Presiding officer accepts then disowns signature

Stabroek News
November 3, 1999

A former presiding officer (PO) was yesterday shown a signed statement of poll (SOP) bearing her name but while admitting to preparing the figures that appeared on the document, disowned the signature.

Mitchell Haynes, a PO who served at the Lifetime Taxi Service on Elections Day, 1997 told the court presided over by Justice Claudette Singh that the signature was not hers and that she had not authorised anyone to sign for her.

Haynes's testimony came under cross-examination by Raphael Trotman, counsel for the petitioner, Esther Perreira.

She had previously been examined by Hubert Rodney, counsel for the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and had testified to preparing and signing both her poll book and SOP. However, when the apparent contradiction was pointed out to her by Trotman, Haynes amended her testimony, revealing that she had not signed her SOPs but had prepared them on Elections Day.

She initially testified that it was her understanding that she was required to sign these SOPs but then changed her testimony, telling Trotman that she did not understand that she had to sign the SOPs. She went on to deny a suggestion by Trotman that the votes allocated to the National Independent Party, which on her SOP was zero, should instead have been around 40.

Trotman then closed his cross-examination.

Under re-examination, when shown a specimen of her own handwriting on her poll book by Rodney, the witness maintained that the signature on the book was hers but that the one on the SOP was not. Haynes was the second of four witnesses to testify, following Ekwefi Leitch and preceding Thakur Persaud Ramdass and Mohabir Haitram. Before facing cross-examination by Trotman, the witnesses were led in their evidence by either Rodney or Jeananime Munroe, both of whom are associated with Doodnauth Singh, SC.

Leitch after being examined by Rodney was found not to be among the former POs whose performance of their duties on Elections day was being challenged. As such, she was excused. The others all testified to Rodney that they had applied for a posts in the 1997 elections and after writing exams had been appointed Pos.

In accordance with their duties, they all said they had prepared SOPs and poll books and identified poll books tendered in court by Rodney as theirs. The witnesses also said that none of the party agents who had been present at their polling station had queried the results.

They also recalled having prepared SOPs for the deputy returning officer and handing these over at the appropriate Elections Commission office.

During his cross-examination of Ramdass, Trotman had the witness observe that no person of that name had been listed as having been appointed PO. Rather, someone named Ramdass Persaud was listed as a PO.

Trotman further pointed out, and the witness agreed with him, that the number of the polling station Persaud said he had worked at was not listed as having been a polling place during the 1997 elections. The lawyer then showed Haitram the same document signed by the CEO and had him concede that his polling station was not listed on that document.

The elections petition hearing will continue tomorrow.

The petition has been brought by Perreira, who, through her lawyers Trotman and Peter Britton, SC, is challenging the results of 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.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples