Closing addresses resume as 'original' erratum still elusive
By William Walker
June 1, 2000
Former secretary to the CARICOM Audit Commission (CAC), Joseph Farrier appeared before the elections petition hearing yesterday but without the original erratum asked for by lawyers for the respondents.
Farrier told Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran who is representing former president Janet Jagan, that he had forwarded a copy of a letter sent to him by Cameron and Shepherd to Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell in relation to the erratum but had received no reply.
Ramkarran then said he could go no further. This allowed Farrier to receive some rather pointed questions from Senior Counsel Peter Britton representing petitioner Esther Perreira, who asked him if he had held daily conversations with Dr Leslie Ramsammy during the audit process. He said he had only one three-minute conversation with Dr Ramsammy about cricket.
Farrier was then excused and Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh representing Chief Election Officer (CEO), Stanley Singh, continued with his closing argument, outlining in detail the steps taken to ensure the 1997 elections were conducted freely and fairly. He read from the report of the CEO that elections officers were appointed by both political parties; expensive training programmes were put in place; and the printing of ballots in Trinidad was overseen by representatives of both political parties.
Singh said the final voters' list consisting of 459,997 names on 20,000 pages was presented to the President on September 8, 1997.
Singh also tackled the contentious issue of the voter identification cards. He read out statistics for the production and distribution of ID cards for the regions:
He concluded firstly that it was impossible to produce 100% voter ID cards and secondly the distribution percentage must be affected by persons migrating, dying, or relocating. In addition, Singh noted that there were some religions that forbade their members from voting. Nevertheless the commission used considerable energies and $87 million to distribute ID cards, resorting in the end to door-to-door distribution in Region Four. The petitioner had not presented one shred of evidence to support her contention that the production or distribution of ID cards was biased, he said. Distribution naturally started earlier in the hinterland areas because it was necessary in some case for officials to climb mountains and cross ravines to give a family its ID cards, he said.
In the end there was an 88% voter turnout the day of the election compared to 80% in 1992.
Singh finished the morning with an analysis of the elections results for the two major parties since 1964.
He stated that while the support for the PNC "strangely" tripled from 1964 to 1980 and its margins of victory were extremely variable, the PPP's margins of victory in 1992 and 1997 were constant.
Singh's address will continue today.
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