More presiding officers disown poll statements

Stabroek News
November 11, 1999

Five of the final eight Region Four presiding officers (POs) to testify in the elections petition hearing yesterday took the stand before Justice Claudette Singh, with three of them dissociating themselves from some statement of polls (SOPs) which were tendered in court.

Kurt Eversly, Ahwadan Kowlessar and Linden Roberts, maintained under cross-examination by Raphael Trotman, counsel for the petitioner, Esther Perreira, that the court should reject those documents in favour of the ones that they had signed. They and two other POs--Patrick Howard and Rickford Profit--had told Jeananime Munroe, counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO) that they had prepared and signed their SOPs on Elections Day.

Kowlessar and Roberts produced SOPs which they said they had kept from Elections Day and, like the others identified poll books shown to them as theirs.

Eversly later amended his testimony when cross-examined by Trotman, saying that he could not recall whether he had signed all of his SOPs.

He also said that he could not vividly recall whether he had signed SOPs for both the regional and general elections, as opposed to only the regional one. He was then shown an SOP by Trotman and accepted the general results as having been prepared in his handwriting but told the court that the regional sheet bore neither his handwriting nor his signature.

Kowlessar said that he was certain that he had signed his SOPs and further, when he had been paid for his duties, he had not been given the impression that payment, in part or full, depended on whether he had signed his SOPs. The witness said that he would be very surprised if the Elections Commission had an unsigned document for him and that even if it did, it should also have a signed SOP for him.

When shown a SOP by Trotman which bore the name and division number of his polling place in 1997, Kowlessar observed that the Elections Commission document bore a signature and handwriting which could not be his. He concluded that it must have been prepared after the close of poll by someone not authorised to do so.

Roberts, meanwhile testified under cross-examination that he had not signed one of his SOPs but explained that he had not found it necessary to do so.

Shown a SOP by Trotman, he told the court that the regional SOP was prepared by him. However, he pointed out that the signature on the general SOP was not his and Trotman accordingly reminded him that it was the signature that validated a document.

Noting that the SOP shown to him in court had definitely not been prepared by him, Roberts pointed out that the signature on the document was that of someone else.

Trotman then turned his cross-examination to earlier evidence given by Roberts when he had told Munroe that he had been "switched" from his allotted polling place to another one, a day or two before the elections. Roberts revealed that while he had been informed of the switch, it had not been in writing.

Profit, under cross-examination, said that he had been given a letter of appointment verifying that he was to serve as PO at Supply Primary, East Coast Demerara.

However, Trotman produced a document, in the form of a letter from the CEO to the Ministry of Home Affairs announcing the names and stations of POs in the 1997 elections and Profit observed that the document, while listing his name, did not list any polling place to which he had been assigned.

The witness then admitted that, based on this document, he was not in a position to doubt Trotman when the lawyer said that he had served at a polling place which had not been registered as one.

Howard had left the court after being examined by Munroe and so will have to be recalled today to be cross-examined.

The court is also expected to hear testimony from the final three POs from Region 4, in keeping with a promise by Hubert Rodney, who along with Munroe and Doodnauth Singh, SC, is representing the CEO.

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