Witness claims signatures as hers despite difference

Stabroek News
October 27, 1999

A former presiding officer (PO) yesterday denied that someone had signed her statements of poll (SOPs) for her and maintained that, despite the difference in two signatures which appeared on her SOPs, both had been signed by her.

Sharon Roach, former PO attached to Grove Primary School, was under cross-examination by Raphael Trotman, counsel for the petitioner, Esther Perreira.

Trotman had suggested to Roach that a possible explanation for the fact that two apparently different signatures--both of which spelled S. Roach--appeared on her SOPs, may have been that another person had signed the SOPs for her. He had pointed out to the court, presided over by Justice Claudette Singh, that one document was signed "S. Roach for Presiding Officer," while another was signed simply "S. Roach", and suggested that whomever signed the other one had been decent enough to write the word "for".

Roach, however, explained away the difference in the signatures, stating that, having to sign so many documents (on Elections Day), may have caused her handwriting to change.

But she could not provide an explanation as to why she had written "For" in one instance.

During cross-examination, Roach was asked to give the court a sample of her signature.

Trotman then asked her to compare a sample of this signature to that appearing on the SOP tendered in court, and also asked her to note that there were differences between that signature and the others. Roach replied that the signatures appeared to her to resemble but did not dispute that she had tendered three different specimens of her handwriting in court yesterday.

She also testified to hearing about some confusion at the Grove Primary School on December 15, but said that this had been the next day, Dec 16.

Roach was the last of five witnesses yesterday, testifying after Verina Layne, Vereen Byran, Donette Semple and Bibi Safia.

Of these, Bryan had to be excused when it was discovered that she was not among the POs whose performance on Elections Day was being questioned in the hearing.

When led by Munroe, all the witness, including Roach, had testified to applying for a position with the Elections Commission and, after attending training sessions and writing an examination, being appointed PO for their various stations.

They also testified to preparing their SOPs and poll books.

However, Safia told Munroe that she had had to telephone in her results from her polling station. But under cross-examination by Trotman, could not recall having been given an envelope with a code number in keeping with the system which had been used to allow POs to call in their results. She reported that she had, instead, stood at the end of a long line and that, when given an opportunity, had recited the numbers over the phone.

Upon hearing this, Trotman asked whether the person at the other end of the line had identified themselves as officials of the Elections Commission, to which she replied in the negative.

Trotman then turned his attention to the names appearing on various documents before the court and asked the witness to explain why different names were apparently on an Election Commission document identifying her as a PO and her Poll Book which she had earlier testified as being prepared by her.

The witness submitted that one was her married name while she was known by the other, which Trotman countered by suggesting that she had instead never been known by that name. The witness denied this.

Layne, for her part, testified that she too had prepared a poll book and SOPs. She was unsure of the exact number of SOPs prepared but ended up testifying that it had been more than 5. She testified that she had put the SOPs intended for the Elections Commission in an envelope and then placed it in the ballot box which she accompanied to the Main Office at Grove Primary School and handed it over to Deputy Returning Officer, Wade Thompson.

However, under cross-examination by Trotman, she conceded that she may not have put the envelope containing the SOPs in the ballot box, The elections petition, brought by Esther Perreira, will continue today. Perreira is challenging 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.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples