Region Six returning officer presents report

Stabroek News
July 1, 1999

Returning Officer for Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) during the 1997 general elections, Jerome Gajadar, yesterday began his testimony in the Esther Perreira elections petition by presenting to the court his report which was produced in two parts.

However, under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton, lawyer for Perreira, the witness told the court presided over by Justice Claudette Singh that he had destroyed the manuscript of his rough notes after comparing it with the finished report. He also told the court that his report was compiled by three persons. Britton asked for an adjournment until Friday to read the report.

Led in his evidence by Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, the witness testified that he had signed one part of the report but not the other.

He said that as returning officer he had collected 302 ballot boxes for his region along with 78,988 voter identification (ID) cards and had distributed 75,038. Some 3,949 undistributed cards were returned to the Elections Commission.

The witness said that before elections day he had met and held discussions with the Police Commander of his region on matters relating to the security of ballot boxes, security of personnel working on elections day and the movement of the police on polling day. The various storage areas were identified to the police. On collecting the boxes from the Elections Commission, the witness said, these were stored at his office after which he had a period of four weeks ending December 13, for distribution of the boxes.

According to the witness, out of 302 polling stations he had visited about 40 on elections day between Crabwood Creek and Mara, and had observed that some of the political parties had deputy polling agents. However, he was aware that the two major parties the PNC and PPP had polling agents at all the polling stations.

The witness said that prior to the elections, all party representatives were invited to monthly statutory meetings.

During his visits, Gajadar said that there were no complaints or objections from the representatives.

At the close of polls, ballot boxes were handed over to the deputy returning officer and stored at a designated place under armed guards. According to the witness, no requests were made for recounts.

On the question of statements of poll, the witness said he had submitted these to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) but that he had collected copies.

He told the court that he had prepared his returns from 17 statements of poll and from the broad sheet prepared by presiding officers because he did not have all the statements of poll.

In the appendix of the report, he had stated the name of each polling station and had identified the ballot boxes by listing all 302 numbers.

Asked about the method of voting for persons in Camp Jaguar, New River Triangle area, the witness said that one mobile polling station was set up. He explained that personnel were flown in from Ogle. The ballot box was specifically identified with E.C. 10001. The number of electors were 16 and in the general elections the AGGG received two votes, the PPP/C one and there were three rejected ballots.

Meanwhile, on his last day in the witness box, Returning Officer for Region Five, Joseph Gilgeous, under cross-examination by Britton recounted his conversation with the presiding officer at the Hopetown Polling Station (Hopetown Nursery School): "She approached me and pointed out that in the results at the Hopetown Nursery School, the PPP had won overwhelmingly and this should not have been so because Hopetown was predominantly PNC supporters." During his testimony last week, Britton had pointed out to him several discrepancies which had taken place at that particular polling station.

Gilgeous was earlier re-examined by Singh.

The elections petition is asking the court to find the results of the 1997 general elections null and void and has named the representatives of the lists of political parties which contested the elections and the CEO as respondents.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples