Witness admits to writing numbers on returns

Stabroek News
June 30, 1999

When the Esther Perreira elections petition continued yesterday, Returning Officer of Region Five (Mahaica/Mahaicony) during the 1997 general elections, Joseph Gilgeous, submitted computerized statistical returns for his region to the court.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton, who is representing Perreira, the witness conceded that the returns were prepared by the Elections Commission. He explained to the court presided over by Justice Claudette Singh, that he had submitted a copy of the returns which were done in his handwriting to the Elections Commission. This document, he said, was returned to him but he could not find it. Britton pointed out to him that on the computer document which was tendered, there were some handwritten numbers purporting to be divisional numbers.

Asked to explain this, the witness said that he had written in this information only two days ago from a rough copy of the statistical returns he had at home. Gilgeous told the court that he was not aware that he was falsifying the returns because he had written in the information for the benefit of Britton.

Britton then requested that the witness produce for today's hearing, the rough notes from which he had written the units of the division and sub-division numbers for Region Five. The witness said that he was required by the Elections Commission to submit a summary of the statistical report after the elections.

Under further cross-examination by Senior Counsel Rex McKay who is appearing for PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte, Gilgeous said that he had submitted the information to the Elections Commission on January 18, 1998.

Questioned on the CARICOM Audit Commission report, the witness said that he had never read this but had seen a copy on the desk of Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Ganga Persaud. He told the court that he had followed the investigations of the audit commission through the print media on a daily basis.

Questioned by McKay on statements of poll, the witness said that during the training session prior to the elections, he was instructed by the Elections Commission to submit a copy each of the statements of poll, other than those which were placed in special envelopes. He explained that he had collected a set of the statements of poll from his deputies and had hand delivered these to the commission.

On the issue of ballot boxes, the witness said that he had delivered these two days after elections, on December 17. He agreed with Mc Kay that it was the decision of the Elections Commission that his four deputies keep the boxes after the close of polls.

He also testified that each ballot box had two numbers, one written on the cover and the other on the body of the box, which was the number supplied by the Elections Commission.

Gilgeous was also cross-examined by National Independent Party leader, attorney Saphier Hussain. Meanwhile Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, representing the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) yesterday completed his re-examination of Region Ten Returning Officer, Nelson Bakker.

Examined on the reasons why he had opened three ballot boxes, Bakker explained that one box was opened at the request of the PPP/Civic representative who had asked for a recount of the ballots.

According to the witness the box was opened in the presence of two representatives each from the PNC and the PPP, a deputy returning officer, a supervisor of the Elections Commission for Region Ten and himself. He told the court that a record was made of the recount and signed by all present.

According to the witness the other two ballot boxes, which had come from the Upper Demerara River and Great Falls areas had contained statements of poll and other documents. These boxes were locked and sealed.

The witness testified that he had instructed the presiding officers who had brought in the boxes to open them and remove the statements of poll and other documents because these were supposed to be placed in special envelopes. The boxes were opened in the presence of two representatives each from the PPP and PNC parties, two armed policemen, a deputy returning officer and himself, Bakker said.

The opening of the boxes was done at the Police Training School at Mackenzie where they were stored after the close of polls.

Answering a question from Britton, the witness said that the boxes were kept at the Police Training School because it was the most secured place.

The petition challenges the validity of the 1997 general elections results and has named the representatives of the lists of political parties which contested the elections and the CEO as respondents.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples