More presiding officers dispute poll statement contentions

Stabroek News
September 29, 1999

Four of five Presiding Officers (PO) during the 1997 elections yesterday dissociated themselves from poll statements purporting to be theirs which had been shown to them by an official of the Elections Commission.

The lone exception was Jean Underwood who, under cross-examination by attorney Raphael Trotman, testified that she had indeed seen her signature on a Statement of Poll (SOP), shown her by Albert Henry, a senior Elections Commission official responsible for legal affairs.

The witness revealed that it appeared that the document she had been shown by Henry at a meeting earlier the same morning had been the original SOP that she signed on elections day rather than the photocopy which was tendered in court.

This testimony elicited some surprise from Trotman, who along with senior counsel Peter Britton is representing the petitioner, Esther Perreira in the hearing.

Trotman reminded the court presided over by Justice Claudette Singh that the position of the Elections Commission had been that these original documents from Region 4 were not available.

He pointed out that, despite this, Underwood had testified to seeing a document she believed to be an original SOP which had been shown to her by a ranking Elections Commission official.

The lawyer then had the witness shown a document signed by Henry Europe, Returning Officer for Region Four which listed her as being among several POs who had not signed their SOPs, a charge she denied.

Underwood's testimony followed that of Beverly Luck and Marslyn Barclay while it preceded testimony from Simone Nichols and Gemme Hinds, all former Region 4 POs. The former POs have all been called by Doodnauth Singh, SC, who along with associates is representing Chief Election Officer Stanley Singh in the hearing.

Luck, the first to testify, stated that she had prepared and signed 4 SOPs and a poll book when she had been a presiding officer stationed at the East Ruimveldt Nursery\Community Centre.

She reported having kept one copy of the SOP but told the court that this copy had now been destroyed.

She identified a poll book tendered by Doodnauth Singh's associate as her own.

Under cross-examination by Trotman, the former PO recalled having recently had a meeting with Albert Henry during which she was shown SOPs and a poll book.

She told the court that the SOP shown to her had not been the one she prepared and signed and remembered asking Henry where her SOP was. However, according to Luck, Henry provided no explanation in response to her question. She went on to add that she had not authorised anyone to prepare SOPs on her behalf.

Questioned whether she knew Europe, Luck replied that she had never heard of anyone named Henry Europe.

When shown the document signed by Europe which listed her as one of the POs who either failed, forgot or neglected to sign SOPs, Luck maintained that this was not true.

Trotman however had the witness concede that her poll book held no record of her announcing any results although she was supposed to record everything that happened at her polling station in that book.

A similar concession was made by Barclay when she told the court that no record had been made in her poll book of her allocating votes to the various parties.

This was after the former PO stationed at Tucville Primary school had already testified that the People's National Congress (PNC) and the People's Progressive Party\Civic (PPP\C) had received votes.

Trotman later had the witness' poll book recalled into evidence whereupon she conceded that her poll book made no mention of the PPP\C receiving any votes.

Questioned whether she had signed the SOPs that she testified to preparing, the witness answered in the affirmative but later qualified this response by noting that "as far as she could recall" she had signed the SOPs she later gave to the Deputy Returning Officer.

When questioning turned to any meetings she may have had with Albert Henry, Barclay testified that she had met with Henry and that he had shown her a poll book and SOP.

She said that the poll book she had been shown on that occasion was the same as that she had been shown in court and she also said that she had not recognised her signature on the SOP she was shown by Henry.

Another SOP which was tendered in court was accepted by the witness as being written in her handwriting and bearing her signature.

Trotman then summed up her testimony by pointing out that she had testified to seeing a document (tendered by Europe) saying that she had not signed her SOPs while she had also seen another document which appeared to be a SOP bearing her signature.

The lawyer then put a finer point on it by having the witness agree that as far as she knew, the Elections Commission ought to have had signed copies of her SOP in their possession since December 1997.

Given this, the witness stated that she had no explanation as to why any senior Elections Commission official would have given the evidence that Europe had, which charged that she had not signed her SOP.

Next to testify was Simone Nichols, who recalled preparing a SOP but was uncertain whether she prepared more than one.

She too recalled meeting Albert Henry and told the court that the last meeting had taken place on the very morning she testified. According to Nichols she had been shown a SOP but that this SOP was not the one she had prepared and signed.

She added that she had not asked where "her" SOP was even though she had wanted to know.

The witness also told the court that she had not authorised anyone to prepare SOPs on her behalf. Last to testify was Hinds who remembered signing her SOPs and also disassociated herself from an unsigned SOP tendered in court.

She too reported meeting with Albert Henry but unlike the others before her testified that she had not been shown a poll book.

In fact, according to the witness, yesterday was the first day she had seen the poll book since the 1997 elections.

She also reported to the court that while she had authorised someone else to prepare her SOPs, she had taken care to sign them afterwards.

Hinds testimony concluded the petition hearing for the day, after which Justice Singh adjourned the case to today.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples