Stanley Singh asks to address court if counsel does not appear

By William Walker
Stabroek News
April 6, 2000

Chief Election Officer (CEO), Stanley Singh yesterday asked the court if he could make a statement should his counsel not appear within a reasonable time.

The CEO was not allowed to address the court directly but temporarily hired the legal services of Stephen Fraser. The two went outside and when they returned moments later, Fraser said that the CEO "wished to indicate to the court that it appears he has been left to his own devices. If within a reasonable time his counsel does not appear he asks the court to permit him to make a statement." Yesterday was the second day that the table for the CEO's lawyers Hubert Rodney and Doodnauth Singh, SC, was empty.

Justice Claudette Singh simply asked the witness to return on Monday.

Following a short recess, Calvin Benn, senior manager in charge of planning during the 1997 elections, was briefly cross-examined by Raphael Trotman, counsel for petitioner Esther Perreira.

Benn, who had been in charge of a task force to accelerate the distribution of voter ID cards in Region Four, said that the cards had been ready for distribution by late August but distribution in Region Four only started in late October despite it being the largest region with 200,295 voters. Benn said if it had been his decision he would have started the process earlier, but he said distribution had been scheduled by the Elections Commission.

He admitted that on election day the problems with ID cards surfaced because issues of erroneous information had not been fully solved.

Trotman suggested to Benn that considering the tight security around the containers at the Elections Commission compound, which still hold the ID cards and the fact that Benn knew of no persons who voted without an ID card, the 6,511 ballot papers discovered by the CARICOM Audit Commission with no corresponding ID cards had been introduced fraudulently. Benn said he did not know. This concluded Trotman's cross-examination.

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