Ramkarran argues for reviewof ID card count decision
Hoyte searching for letter

By William Walker
Stabroek News
May 9, 2000

Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran yesterday gave a detailed argument for the court to reconsider its decision not to count the ID cards used during the 1997 elections.

Ramkarran who is representing co-respondent Janet Jagan in the elections petition first argued that there were precedents for the judge to hear further arguments on the matter.

He cited a Court of Appeal ruling in the 1968 Abdul Latiff vs Tani Persaud case which stated that "every court has an inherent jurisdiction to... modify or extend its orders." Additionally a ruling as recent as February 2000 in the case of Charles Worth vs Relay Roads concluded that "the court must use its discretion in a way that best serves justice... and a judge can allow pleadings to be amended even it involves new arguments."

On the assumption the judge would be satisfied that the application could be heard again, Ramkarran proceeded to argue for her to consider the Validity of Elections Act section 38: " Subject to this Act and rules of court, the principles, practices and rules on which committees of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom used to act in dealing with election petitions shall be observed, so far as may be, by the court in the case of election petitions." Ramkarran then expounded at length on English law dating back to the late eighteenth century to show that counting was an integral part of any elections petition.

Ramkarran also cited Section Three of the same act which stipulates that "any question... whether the result of an election may have or has been affected by any unlawful act or omission, may with a view for rectification of that result, be referred to the court, and shall thereupon be determined by it, in accordance with this Act." Ramkarran argued that "Parliament had contemplated if a court is to have the power to determine under Section 3.1 it must have the power to count..." and this would include ID cards.

While the judge's interpretation of Section 19 of the Validity of Elections Act was correct in that the word "inspect" could not be inferred to mean count, Ramkarran drew the court's attention to Section 20 and the words "on a scrutiny at the trial of an election petition any tendered vote proved to be a valid vote shall be... added to the poll..." Ramkarran argued that this must require the court to count elections material. The fact that the Validity of Elections Act does not specifically refer to "counting" means that it is taking for its guide the principles of the British House of Commons as referred to in Section 38, he argued. "Finally, finally," with Senior Counsel Rex McKay taking copious notes, Ramkarran said the evidential basis for a recount could be found on page 29 of the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC) report itself and in the testimony of Dr Leslie Ramsammy. He refuted the argument that Ramsammy's testimony was mere hearsay by noting that Ramsammy had been present, had observed and had recorded the counting of ID cards by the CAC.

Ramkarran also informed the court that McKay had told him his client Desmond Hoyte was busy trying to locate a letter from Secretary General of CARICOM, Edwin Carrington. Last Thursday Ramkarran had made an order for Hoyte to produce the letter which related to an erratum to the original CAC findings on ID cards and had been signed by all the members, as requested by the PNC leader.

Justice Claudette Singh will also have to decide on the admission of two faxed originals of documents relating to the erratum taken to court yesterday by CARICOM official Joseph Farrier. Senior Counsel Peter Britton appearing for the petitioner Esther Perreira was adamant that faxes were inadmissible in that they were computer printouts. Ramkarran said that faxes were merely a way of sending a document and as such the faxes could even be considered originals.

In the meantime Ramkarran argued for their admission on the grounds of the best evidence rule that a copy of a document is admissible when the original is not available and an explanation given. Also under Section 90 of the Evidence Act documents are admissible when it is impractical to secure the creator's attendance.

But McKay came back that while a fax may be a form of sending documents, Farrier had not sent the fax to himself so he could not know if what went in the sender's machine was an original. He also cited Section 90 that required a document to be a certified copy in lieu of the original as being the primary reason for the documents to be disallowed.