Judge says no to ID card count

By William Walker
Stabroek News
April 28, 2000

The application to count the voter identification cards used during the 1997 elections was denied yesterday.

Justice Claudette Singh ruled against Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh's application on the grounds that Section 19 of the Validity of Elections Act allows the court to "inspect" evidence, but this could not be inferred to mean "count."

After 19 months of testimony the elections petition has boiled down to page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC) Report and Singh's repeated efforts to get clarification of the findings that 45,000 persons voted without voter ID cards.

Undaunted by the court's earlier ruling which disallowed the admission of an erratum (correction) to page 29 signed by the commission Chairman Ulric Cross, and yesterday's ruling, Doodnauth Singh immediately applied to the court for an order to retrieve a document from the CARICOM Secretariat referred to on the page; the actual words being "detailed information can be examined in the statistical appendix to the report in the library of the CARICOM Secretariat."

But both Senior Counsel, Peter Britton for petitioner Esther Perreira and Rex McKay for PNC leader Desmond Hoyte, declared there was no basis for the application; firstly there was no evidence that the book could not be obtained and secondly the application had to establish the relevance of the document. McKay said the words on page 29 were "pellucidly clear" even to a child of kindergarten age. The CAC had counted the cards for Regions Two, Four, Six and Seven and these were the results. Was "my learned friend" suggesting the respected members of the commission could not count?

Stanley Singh, the chief election officer (CEO), was in court and was called to the stand by counsel Raphael Trotman to clear up whether he had collected all the documents from the CARICOM Secretariat. He said he did have documents uplifted from the library shortly after the publication of the report and was led to believe he had received all of the appendices. He admitted that page 29 did not explicitly refer to an appendix concerned with the counting of cards, nor did Annex 7, which lists the appendices to the report. It is not pellucidly clear that such a document exists.

Justice Singh called on the CEO to bring, on Tuesday, all the documents that he collected from the secretariat so as to clear up which ones, if any, were still to be uplifted.

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.