Poll statement was not included in voting day package - witness

Stabroek News
October 22, 1999

A statement of poll (SOP) bearing the signature Yvonne Sandiford was yesterday tendered at the elections petition hearing, but a former presiding officer (PO) of the same name denied preparing that, or any other, SOP.

Sandiford, testifying before Justice Claudette Singh and under cross-examination by counsel for the petitioner, Raphael Trotman, asked the court to reject the entire document including the figures it carried, allocating votes to various parties.

The witness had begun her testimony earlier in the day, with examination by Hubert Rodney, who is associated with Jeananime Munroe and Doodnauth Singh, counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO). She had testified that she had been unable to prepare her SOPs on Elections Day because the elections material package she had been given had not included any such form.

The former PO also told Rodney that she had attended a single training session and that, without writing an exam, she had been appointed presiding officer. She said she had received a letter from the Elections Commission to this effect and, when shown a poll book by Rodney, accepted it as the one she had prepared on Elections Day.

She did not however accept the SOP shown to her by Trotman, telling the court that the signature was not hers and that the document was not even prepared in her handwriting.

Trotman then drew to her attention that the document in question was purporting to come from her polling station, signed by her and bearing figures allocating votes to various political parties.

He then suggested that someone appeared to have "created a document" that had never existed and then signed her name as if to say that she Sandiford had signed it.

The witness agreed with this suggestion and went on to submit samples of her own signature to allow Justice Singh to verify the truth of her statement.

Under re-examination by Rodney, Sandiford added that she had been unable to communicate her elections results on Elections day because of the aforementioned lack of a document.

She said that she had instead recorded these results on a slip of paper which she had placed in her bag. Questioned about how she had gotten these results to the EC, Sandiford said that on December 16, the day after polling day, a woman who lived in her street had gone to her home. She testified that the woman had called the name of Pamela Craig, an Elections Commission official known to Sandiford, and said that this person (Craig) had sent her for the results.

Sandiford testified that she handed over the slip of paper to the woman, an act that she later conceded to Trotman had been an improper way of communicating the results.

Trotman, rising after Rodney had concluded re-examination, had the witness affirm that the woman who visited her was not an Elections Commission official.

Trotman then asked Sandiford whether she had any knowledge of the mechanism used for conveying elections results over the phone.

In this method an envelope containing a code number was given to a PO, who could then phone in and, with the same code convey the results. Sandiford professed not to know of such a practice.

Sandiford was the third of five witnesses who testified yesterday, preceding Avril Kewley and Valerie Jardim and following Harry Naraine and Margaret Joseph.

Of the five, Joseph and Kewley had to be excused after facing initial questions from Rodney when it was discovered that their SOPs were not among those being questioned.

During examination, Narain told the court that he had been initially appointed assistant PO but on the Sunday before the elections had been told that he would be working as a PO.

Under cross-examination by Trotman, Narain conceded that he had never been given a letter appointing him either APO or PO. He also admitted that he knew that such things (letters of appointment) existed prompting Trotman to sum up that he had worked as the most senior functionary at his polling station without being properly appointed.

The lawyer made a similar comment when faced with the testimony of the last witness for the day, Valerie Jardim. She had previously admitted to Rodney that she had been appointed an APO, but like Narain, had been informed before the elections that she would be serving as a PO.

The elections petition hearing will continue this morning. The petition has been brought by Esther Perreira, who is challenging 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.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples