Signed statement by presiding officer turns up after all

Stabroek News
October 18, 1999

A former presiding officer told the court that she was displeased at the Elections Commission (EC) which was Friday able to produce a statement of poll (SOP) signed by her, a little over a month after it had given evidence that it had an unsigned SOP for her.

This evidence came out on Friday in the election petition hearing before Justice Claudette Singh, when counsel for the petitioner, Raphael Trotman was cross-examining former PO, Gail Harcourt.

During cross-examination, Trotman showed the witness a document signed by Chief Returning Officer for Region Four, Henry Europe, which charged that Harcourt was among a number of POs who had failed to sign their SOPs.

Harcourt expressed surprise at this charge and was then shown another EC document by Trotman--a signed SOP--which she accepted as bearing her signature.

The lawyer then had her observe that, based on Europe's document, the Elections Commission had declared that it had no signed SOPs for her and had yet been able to produce the document shown in court on Friday.

Harcourt, responding to another suggestion by Trotman, stated that, given the EC's statement that it did not have her signed SOP, it seemed likely that it had used some document other than hers to declare results.

She went on that she was "displeased" at this and, under prompting by Trotman, said that she would like a reasonable explanation from the EC since it should have been able to produce her signed document before.

The SOP Harcourt accepted as hers had the results for the regional and general elections listed on the same page and the former PO noted that she had not been specifically told to prepare the document in any other way.

The court then heard testimony from Eileen Browne, Megan Stewart, and Fiuze Williams.

Another legal engagement kept Trotman from cross-examining the other witnesses who were instead led by Henry Rodney and Jeananimime Munroe, who along with Doodnauth Singh, SC, are representing the Chief Election Officer (CEO).

Williams and Stewart maintained that they had signed their SOPs, while Browne told the court that she did not think she had signed her SOP for the regional elections.

All were shown poll books by the lawyers and were able to identify them as ones they had prepared. The hearing will continue today when the former POs will return to court to face cross-examination by Trotman.

Trotman is associated with Peter Britton, SC, who is representing the petitioner, Esther Perreira. Perreira has challenged the results of the 1997 elections on the grounds that the process was so flawed that it could not 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.

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