Key Region Four officer concedes larger number of unsigned documents

By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
September 7, 1999

Returning Officer of Region Four during the 1997 general election, Henry Europe, yesterday testified that he did not realise that 80 per cent of the statements of poll (SOPs) for the region were unsigned.

This prompted an early adjournment on the first day of the hearing after a four-week recess in the Esther Perreira elections petition before Justice Claudette Singh. The petitioner who is represented by Senior Counsel Peter Britton, has named the representatives of the political parties and the Chief Election Officer (CEO) Stanley Singh, as respondents. Perreira is asking the court to find the results of the 1997 general elections, null and void. Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh is appearing for the CEO.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Peter Britton, Europe had first said that some 45 SOPs which he had checked at the command centre were not signed, but under examination in court yesterday, the witness discovered that another 64 SOPs were also unsigned. This caused Britton to ask for an early adjournment to give the witness time to recheck the SOPs in order to determine how many votes were affected by unsigned documents.

As Returning Officer, Europe acknowledged knowing that as a matter of legal requirement, statements of poll for both the regional and general elections ought to have been signed.

The witness who tendered an unsigned computerized report on the elections to the court, said that he had attended numerous training sessions which in his opinion were well conducted. He agreed with Britton that during the sessions he was told how to deal with the SOPs but was never instructed to deliver them to the Chief Election Officer and therefore had handed them to someone.

The witness denied knowing the name of the person to whom he had delivered the documents. According to him, he had taken all statements of poll to the Elections Commission by 5.30 am on the morning of December 16, 1997 but did not endeavour to enquire the name of the person to whom he had given them. He had assumed that the person was authorised to collect the statements.

Questioned on the appendices contained in the report, Europe admitted that the majority of the pages were given to him by the computer room at the command centre through the Deputy Chief Election Officer, Ganga Persaud. According to him only four pages which were prepared and signed by him were included in the report.

He further admitted that the document from which he had checked the validity of his report, is with the Guyana Elections Commission and does not form part of the court records. "I personally did not check each of the statistical data in the report", he said.

On the issue of ballot boxes, Europe said that he did not personally return any of these to the Commission, but had observed the boxes being returned and received by the Chief Election Officer, Singh and his deputy, Persaud.

Earlier while being examined by Senior Counsel, Doodnauth Singh, the Returning Officer who is a school teacher by profession, told the court that 186,551 voter ID cards were distributed and there were 175,604 electors on December 15.

The hearing continues today. (Liz Rahaman)

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