Witness admits to letting aide prepare poll statements

Stabroek News
October 5, 1999

A presiding officer during the 1997 election yesterday admitted that she had allowed her assistant to prepare statements of poll (SOPs) on election day and also acknowledged that there were substantial differences between the one she had prepared and those prepared by her assistant.

Delight Ogle defended her actions by telling the court, presided over by Justice Claudette Singh, that during her training she had never been explicitly told not to have her assistant prepare the SOPs.

Ogle, under cross-examination by counsel for the petitioner, Peter Britton, SC, said that she had prepared and signed one SOP and that she had let her assistant copy the form, after which she had signed them.

She also reported that a SOP, which she accepted as having been prepared by her, had been shown to her by Elections Commission official Albert Henry prior to her appearance in court yesterday.

Britton, after asking that the SOP, bearing what he termed a "fresh" signature be tendered into evidence, questioned Ogle about some differences between the two documents. The lawyer had her admit that the SOP prepared by her assistant had results for four political parties while the one she had accepted as hers listed ten such parties.

Ogle then conceded that the document was nothing like the one she had prepared and went on to call it a "forgery".

She maintained this charge when re-examined by Hubert Rodney, who, along with Jeananimime Munroe is associated with Doodnauth Singh, SC, counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO).

The witness also explained a difference between two signatures appearing on her poll book and her SOP by noting that she must have been in a hurry when she wrote one, causing the "D" in "Delight" to appear different from the other. However, she could not provide a satisfactory answer to Justice Singh when asked why she had recorded "New Hope" as the name of her polling station rather than indicating that it was a private residence in New Hope.

Like the three other presiding officers who testified yesterday, Ogle also expressed surprise at evidence submitted by Chief Returning Officer for Region Four, Henry Europe.

In previous testimony, Europe had charged that several presiding officers neglected to sign their SOPs. Other witnesses testifying yesterday included Merle Harlequin, Fidel Captain and Pamela Hinds.

Harlequin testified that, to the best of her knowledge, she had signed her SOPs. She also recalled that there had been no rejected ballots on her SOP, unlike one which was tendered in court and which bore rejected votes.

The hearing will continue tomorrow and Rodney has indicated that he would be calling two more former presiding officers.

The petitioner, Esther Perreira, is asking the courts to nullify the results of the 1997 elections on the grounds that the process was so flawed that it cannot be said to accurately reflect the will of the electorate. She has named among respondents, former presidents Janet Jagan and Desmond Hoyte as well as the CEO.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples