Parris did not tell audit body of ID card concerns
-because of legal implications

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
October 3, 1998

The CARICOM Audit Commission was not interested in hearing matters which did not accord with its terms of reference when it met with representatives of the People's National Congress.

Testifying for the fifth consecutive day, statistician Haslyn Parris who concluded his evidence on behalf of Esther Perreira, said that when the PNC met with the Audit Commission, its chairman, Justice Ulric Cross, had explained that the Commission's mandate "did not include inquiry into any matter of a legal nature."

Perreira is challenging the December 15 1997 elections by way of a petition she has brought against the Chief Election Officer, Stanley Singh, and others, among whom are President Janet Jagan and People's National Congress leader, Desmond Hoyte SC.

Under cross-examination by Ralph Ramkarran SC, counsel for President Jagan, Parris said that because of the legal implications of his statistical analysis of the information on voter identification card production and distribution, he did not inform the Cross Commission of his findings.

And he told Ramkarran that while he had no legal qualifications, he did feel competent to discuss the legal implications of his analysis with the Cross Commission. However, he said that he would not have felt competent to do so in a court of law.

Parris also told Ramkarran that he had not sought a meeting with Cross because, as the PNC's plenipotentiary under the Herdmanston Accord, "his personal view was that it would have been inappropriate to seek out Cross to tell him anything about the work of the audit commission."

Nor, he said, had he been invited by Justice Cross for any discussions.

Parris in a subsequent answer to Peter Britton SC, counsel for Perreira, said that Justice Cross had been careful to point out in the meeting with the PNC delegation at the beginning of his assignment, what the boundaries of the Commission's mandate were and bearing in mind, as well, Justice Cross' expressed wish to conduct an inquiry unhindered by any person who would have had their personal analysis of the electoral process.

Referred by Doodnauth Singh SC, counsel for the Chief Election Officer, to a statement he had made about being denied access to the database of the Elections Commission, Parris said that he had requested the database "partly for the purpose of the analysis of age distribution of the persons on the Final Voters List."

He said too, that he "would have been interested in those persons under 18 years if there were any."

He also said that he did recall a suggestion being made that he could have conducted his analysis of the database at the Commission's headquarters and under the supervision of one of its computer technicians. Singh re-examined Parris with the leave of the Court as a result of the statements he had made in answer to Rex McKay SC, counsel for Hoyte, who had cross-examined him earlier in the week.

And in answer to Britton, Parris made three observations about the final declaration made by the Chief Election Officer, on December 29.

His first observation was that the arithmetical errors in the official declaration, though small, were "an indicium of the less than required meticulousness in statistical terms, in this important matter." Also that the errors made were of the same sort that was found in the status reports of the production and distribution of the voter identification cards for the period November 7 - December 12, 1997.

His second was that from a statistical point of view, there was no notation about the correctness or accuracy of the size of the electorate, given as 461,415, and that "as a statistical source document, issues of death, non-presence in the country or for any other reasons, cannot be used to subtract from the certainty of the statement that the number of electors registered on the Final Voters' List has been certified as being unambiguously 461,415."

He said too, that 461,415 was the number used to calculate the voter turn out.

His third observation was that in keeping with standard statistical practice of checking sources prior to conducting any analysis, he was unable to find in Section 96 of the Representation of the People's Act and Article 60(2) of the Constitution, anything which accorded with the idea of a re-calculation as mentioned in the transmittal letter to the parties which accompanied the declaration.

The first paragraph of the transmittal letter which the Chief Election Officer said had been done according to Section 96 of the Representation of the People's Act, said that he had "re-calculated the total number of valid votes of electors which had been cast for the elections held on December 15, 1997, pursuant to Article 60(2) of the Constitution."

Before the adjournment was taken to Monday, Britton indicated to the Court that he was prepared to make his application for leave to access the statements of poll.

He circulated to the court a list of the statements of poll which the PNC had received from the Chief Election Officer. However, Singh objected indicating a preference for having the original documents which he said were in the possession of the CARICOM Secretariat, but stored in the Elections Commission compound.

He said that to access these documents, Britton should seek an order of the Court.

Britton, however, said that he had already had such an order in draft, but he felt that the statements certified by the Chief Election Officer would have sufficed given the acceptance of the fact that the petition should be heard expeditiously.

He added that he would be in a position to take whatever course the Court decided on when the hearing resumed on Monday.