Changes on poll statement fraudulent - witness

Stabroek News
October 20, 1999

A former presiding officer (PO) yesterday testified that a number of changes had been made to a statement of poll (SOP) prepared by him on Elections Day, and that one of these changes had benefited the incumbent PPP/Civic.

Testifying before Justice Claudette Singh and under cross-examination by counsel for the petitioner, Raphael Trotman, the former PO also informed the court that these changes had been made without his knowledge and permission. As such, Roxroy Wyles asked that the court treat the changes made to the document as "an act of fraud."

Among the "acts of fraud" that he alleged had been made was a change in the allocation of votes for the PPP/Civic, increasing that party's votes from 118 to 125.

The former PO had been shown copies of two SOPs, one that he disowned and the other which he acknowledged as being signed by him, though noting that it bore scratches and a word that he had not put on it.

The word in question was "regional" and had been written across one of the SOPs shown to him by Trotman.

However, Wyles told the court that he had prepared only one SOP and that this had been for the general elections. He explained that he had been unable to prepare a SOP for the regional elections since he had only been provided with one sheet. As such, he said, he had had to record the regional elections on a tally sheet and he conceded to Trotman that this tally sheet could not be valid since by law, only a SOP, could declare results.

He went on to point out that by writing the word "regional", the intention of the person responsible seemed to have been to switch the results to indicate that they were regional rather than general. He emphasized that he had not authorised anyone to make these changes.

He said he had also not authorised anyone to make another change-- increasing the total number of people who voted at his polling station from 177 to 182.

The former PO said that it was not possible that any of these changes could have been made by any of his subordinates on Elections Day and also agreed with Trotman's suggestion that these changes were not done according to his understanding of the law.

Asked by Trotman whether the court should believe his testimony or that submitted by the Elections Commission (EC), Wyles asked the court to reject that of the EC. He also confessed to being displeased at what was being done to his name and reputation.

Wyles was the last of three witnesses to testify yesterday, following, Verna Grimmond and Wilbert Topin.

Grimmond's time on the stand was brief as, after being examined by Hubert Rodney, counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO), she had to be excused.

While cross-examining Grimmond, Trotman discovered that she was not among the POs whose preparation of SOPs had been questioned by a senior Elections Commission official in previous testimony. As such, the witness was excused and Topin called to the stand.

Topin, led by Rodney's associate Jeanamime Munroe, testified that on elections day, he had prepared SOPs but that he could not recall how many.

He did recall that he had given some copies of the SOPs to agents who had been present and the others he had placed in an envelope and given to an Elections Commission official.

When cross-examining Topin, Trotman produced two copies of a SOP and asked the witness whether they belonged to him.

Topin said that the signature on one SOP which listed results for the general elections was his but he "knew nothing" about the second one which listed regional results.

The latter document was not signed and under cross-examination, Topin maintained that he had signed his document.

He was positive that no assistant of his had prepared the SOP in question without his knowledge. He told Trotman that he was not in a position to doubt that both documents had come from the EC but ended his testimony by observing that it seemed strange that the EC had been able to produce one set of documents for him and not some other.

The witnesses who testified yesterday were the second batch of former POs to testify for the week. On Monday, six former POs had testified, including Fiuze Williams, Eileen Brown and Megan Stewart, who were all returning to face cross-examination by Trotman's associate, Peter Britton, SC. Also testifying were Debra Sears, Ann Wilburg and Juliet

Tucker Chalmers. Sears told the court that she could not remember whether she had signed her SOPs, while the others disowned SOPs shown to them in court.

The elections petition, brought by Esther Perreira, will continue today.

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