Witness presents unsigned, undated report

Stabroek News
June 25, 1999

Returning Officer for Region Five during the 1997 general elections, Joseph Gilgeous, yesterday presented in court an unsigned and undated report on the process in that region.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton in the Esther Perreira elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh, Gilgeous agreed that the report should have been signed and dated. He also could not say accurately when the report was compiled.

An education officer by profession, he said that he was familiar with the compilation of reports since he has been in the teaching profession for approximately 20 years.

Britton further pointed out that unlike his unsigned and undated report, the appendices were all signed by the persons who had prepared them.

Before the 1997 general elections, the witness told the court, he had participated in one general elections. According to him, he has been approached by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), to serve as co-ordinator for District Five in the upcoming Local Government Elections. Remuneration has been agreed on at $55,000 a month, effective from January 1999.

On the issue of the statements of poll, he agreed with Britton that nowhere in his report did he mention that he had collected these on the morning of December 16, nor did he mention the amount. Led in evidence by Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh earlier in the morning, the witness had testified that he had collected 120 statements of poll and had tabulated the results immediately after. The tabulated results delivered to the CEO on December 16 read: AFG, 164 votes; AGGG, 85; GBG, 6; GDP, 53; JFAP, 20; NDF, 2; NIP, 42; PNC, 10,168; PPP/C, 18,468; TUF, 55; and rejected votes, 535.

The witness told Singh that Region Five had some 35,742 registered voters, of which 31,515 had voted. He said the out of 31,907 voters ID cards which he had collected, 30,380 were distributed and 1,527 returned to the Elections Commission.

The witness told Britton that he had used the data from the statements of poll to compile his report but was unaware that they were to be signed by presiding officers and countersigned by party polling agents. Out of the 120 statements of poll 26 were tendered in court. Britton has requested that the witness produce the remainder together with a list of the presiding officers in the area, for today's hearing.

Asked if he knew anything about computer friendly forms, Gilgeous said he did not know what these were, as during the training sessions prior to the holding of the elections he was not told about these documents.

During the cross-examination on voter ID cards, the witness told the court that during his training sessions he was told that the observer teams should not interfere with the electoral process. However, he admitted that on elections day, presiding officers were influenced by observers to remove the rubber from the indentor stamp thereby causing voter ID cards to be perforated. The witness could not tell the court how many of the cards were tampered with by this process.

Questioned on ballot boxes and the numbers on their covers, the witness said that he knew of about 12 instances where boxes had the wrong covers. Gilgeous told the court that he had collected 120 boxes and had distributed them to his deputies at his office. He explained that about 50 boxes contained elections materials and he had taken these out to distribute with the boxes. Up to then the boxes had been checked and the correct covers with the correct numbers were in place.

He further explained that the deputies had opened the boxes after they were checked, this he assumed, resulted in the error of mixed-up covers and boxes. According to him, it was on the morning of December 16, that he first learnt of the mistake, which he had drawn to the attention of the Election Commission but had omitted this information from his report.

Gilgeous will return to the stand today when the petition hearing continues. The petition which challenges the validity of the elections results, has named the CEO and the representatives of the lists of political parties as respondents. Perreira is represented by Britton, while Singh is appearing for the CEO.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples