Voter turn-out figure miraculous
-Parris tells court

Stabroek News
September 30, 1998

Doodnauth Singh SC, counsel for the Chief Election Officer, Stanley Singh, repeatedly clashed yesterday with statistician, Haslyn Parris, who was giving testimony for the petitioner, Esther Perreira.

Perriera has brought an election petition against the Chief Election Officer and others and Parris, deemed an expert in statistics by the Court on Monday, was her first witness.

Under intense cross-examination by Singh, Parris refused to accept the assertions by Singh that checks which had been introduced into the production process had removed the possibility for fraud in the card production process which Parris claimed was inherent in the system.

Parris on Monday described the jeopardy in the process as the ability of the computer operator to change the information which appeared on the monitor.

Before Singh resumed his cross-examination which he started the previous day, Rex McKay SC, counsel for People's National Congress leader, Desmond Hoyte SC, drew the Court's attention to Singh's appearance as Counsel for the Chief Election Officer.

He said that it was a case in which serious allegations had been levelled against both the Chief Election Officer and Singh in the latter's capacity as chairman of the Elections Commission.

McKay pointed out that to have Singh as chairman of the Elections Commission which supervised the December 15 elections appearing as counsel for the Chief Election Officer, "must be very disturbing to those persons who have read the allegations contained in the petition."

He drew the Court's attention to the fact that Singh could be called as a witness under Section 15 of Chapter 1:04 which gave the Court the right to call as a witness any person who appears to have been concerned in the elections process.

McKay said the proceedings would be viewed as a charade if a person sitting at the Bar table, is then called on by the Court as a witness.

Singh in return drew the Court's attention to the fact that two full time law professors were appearing as counsel for the petitioner, Perreira, and for Hoyte. Singh was making reference to Perreira's counsel, Peter Britton SC, and Keith Massiah SC, who is associated with McKay.

Resuming his cross-examination, Singh outlined the procedure that was used in the voter identification card production process and asked Parris if he accepted that the verification process that was included in the process had removed the possibility for unauthorised production of cards.

Parris disagreed, pointing out that as result of a report by one of the Commission's consultants, Fr Tim Curtis, that a check of the voter identification card against the final voters list was introduced.

Curtis' report based on checks he had conducted on the voter identification cards produced for Region 8, had found cards produced for persons not on the Final Voters List, as well as cards not being produced for persons who were listed on the final Voters List; and cards on which the date of births were stated incorrectly.

Singh also was unable to get Parris to accept that he wanted the computer operators to behave like automatons, with Parris explaining that what he wanted was for the operators to follow the instructions of Tony Farnum and Adam Trill of De La Rue Identity Systems.

Parris reiterated that no verifier was capable of inhibiting the computer operator from giving instructions to print the information on the screen.

Parris also refused to accept that a final voters list had been prepared, if by definition the Final Voters List consisted of persons who were eligible to vote at the December 15 elections, given the requirement that to vote, a person had to be in possession of a voter identification card.

He also disagreed with Singh that the PNC had been given an electronic file of the final voters list, pointing out that what was provided were diskettes from which the information could only be accessed using a special Hewlett Packard printer and that the information once accessed, could not be manipulated to carry out any analysis of the data.

Parris under cross-examination by McKay said that he had requested the database from the Commission which would have enabled him to access information not on the Final Voters List such as the date of birth of the persons listed thereon.

Under cross-examination too, Parris told Singh that though Deputy Prime Minister, Planning in a PNC administration up to 1991, he had no more interest in the result of the 1992 elections than the ordinary citizen of voting age would have had.

Also, he said that he was not aware that the PNC agents had been passing information for encoding into computers at Congress Place, though he said that he knew spreadsheets had been prepared. He said that the reason for his lack of knowledge was due to the fact that it was not an aspect of what he had been asked to do by Malcolm Parris, a PNC member of the Commission.

Asked about the distribution of the voter identification cards, Parris said that he was unaware that the Elections Commission had unanimously agreed on the steps taken to speed up the distribution of the voter identification cards, but that if they had done it they were wrong to have done so.

He also said that he had been unaware that a Task Force had been set up to speed up the distribution of the voter identification cards in Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) including door-to-door distribution, pointing out that he had to collect his card from one of the distribution centres.

Asked about the voter turn-out on December 15 by McKay, Parris described it as miraculous, defining miracle as an occurrence of an event for which no reason can be given.

He said that based on the voter identification cards issued, the overall turn-out was 88.42 per cent with turn-out in the Upper Essequibo/Upper Takatu being 96.69 per cent; Mahaica/Berbice 96.32 per cent and Essequibo Islands/West Demerara 96.23 per cent.

Parris said that he would have a difficulty with the percentage turn-out given the nature of the terrain.

He also in response to McKay, drew attention to the unreliability of the Commission's figures in its report about the number of persons reported dead and those reported overseas.

He noted that based on the Commission's reports, on December 5, the number of persons reported dead was 2,502; on December 6, the number was 2,505 and on December 7, the number was 2,501. With regard to the persons reported overseas, Parris said that on the same dates from reports produced by the Commission, the number was variously given as 10,520; 10,486 and 10,474.

Parris observed that the same degree of uncertainty would surround the 14,318 cards which the Commission reported as being possible to distribute and which Singh had made much of in his cross- examination, particularly the numbers given for Cuyuni/Mazaruni, Demerara/Mahaica and the East Berbice/Corentyne regions.

Parris also under cross-examination by McKay, said that he had known of no constitutional amendment to Articles 59 and 159 of the Constitution which relate to the qualifications of a voter at elections and qualifications for being registered as a voter.

Before the adjournment was taken to today, Britton indicated to the Court that when the hearing resumed today, he would be making an application to the Court for an order for the production of the Statements of Poll. To do this, he said that he would need to introduce a witness who had seen the statements of poll.

Parris was still being cross-examined when the adjournment was taken.