Witness says all her presiding officers phoned in poll results

By Kester Morris
Stabroek News
November 13, 1999

A former deputy returning officer (DRO) yesterday admitted that a summary sheet she had prepared of the results from 17 polling stations under her, had been based on statements of poll (SOPs) that had neither been prepared nor authenticated by her.

Lavern Pinto, in her second day before the elections petition hearing and under cross-examination by Rex McKay, SC, counsel for Desmond Hoyte, also maintained that she had made copies of the SOPs on which she based her summary sheets a few days after the election.

These SOPs, she said had been given to her by Returning Officer for Region Four, Henry Europe. Testifying before Justice Claudette Singh, Pinto yesterday added that when she had produced copies of these same SOPs in court on Thursday, it had not been of her own volition.

She revealed that Doodnauth Singh, SC, who is counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO), had requested that she take the copies of SOPs to court after learning that she had them.

Another former DRO, Cheryl Teixeira, was led by Doodnauth Singh, before facing cross-examination by McKay and Peter Britton, SC, counsel for the petitioner Esther Perreira.

She identified herself as the DRO for sub district Industry-Triumph, an area that encompassed 89 polling stations.

Teixeira said that during her duties, she had visited 29 of these and that she had received all 89 ballot boxes from her presiding officers (POs) after the close of poll on Elections Day.

She added that at her office in Triumph, there had been a system for phoning in results and that all 89 of the POs who brought their ballot boxes to her had made use of that system. The process, she later told Britton, lasted from around 8:00 pm to around 8:15 the next morning.

She said she had prepared her summary sheet some days after the elections and had used copies of SOPs obtained from the returning officer. This sheet was tendered in court but not before McKay made it known that, while he had no objection to the sheet being tendered as having been prepared by Teixeira, he was wary of it being taken as the truth. He explained that the document had been based on copies of other documents whose veracity could only be proven by examination.

Britton, in cross-examining Teixeira asked her whether or not some ballot boxes in her subdistrict had to be put in a container in the compound in her office and alternatively in a vehicle outside the Sparendaam Police Station.

Teixeira professed not to know about any incident in her subdistrict which required ballot boxes to be taken to the Sparendaam Police Station.

However, she related an incident, told to her by her polling clerk, who, she said, had been barred from collecting ballot boxes by a crowd at Industry which formed a human barricade.

The crowd was said to have accused the clerk of stealing a ballot box and, according to Teixeira, rather than risk a confrontation, her clerk had gone to Sparendaam Police Station where police officers had accompanied her back to the polling station. She admitted that boxes had been placed in a container in the compound of her office.

In relation to her testimony about phoning in the results, Justice Singh pointed out to Teixeira that some POs had previously testified that they had left in frustration after being confronted with a long line to phone in results. Teixeira conceded that the line had been long and conditions bad, but maintained that the results had been phoned in by POs who simply handed an open line down to those behind them. She conceded that in the time her POs were on the line, no one else could have gotten on to that number.

Teixeira will have to return to court on Monday to face cross-examination by National Independent Party leader Saphier Hussain. Yesterday, Hussain restricted himself to questioning Pinto who maintained that she had phoned in her results to Europe and no one else. Under cross-examination by Britton, she said that she had been instructed to phone in to the Elections Commission but was unable to get through and had ended up phoning Europe.

Perreira 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