Poll statement were not checked to see if properly filled
--deputy returning officer tells elections petition hearing

Stabroek News
November 22, 1999

One of four former deputy returning officers (DROs) who took the stand on Thursday in the elections petition hearing testified that she had prepared a summary sheet of results from the polling station in her sub division, based on statements of polls (SOPs) that may or may not have been unsigned.

Testifying before Justice Claudette Singh, Vivienne London told Raphael Trotman, counsel for the petitioner, Esther Perreira, that on Elections Day, she had not checked whether the SOPs given to her by her 57 presiding officers (POs) after the close of poll had been filled in properly.

London was shown a document by Trotman, signed by returning Officer for Region Four, Henry Europe which listed polling stations.

She then revealed to the court that one of the polling stations listed by Europe had not, in fact, been in her polling sub district.

London also admitted to the court that she had completed her summary sheet days after the elections.

The summary sheet, identified in court when produced by Doodnauth Singh, SC, counsel for the Chief Election Officer (CEO) was, according to London, started on the night of the elections but completed four or five days later.

London admitted to Trotman that on the night of the elections, she had made no record of the numbers on the documents. As such, she said, she could only assume that the SOPs which she retrieved after the elections were, in fact, the ones that had been given to her by her POs.

She said that, by 1730 hrs on December 16, she had submitted the SOPs to Europe but when she went to him the next day he had been unable to produce all of the copies. She said that as the days went by, she found copies around the Elections Commission Command Centre, but many of these documents had been photocopies.

She told the court that on the day before the elections, her instructions had originally been that ballot boxes should go to Europe's office at Carmichael and Lamaha streets. However, these instructions were subsequently changed by way of radio with no reason given.

Phagbatie Narpatie, another DRO told the court that she received all the ballot boxes from the 60 polling stations in her subdistrict.

She recalled that there had been a phone in her office but that POs who attempted to call in their results had been frustrated by busy signals. She testified that her ballot boxes and other elections material had been collected by an Elections Commission official named Errol Fraser who visited her office.

She first said that she had not examined all of the SOPs, but in mid-testimony, changed her mind and said that she had examined all.

She stated that all of these SOPs had been signed but had no answer for Trotman when he showed her a document from Europe which listed four POs in her sub district as having failed to sign.

David Walker also claimed that phone lines had been engaged when attempts were made to phone in results. He said he had prepared his summary sheets from the 'phone-in documents' used by the POs to phone in their results.

Walker did not accept a summary sheet shown to him as his, noting that while it bore his signature the front page was not in his handwriting.

Doodnauth Singh tendered only those pages that he accepted as his, but when Trotman questioned him about the first page, the witness said that he would not accept it unless given the opportunity to verify it. Singh undertook to have this done.

Trotman reminded Walker that when he had earlier read out the total results from his polling station he had included the disputed first page. Walker responded that it did not necessarily follow that the figures weren't the same because the first page was different. Asked about his reliance on the 'phone-in' documents when only SOPs were recognised as the legal document to declare results, Walker said that he had given equal weight to them on elections night since those were what the Elections Commission would have used to declare its results. He was reminded that on that night, the Elections Commission had not received those results since the phones were engaged.

Walker was the last witness for the day and Doodnauth Singh requested that court be adjourned to Monday when he expects to call persons who coordinated the elections.

The elections petition is being brought by Perreira who, through her lawyers Trotman and Peter Britton, SC 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.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples