Witness for petitioner Baptiste summoned to attend hearing
A summons had to be issued yesterday for the final chief witness in petitioner Lauron Baptiste’s case to appear in court.
On the fourth day of the petitions, trial lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste requested a subpoena from Justice Stanley John, to instruct one Cheryl Sutherland to come to court. She said that she had spoken to the witness the night before, and that while she had some “trepidations,” the witness had said she would come. Counsel for the petitioner stated that her appearance was important to their case and asked the judge to subpoena her.
The summons was issued and Sutherland reached the courtroom before the afternoon session.
Neleon Adams, a polling agent for NWI, testified first on Thursday morning preceding Sutherland.
Adams was questioned on the area of his statement which alleges that the Presiding Officer ‘said’ many times: “show me your voting finger”, a known Unity Labour Party(ULP) slogan and campaign song.
Adams told lead counsel for three of the Respondents, Douglas Mendes, that the Presiding Officer was ‘singing’ this phrase, and not ‘saying’ it.
The counsel replied that ‘sing’ wasn’t in his evidence. He noted, “In this context, we are talking about her repeating a campaign slogan, a campaign song and there’s a big difference between saying and singing.”
Adams explained that, to him, if you’re singing then you’re saying something.
When asked to clarify when and how she did this, Adams said that the officer had said it when “supporters” came who she knew. He demonstrated, by singing, “Show me your voting finger”, adding, “and she would do the dance to it.”
“And she dance too? Oh my goodness,” Mendes stated, while Adams corrected it to ‘move’.
The witness explained when probed, that he saw her saying this to her friends whom she knew were ULP supporters.
Therefore, Mendes put a paragraph of Adams’ witness statement to him which said that by her actions the officer was, “Thereby advising voters how to vote and seeking to influence voters to vote for the ULP candidate,” and asked him to explain it, which he could not.
Mendes also asked him if he knew that the presiding officer is required to ask people to show her their index finger to ascertain whether or not there is ink.
The petitioner Benjamin Exeter, who contested for Central Leeward was recalled to the stand Thursday morning to rewatch a video which showed him protesting with Returning Officer Winston Gaymes. One can also hear Maia Eustace speaking as she records the video.
Eustace says, “You rejected ballots that had no signature or stamp of the Presiding officer at other polling stations but when we found a polling station in which every single ballot lacked the sign, the initials and stamps of the presiding officer, you have accepted that result. You have confirmed it.”
After this someone says something, and she says, “it doesn’t matter. It is the integrity of the process.”
Anthony Astaphan, senior counsel on the side of the respondents put it to Exeter that when Eustace said “it doesn’t matter,” she was responding to Gaymes saying “you didn’t oppose.” It was also submitted that when the matter of validity arose, the petitioner did not object that the ballots be counted, and that is why Gaymes responded in that way.
Exeter had agreed to hearing “You did not oppose” from the video, but said it was not Gaymes, but one Gideon Nash who was speaking, but he could not say why Nash was saying it.
Counsel for Exeter, Queen’s counsel Stanley ‘Stalky’ John, asked that Maia Eustace also be recalled to clarify, but Mendes objected to this on the basis that she had been present throughout Exeter’s answers.
The judge allowed it for clarification purposes.
Eustace noted, “My recollection is that I was responding to Mr Gaymes, when he said ‘I did it for both’.”
She said she understood him to be saying that to allow the ballots affected both parties, “It was a reference as I understood it to an earlier statement Mr Gaymes said, that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The video was played again so that Eustace could be sure that was what she heard.
All the counsel on the petitioner’s side leaned to hear the sound on the video, and all seemed to smile and agree that what Eustace said was correct after it was played.
Mendes noted that the sides were hearing different things, and the video would have to be listened in private.
After Sutherland’s testimony and cross-examination, the petitioners closed their case.
Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb was the first witness for the respondents to testify. She is also a party to the proceedings. Her testimony continues today.