Region Six report unverifiable -- witness admits

Stabroek News
July 3, 1999

Returning Officer for Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) during the 1997 general elections, Jerome Gajadar, yesterday agreed that in the absence of his manuscript (original notes), the court could not verify his report which he presented on Wednesday.

He had resumed the witness stand in the Esther Perreira petition hearing before Justice Claudette Singh after a one-day adjournment to enable Senior Counsel Peter Britton to read the report.

Under cross-examination by Britton, who is representing Perreira, the witness told the court that he could not remember how long after the completion of his report he had destroyed the manuscript. On Wednesday he had admitted to destroying the manuscript. He agreed with Britton that in the absence of this document, there was no way the court could check the accuracy of his report.

According to the witness, at the time of destroying the manuscript it had not crossed his mind that it would have been needed to check for accuracy.

Questioned on the production of the report which he had testified was done by three persons, the witness explained that portions were done by the Guyana Business School, Berbice High School and at Computer Training Institute where he had paid to have that portion of the report reproduced.

Questioned by Britton about the diskettes on which the material was saved, the witness said he had never seen them. He explained that he had never bothered to ask for them because he did not know he was entitled to them.

Asked about the storage of the ballot boxes after the close of polls, the witness said these were stored at the offices of his nine deputy returning officers at Edinburgh, the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Office at New Amsterdam, Rose Hall Estate Primary School, Cumberland NDC Office, Kilcoy/Hampshire NDC Office, Port Mourant Community High School, Black Bush Rehab Compound, Mibicuri Primary School, Ministry of Works at Benab, and at the Linepath Secondary School.

He admitted that in all of these areas there were police stations, but at no time did he make any arrangements for the boxes to be stored at the stations. According to him, he felt that they were more secure at these places because he had made proper arrangements with the police for security. However, because he did not visit the places during the night he could not confirm if the police had carried out his request for round-the-clock protection of the boxes.

He further explained that because of the limited space at the New Amsterdam NDC Office, the boxes were stored at the Guyana Teachers Union Hall. Gajadar could not tell the court how many persons had keys to these buildings.

He admitted that he had received a copy of the manual for returning officers which was issued by the Elections Commission. According to him he had relied on this document during the execution of his duties, but could not remember if there were any instructions on the storage of ballot boxes.

He said he had proposed that the boxes be kept at the offices of the deputy returning officers and that Elections Commission Security Personnel had concurred. He could not remember who had given him the permission but was certain that it was not in writing.

The witness said he had personally collected ballot boxes from the stores keeper towards the ending of November 1997. However, he personally did not return them after the elections.

On the issue of statements of poll (SOPs), the witness testified that some 17 presiding officers had failed to sign these and he had only found this out after compiling his returns. He told the court that as returning officer he was not requested to sign the SOP. However, when Britton pointed out that he had signed one, he explained that while going through the statements, he found that one unsigned and took it upon himself to sign for the presiding officer.

Some of the SOPs presented in court were signed in one category, while others were unsigned altogether.

On the declaration of elections results for his region, Gajadar said that he was not present when any of presiding officers had publicly made a declaration and he personally had not declared any results. Questioned on the transmission of results, the witness said that this was difficult since the transmission system (radio) broke down "terribly" in his area. He agreed with Britton that the number of telephones were inadequate for the transmission of results.

Asked to explain what he meant in his report by: "The command centre employees were getting tired," he explained that at about 1 am on the day following elections they kept asking him to "repeat please." He told the court that by this, he concluded that they were getting tired.

Asked about computer friendly forms, the witness said that he was issued with approximately ten by the National Registration Centre. He testified that during the elections, some of these were used to record results while some were used by "runners" to transmit information from one polling station to another. These forms were returned to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), he could not say how many were submitted.

When the hearing continues on Tuesday, Britton is expected to continue his examination of the SOPs from Region Six. The petition seeks to invalidate the results of the 1997 general elections 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