Returning Officer admits several problems with poll statements

Stabroek News
July 20, 1999

Returning Officer for Region Two during the 1997 general elections, Ramjeet Singh, yesterday conceded that there were several irregularities with the Statements of Poll for his region.

Continuing his testimony under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton in the Esther Perreira elections petition, the witness testified that 14 out of the 112 SOPs were not signed by Presiding Officers. He had found this out after the compilation of his report which was done on January 23, 1998. He explained that he had used the information contained in the Statements of Poll to compile his report.

Further examination of the SOPs which were tendered in court yesterday by Britton, revealed that they were signed by other persons instead of the Presiding Officer of the particular polling station.

On the other hand, the examination also revealed that one Deputy Presiding Officer had signed SOPs from several polling stations along the Essequibo Coast that were miles apart from each other.

Singh agreed with the senior counsel that this was done after the elections. The areas from which the Statements of Poll were signed included Hampton Court Primary School, Adventure Primary School, the New Opportunity Corps, Aberdeen, Supenaam, Aurora, Mashabo and Suddie.

According to the witness, he did not mention any of these irregularities in his report which was tendered as evidence last week because he did not consider them to be irregular. He also did not think it irregular for the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer to have signed the SOPs instead of the Presiding Officer. Singh agreed with Britton that it was highly probable that the SOPs could have been signed after the elections.

When the hearing continues today, the witness is expected to be further cross-examined by National Independent Party Leader, attorney-at-law Saphier Hussain. The Esther Perreira petition seeks to invalidate the results of the 1997 general elections. It has named as its respondents the representatives of the political parties and the Chief Election Officer, Stanley Singh, who is being represented by Senior Counsel, Doodnauth Singh.

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