Witness opines police stations were not secure enough

Stabroek News
June 16, 1999

Chief Registrar for Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands) during the 1997 general elections, Gurdat Persaud, yesterday said he did not feel the police stations on the West Coast Demerara were secure enough to store ballot boxes.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton in the Esther Perreira elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh, Persaud said that he felt other places were more secure than the police stations. According to him it would have been easier for his deputies (registrars) to have access to the boxes while they were stored at places other than the police stations.

According to the witness, during the training sessions held before the elections, electoral officers were told to ensure that security was in place wherever the ballot boxes were kept. No specific place was identified for the safekeeping of the boxes prior to the elections and this resulted in the boxes being stored at five places along the coast, including the Parika Marketing Centre, Leonora Primary School and the NDC building at Phoenix Park.

The keys to the five places were kept by the deputy registrars.

Persaud, a teacher by profession, told the court that he did not know of any ballot boxes which were returned to the Elections Commission without padlocks and seals. He told the court that a re-count was called for at four polling stations and that there were 243 ballot boxes in Region Three. This led Britton to ask why he did not return the majority of the boxes to the Elections Commission on the day after the elections, when they were supposed to be returned. Persaud explained that it was inconvenient for him to remove the ballot boxes then as he was recounting the statements of poll for the four stations.

He also told the court that a report which he had compiled on the 1997 elections was completed by the end of December 1997. The report, he said, was computed by his clerical assistant Linda Meusa, who used written information supplied by him. He could not say off-hand where the originals were, but had checked the computer printout against these at the completion of the report. He is to present the originals in court. The report was unsigned.

Earlier, when led in his evidence by Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, Persaud had signed the report in open court where it was tendered as evidence.

The witness, who was appointed registrar for Region Three on September 1, 1997 said that 62,495 persons were registered in that region, and that he had uplifted 62,392 voters ID cards. According to him, some 59,137 cards were distributed and 3,255 were returned to the Elections Commission.

The school teacher said that he had visited some 20 polling stations between Vreed-en-Hoop and Parika on elections day. The witness said that representatives of political parties were present at these polling stations but made no complaints to him.

Questioned on statements of poll, the witness said he had received 247 of these at the close of poll and 13 were unsigned. According to him, 56,917 persons had voted on elections day. He added that the PNC received 13,817 votes, while the PPP/Civic received 40,604 votes.

When the hearing continues today, Chief Registrar for Region Ten, Nelson Bakker, is expected to be re-examined by Singh. Bakker should have been re-examined yesterday, but he was unavailable.

The elections petition challenges the results of the 1997 general elections and has named as respondents representatives of the lists of political parties which contested the elections and the Chief Elections Officer (CEO). Britton is appearing for the petitioner, while the CEO is represented by Singh.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples