Poll statement dated after voting day - witness

Stabroek News
October 15, 1999

A presiding officer (PO) during the 1997 elections yesterday continued testimony begun the day before by labelling a document purporting to come from his polling station a "forgery".

The document in question was a statement of poll (SOP) bearing a signature different from that of former PO, Dexter Patterson, who, under re-examination by Hubert Rodney, also revealed that the document was dated 97.12.18.

Testifying before Justice Claudette Singh, the witness maintained that he had prepared and signed all his SOPs on 97.12.15, Elections Day, and that the document shown in court should be rejected as a false one.

Under cross-examination by counsel for the petitioner, Raphael Trotman, Patterson also declared that he had complied with his training as a PO by writing the results for the regional and general elections on separate pages. He pointed out to the court that the document shown to him had the general and regional elections listed on the same page.

Regarding the signature appearing on the document, Patterson testified that he had not authorised anyone to sign on his behalf and it appeared as if someone had signed wrongly for him.

Patterson was the third of four witnesses to testify yesterday, the other three being Nichelle Patterson, Rosalie Loncke and Diane Prince.

Loncke, Dexter Patterson and Nichelle Patterson had begun their testimony on Wednesday, when they had been led by Rodney and Jeananimime Munroe, who along with Doodnauth Singh, SC, represent the Chief Election Officer (CEO).

Yesterday's witnesses faced cross-examination by Trotman, who had Loncke and Prince admit that they had acted as presiding officers during the 1997 elections, despite never having been presented with official letters of appointment.

Loncke testified that she had applied for a position with the Elections Commission (EC) and after passing an examination she had been appointed assistant presiding officer (APO). However, on the day before Elections Day, she said, she was told by a deputy returning officer whose name she could not now recall that she would be acting as a PO.

Trotman showed her an EC document which had her listed as an APO at the Smythe Street Nursery School, serving under a presiding officer named Brian Tappin. However, Loncke told the court that at no time during election day had she seen or met anyone with that name. Prince claimed that although she had been told that she would receive some communication relevant to her appointment, she had never received such communication. Trotman then produced a letter from the CEO to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs which gave the names of all the Region Four POs. Prince's name was not on that list nor was there any mention of a polling station bearing her polling number. Prince, nevertheless contended that her name should have been listed. Under re-examination by Munroe, she recalled that she had been given a letter to take to her employer, stating that, on Elections Day, she would be working. She could not recall, however, whether the letter had stated that she would be working as a presiding officer.

Meanwhile, under cross-examination, Nichelle Patterson was shown a SOP which she accepted as coming from her polling station.

The document bore two separate sheets of paper, with one being the declarations for regional elections and the other declaring the general results. The only signature was attached to the results for the regional elections and not the general one.

When questioned about whether the document bore her handwriting, Nichelle Patterson at first answered in the affirmative, noting that she had failed to sign the sheet for the general elections as required by law. However, she corrected herself and went on to reject the handwriting on the document as being hers.

She told the court that she had signed the SOP for both the regional and general elections and observed that it was "strange" that the EC appeared to have a signed copy of her regional elections and not the general elections.

The elections petition hearing initiated by Esther Perreira, will continue today. Perreira, in challenging the results of the 1997 elections, has named among respondents, former presidents Janet Jagan and Desmond Hoyte as well as the CEO.

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