Ashanti Caesar-Benjamin prepares to enter the courtroom on Tuesday. (iWN photo)

Two years after the 2015 election in Central Leeward, the presiding officer at a polling station in the district was told that the record of the vote she asaid she sealed in the ballot box on election night was missing.

Ashanti Caesar-Benjamin, of Keartons, Barrouallie, told the election petition trial on Tuesday that at the end of the preliminary count, she placed the two copies of the Form 16 in the requisite envelope and put the envelope in the ballot box.

Caesar-Benjamin said she had received training on how to conduct the poll and the instruction was that one copy of the form be sealed in the ballot box and she was to keep the other to give to the returning officer.

However, during cross examination by Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, lead lawyer for the petitioner, Benjamin “Ben” Exeter, Caesar-Benjamin said she took the relevant Form 14 oath, but placed both copies of the form in the ballot box.

In the oath, the presiding officer swears “that to the best of my knowledge and belief this register of voters kept for the said polling station under my direction has been so kept correctly and that the total number of votes recorded therein is [insert number] and that it contains a true and exact record of the votes given at the said polling station as the said votes were taken thereat; that I have faithfully performed all duties required of me by law”.

Caesar-Benjamin told the court she could not remember the importance of the oath.

John noted that Maia Eustace, a witness for the petitioner, said that the returning officer, Winston Gaymes, could not produce the respective form 16 statements for the ballot box, “CLI1”.

Eustace alleged that Gaymes “dismissively” stated that there was no Form 16 statement.

Eustace further said that her team objected to the count proceeding because there was no return on which to base the final count, but the objection was denied.

Caesar-Benjamin, however, maintained to the court that she had both of the Form 16 in the ballot box.

She said that after putting them in the box, she used the prescribed plastic ties to seal the box.

She said there was another tie and after the presiding officer, the poll clerk, and the agents for the political parties signed it, she placed the seal on the tie that was already attached to where it was supposed to be.

“At that end, I called the election clerk to let him know that I am finished and he can come with the [police] officer to pick up the box.”

Caesar-Benjamin said that Clive Robinson — the previous returning officer in Central Leeward — and the police officer came to pick the ballot box.

She said she could recall that the next time she heard about the Form 16 was in 2017 when she received a call from the Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb in relation to the form 16.

Caesar-Benjamin said she explained to Findlay-Scrubb that she had put the Form 16s into the ballot box.

She said she did not give Robinson a copy of the Form 16, because they were placed in the box, and she did not give him one specifically in his hand.

Asked how Robinson had gotten the results of the poll, Caesar-Benjamin said she gave it to the phone when she called him to collect the ballot box.

Caesar-Benjamin told the court she could not recall the time she called Robinson but it was before midnight.

She said she could not give a rough estimation of what time she finished the counting.

Caesar-Benjamin also said she could not give a time when she completed the counting of the ballots.

In his cross examination of Caesar-Benjamin, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, another lawyer for the government, asked the witness who had won in that polling station, and she said Exeter.  

She further said that during the counting, the agents for the political parties were present.  

Exeter, the main opposition New Democratic Party’s candidate for Central Leeward in the 2015 poll has brought the petition challenging the announced victory of Sir Louis Straker of the ruling Unity Labour Party administration.

The NDP’s Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste is also challenging the election of Montgomery Daniel of the NDP in North Windward.

The ULP was declared winner of the poll by an 8-7 majority.

11 replies on “PETITIONS TRIAL: Votes record missing after being sealed in ballot box”

  1. Form 14 or 16?

    Grammatical errors.

    After 10 years, we expect better. Proof read!

    Do you need help?

    Free services.

    1. Vincy Lawyer,

      We do have a competent proofreader. However, invariably, errors sometimes slip through.

      It would be more helpful for you to point out these individual errors, rather than just stating “Grammatical errors”.

      FYI, a “Form 14” is different from a “Form 16” and we used them correctly in our article.

      Please permit us to reject your offer of “free services”. “Proofread” is one word, not two. We, however, do not take this single oversight to be a commentary on your grammar skills.

      iWN Team

      1. What a beautiful clapback!

        Oh me, oh me, oh my
        I just shut the club down, I ain’t even try
        See them rollin’ with me, yeah they ride or die
        Test us and I guarantee we let it fly
        Oh me, oh me, oh my
        I just shut the club down, I ain’t even try
        I always tell the truth, boy, I ain’t gotta lie
        If you ain’t fuckin’ with us, don’t come to our side

        -Excerpted from Oh me! Oh my! by DJ Snake (2016)

      2. Why you dont post the other multiple times, I have written and you corrected your articles based on what I advised? If you’re gonna speak, speak truthfully

        Kenton save us all. Your blog is the make shift until we have access to more reliable journalism weekly.

        Dont flatter yourself and trying to come at me is useless. I know your work. You don’t know mine!!!

        My career never slipped based on “clapbacks.”

        Also, as a journalist, learn to decipher sarcasm and intentional emphasis.

      3. Also, you clearly missed what I was trying to say in relation to mentioning the forms. I have extensive knowledge of the RPA but does everyone? Therefore, as you write, have you ever consider using your forum to educate? What is the difference between both forms? What are they used for? What is the relevance of highlighting them? Alas, your ‘clapback’ may be that you are simply reporting lol….

        For example, look at Searchlight’s reporting of the case. They explain or expand on the different forms etc. This style of journalism helps the readers to also follow the case.

        Oh thanks for the special mention since we now can’t place our names on comments, albeit I had no issues standing by anything I write 🙂

        Blessed Friday!

        Sincerely,
        Vincy Lawyer!

      4. Kenton, you are coming across like a sissy boy again. What is it with you and Vincy Lawyer? She too sexy for you? (bet you don’t post this)

  2. Even more evidence to nullify the election results! The election results should be over-turned based on so very much evidence that any unbiased individual can see it immediately! Mountains of evidence. If we do not have a new election in those constituencies we will be the laughing-stock of the entire democratic world. Not only that: It will set a precedence to do more of the same in the future.

    I hope the court does the right thing and saves our Democracy from Dictatorship.

  3. Hopefully there will eventually be some people prosecuted criminally.

    Lets hope this brings to an end a dictatorship and the Gonsalves/Francis family dynasty.

    Yes I hope as well that the court does the right thing, or perhaps we will now see violence on the street, God forbid.

    1. The people should organize mass protests in the streets of Kingstown. But I hope it doesn’t come to that because I wouldn’t want them to lose their 15 minutes of fame at the UN security council on account of that. 🙂 The only trouble I see is that the world press would decent on SVG exposing all our dirty laundry and the shameful living conditions of a marginalized people.

  4. R it could bring good with it if it brings some of the allegations of sexual molestation by Ralph Gonsalves to court.

  5. Quebec Nationalist says:

    What is it with Vincy lawyer and Kenton? It reminds me of a problem that we have in Quebec, that is our language police and their overindulgence with respect to written script. I do not believe for one moment that the standard of journalism demonstrated by IWN is so bad that it compromised the simplicity and integrity iwi news articles .

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