No difference in PNC's poll statements witness

By William Walker
Stabroek News
April 11, 2000

The PNC never sent a statement of poll (SOP) to the chief election officer (CEO) that differed from those he had declared, the elections petition heard yesterday.

CEO Stanley Singh under re-examination by his lawyer Doodnauth Singh, SC, said the People's National Congress (PNC) had over 1,500 polling agents stationed at polling places during the 1997 elections. However, after the elections, when the CEO sent out copies of the SOPs to all political parties, "the PNC never submitted a SOP to me" that differed from those he sent out.

Doodnauth Singh also read from the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC) Report, which stated that an examination of 1,843 ballot boxes did not reveal any fraudulent ballots and with respect to SOPs in Regions Four and Six; the commission found the majority from both regions were originals.

The lawyer went over the December 19 decision to declare the presidency and produced a provisional declaration document prepared by the witness that showed along with the disciplined forces, 354,911 votes had been counted and declared by the morning of December 19,--70% of the total number of votes of 402,555. The witness who had earlier testified under cross-examination that only one half had been counted at the time of the declaration, clarified that only one half had been verified. He added that his count was not dependent on the verification process.

Doodnauth Singh started the morning by asking the CEO to read out the monthly salaries of the consultants hired by the elections commission and paid by donor agencies. Donna Harris US$1,700 per month; Nills Campbell US$1,000; Colonel Joe Harmon US$1,200; Roger Bart US$1,200; Harold Mangar US$1,000; Leslie Benfield US$1,300 and Rampersaud Tiwari US$1,000. In addition, contracts were given to five others including Arnold Deepoo.

Doodnauth Singh then attempted to submit into evidence the "Statistical Appendices to the report of the CARICOM Audit Commission on the 1997 General and Regional Elections Stage 1 part 2." But the document, described as a computer printout of the box by box results, was objected to by Senior Counsel Peter Britton representing Esther Perreira and Senior Counsel Rex McKay representing Desmond Hoyte on the grounds that it was not signed and could not be connected to the CAC report. Doodnauth Singh argued that the document was "part and parcel" of the report already in evidence and was summarised in the report which is itself called Stage 1. Singh said that his learned friend should use his faculties to challenge the prima facie authenticity of the document. But Britton countered that since the admission of such evidence would be exceptional under the rules concerning evidence "he who alleges the exception, he must prove it." McKay said the only way the document could be submitted would be if he and his counsel consented to it. He respectfully asked the court for a voir dire.

Justice Claudette Singh said she would withhold a decision on the matter and on the admissibility of the Electoral Assistance Bureau report which was objected to by Britton despite it having been used during cross-examination.

Doodnauth Singh who was allowed to read from the paragraph McKay had cited said the report should be admissible in its entirety as statements needed to be placed in context. Also, he suggested that in elections petition cases the normal rules concerning evidence should be superseded by the judge's wish to consider all the evidence. Doodnauth Singh said he would wait on the judge's ruling on the admissibility of the two documents before proceeding so court was adjourned until today.

The elections petition 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.