Witness denies singing song about ‘Show Me Your Voting Finger’
Returning officer for North Windward Ville Davis has denied that there was no final count in his constituency, while Veronica John, one of his presiding officers, denied singing or saying the campaign song of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) “show me your voting finger.”
Davis and John were both cross examined on Tuesday by Lead Counsel Keith Scotland, who represents petitioner Lauron Baptiste.
When Davis took the stand, he indicated that he had corrections to make to his witness statement, namely that one Gradie King collected the ballot boxes from polling stations A to D on election day December 9, 2015, and that for himself, he collecting from E to I. Further that he collected the statement of the polls from the Presiding Officers from E to I, and he collected them from King for A to D. When he placed the boxes in the cell at the Police station, he observed the boxes that King delivered there, with the orange ties on them.
Scotland accused him of not being careful with his witness statement even though he said in the same statement that he had been careful when adhering to the election rules.
“With the amendments to your statement you are now introducing an entirely new person, Mr Gradie King, in the collection of the boxes on the night, yes?” he asked, to which Davis said yes.
He admitted that he would not know what happened to the boxes when they were in King’s possession that night.
On the matter of the final count, the petitioners are relying on the statement of Cheryl Sutherland who was subpoenaed to come to court last week.
Sutherland was taken from the constituency randomly to observe the final count after the agents didn’t come to the count.
As far as Davis knew, Sutherland was an independent person, and he did not know her political affiliation.
“At no time did you ask Miss Sutherland whether she had any experience in final counts on election day?,” Scotland asked Davis, trying to find out if they explained the process to her.
Davis said that there was a briefing in the morning, but Sutherland came late, and when she came, “we were in the process of doing what we had to do,” and no one could spare time to brief her. When there was a lull, it didn’t come to Davis’ mind to do so, he explained.
“So in other words then you never explained to her what she had to do?,” Scotland stated, and Davis answered, “No.”
Scotland put it to him that Sutherland had said that, “no one in her presence, for all the time that she was there, counted each ballot individually.”
Davis said he was not in agreement. He alleged that there were mistruths in Sutherland’s statement.
When Scotland asked if Davis took notes from the morning to the end of the final count, he responded that he had delegated this to another.
Neither this notebook, nor his own personal notebook with figures in it, could be found today, Davis told Scotland. He said he may have orally reported this to the Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb.
Two of the persons at the final count, Gradie King and the person delegated to take notes, did not come to give their version of the day to assist Davis, and Scotland asked for a reason. Davis explained that because they are pastors, and because of their religious affiliations they chose not to come.
John, presiding officer for polling station NWI, was asked about her alleged altercation with attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste on the day.
John said she never denied Bacchus-Baptiste access to the polling station.
“Why didn’t you allow her to remain in the room as the agent who was replacing Mr Sandy, or Mr Adams, why didn’t you allow her to remain in the room as the agent?,” Scotland asked.
She said that the agent had just been replaced, and that since it was close to the closing time of the poll, which is five o’clock, she was not allowed there.
Scotland asked her if this was an election rule, or a “Veronica rule,” and she said she was told this during training.
“Let me suggest to you that there is no election rule that says that an agent cannot be replaced because it is close to five o’clock. Let me suggest that to you and that you madam were biased against the representative of the National New Democratic Party, that’s why you excluded the formidable Mrs Kay Bacchus-Baptiste,” the lead counsel told her.
The presiding officer has also said in her witness statement that she did not allow a voter to place his vote because she heard a camera click, and believed that he had taken a photograph in the booth.
The counsel asked why she didn’t ask the police officer to take his phone, delete the photo and then allow him to vote. She said he denied taking the photo, but admitted that there was a flash.
She did not say that he admitted there was a flash in her witness statement, and she said that she remembered this when she was listening to him on the stand last week.
John was also questioned on the claim that she referenced “show me your voting finger,” a Unity Labour Party(ULP) campaign song, when persons came in to vote. She said she did ask persons to show their voting finger, to make sure there was no ink, and that she did so after the OAS observers came and asked her how she checking persons fingers.
“I know it’s a song, I don’t know if it’s a main campaign song or what…and I don’t listen to songs,” she said.
“You don’t? …Skinny Fabulous?,” Scotland asked her, to which she replied, “No I am a Christian.”
The respondents closed their case on Tuesday, and after written and oral submission are made by counsel to Justice Stanley John (former court of appeal judge from Trinidad), he will give his decision. He stated that this will likely be before the end of March.
Twenty witnesses were called during the hearing of the evidence.