Gajadar grilled on Region 6 arrangements

Stabroek News
July 12, 1999

Leader of the National Independent Party (NIP), attorney-at-law Saphier Hussain, on Friday pointed out that the report submitted by Region 6 Returning Officer for the 1997 elections, Jerome Gajadar, contained three mistakes.

Hussain was at the time cross-examining Gajadar on his testimony in the Esther Perreira elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh.

Hussain pointed out that Gajadar failed to mention in his report how many persons were not photographed during the registration process; the two telephone numbers at the Georgetown command centre that were available to him, and whether any duplicate I.D. cards were sent to Region 6 by the Elections Commission and if so how many.

On the issue of registration, the witness said that he had received 78,998 voter I.D. Cards from the Elections Commission, however some 3,941 persons did not receive their cards.

According to Gajadar, his final voters' list showed that 79,133 persons were eligible electors. He agreed with Hussain that persons were not photographed.

Asked by Hussain if his report had stated the amount of persons who were not photographed, the witness said "no". As the person responsible for registration in Region 6, he was not required to keep a record of how many persons had not been photographed.

Gajadar could not recall if any duplicate I.D. cards were issued to him and if so, how many. Hussain pointed out that this was also omitted from his report.

On the issue of transmission of results to the command centre at the Elections Commission, the witness explained to the court that an arrangement was made by the Elections Commission to have the results transmitted to the command centre via telephones. Other communication systems included hand-held sets and four radios which were installed at four polling stations at different locations.

According to the witness, he was given two numbers by the Elections Commission, however, he had only included one number in his report - 74358 and had failed to include the other.

He denied that he had used the communication system to discuss the movement of ballot boxes on elections day. He also denied that any of his deputies had done so. However, he conceded that he had used the radio set during the night, but did not enquire about the storage of the ballot boxes as he had no reason to do so.

Regarding the storage of ballot boxes, Gajadar said that he did not receive any instructions or information on the night of the elections since arrangements were made earlier for the storage of the boxes.

In previous testimony, the witness had told the court that in meeting with security personnel of the commission before the elections, he had proposed that the ballot boxes be stored at the offices of the Deputy Returning Officers under armed police protection. His proposal was accepted.

Asked if he knew that one of the provisions of the Representation of the People's Act stated that ballot boxes should be stored at the police stations, the witness said that he had not read this. He said that it had never crossed his mind to make arrangements to have the boxes stored at the police station.

He denied Hussain's suggestion that the reason for not making arrangements to have the boxes stored at the police station was because he had no confidence in the police.

However, in previous testimony, he had said that in his opinion police stations were not secure enough for the storing of the boxes.

Questioned on the CARICOM audit team, the witness said that he was summoned before the commission after January 30, 1998. Like Returning Officers from other regions, the witness said that he did not mention his report to the commission because he was not asked to do so. He further denied Hussain's suggestion that the report had been prepared at the time he was summoned to the commission.

Gajadar said that he had submitted his report to the Elections Commission on January 30, 1998, and had uplifted it on the morning he had to appear in court. This was on the instructions of Chairman of the Elections Commission, Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh, because the report had to be submitted as evidence in court.

On the issue of Statements of Poll (SOPs), the witness said that he was not present at any of the polling stations during the counting of ballots and the preparation of the SOPs. He agreed with Counsel that he had tabulated his results from the SOP and conceded that he could not verify that the information was accurate because the statements were prepared by others. Further, he did not know the signatures of the presiding officers who had prepared them.

When the hearing continues today, Hussain is expected to resume his cross-examination. Senior Counsel Rex McKay who is representing PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte, is also expected to cross-examine the witness.

The Perreira petition is asking the court to find the results of the 1997 general elections null and void, and has named the Chief Election Officer and representatives of the political parties as its respondents.

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