CEO made major changes on elections eve -
Region Four witness

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
September 11, 1999

Region Four's Returning Officer for the 1997 general elections, Henry Europe, yesterday reiterated during cross-examination in the Esther Perreira petition that the Chief Election Officer (CEO) had changed many things on December 14, 1997, relating to the general elections.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Rex McKay, the witness told the court, presided over by Justice Claudette Singh, that Logistics Adviser, Joe Harmon, who was known to him and was in charge of the elections, had put certain things in place to ensure the transparency of the elections.

However, the witness agreed with McKay who is representing PNC Leader Desmond Hoyte, that one day before the elections, the CEO had done things contrary to what Harmon had in place. He added that many of the changes were made shortly before the election. According to the witness, there were two major changes in the security arrangements for the ballot boxes.

As previously stated in his testimony, Europe said that after the close of polls on December 15, the boxes from the Georgetown area should have been stored at his office situated at Lamaha and Carmichael streets. Those from the East Coast should have gone to the Education Department at Triumph Village and those from the East Bank Demerara to the Grove Primary School. These locations, he told the court, were suggested by him and adopted by the security personnel at the Elections Commission.

The day before the elections, he said, the CEO changed those instructions. Europe said that the new instructions from the CEO were for the ballot boxes to be taken to the National Registration Centre compound. As returning officer, Europe said he was aware that the CEO had not followed what was stated in the returning officer's manual.

Asked by McKay about the handing over of statements of poll (SOPs), the witness told the court that all of his signed and unsigned SOPs were delivered directly to the CEO, a decision made previous to the elections.

On the issue of voter ID cards, the returning officer said: "I never received all of the cards." According to him, he should have received 200,295 voter ID cards instead of 199,207. The witness agreed with McKay that a total number of 186,551 cards were distributed while some 12,600 cards were returned to the CEO who had asked for them to be sent to him. Europe also agreed with McKay that approximately six per cent of voters did not receive ID cards. The witness is expected to resume his testimony on Monday under further cross-examination by attorney Raphael Trotman.

In her petition, Perreira is asking the court to rule that the results of the election are null and void, and has named the representatives of the political parties and the CEO as the respondents.

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