cross-examination of Stanley Singh, chief election officer (CEO), his own party the NIP won votes in the regional part of the elections when the preliminary results were released on January 21. But Hussein said the NIP had not contested the regional part of the elections.

Hubert Rodney, counsel for the CEO was heard asking Hussein why he was complaining. The NIP garnered 208 votes in the final results. The CEO suggested that regional officers would "get tired from writing out the results 752 times [for Region Four]."

Hussein then asked the CEO about the commission's decision to ask the President to dissolve Parliament three months before the election in the light of the non distribution of voter ID cards. "Considering the seriousness and gravity of the elections is it not true that the degree of readiness was not sufficient to call an election?"

"I don't think we could have been more ready at the time," the CEO replied.

Hussein continued, at times testing the patience of Justice Claudette Singh with his preambles. "Man, just ask the question!" she exclaimed at one point. Hussein asked about the ID cards found floating down the Demerara River and the witness revealed that one of these had been tracked to a prisoner in the Mazaruni Prison who had been registered before his conviction and was scheduled to be released before election day. Hussein noted that he had been campaigning on behalf of prisoners before the election.

Earlier in the morning Senior Counsel Peter Britton, representing the petitioner Esther Perreira had finished up his cross-examination. He asked the CEO about the proposal for him to be stationed at the command centre in the DDL building on the night of January 15, to receive results. The witness said he had not followed the proposals because "on every occasion I visited there my position was occupied by two commissioners... I assumed that the commission had changed the proposal." The witness said he visited that centre two or three times during the night for 10 to 15 minutes each time and admitted that it was impossible within that time to collect results.

He said he had not questioned the directive of Elections Commission Chairman Doodnauth Singh to divert all statements of poll to the command centre as he understood his role to be subordinate to the commission. He observed the directive was "within the spirit of the law but not the letter," and in making photocopies, he was obeying the chairman and keeping within the law to fulfil his mandate of compiling results.

The elections petition will continue today. It was brought by Perreira on the grounds that the process was so flawed as to be unable to accurately reflect the will of the people.